Select Committee on Merits of Statutory Instruments Twenty-Fourth Report


APPENDIX: FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICES (NATIONAL FRAMEWORK) (ENGLAND) ORDER 2008 (SI 2008/1370)


Additional Information from the Department for Communities and Local Government with regard to Paragraph 3.3 of the Fire and Rescue Service National Framework 2008-11

Q1. The Committee has asked CLG to set out in specific terms which are the organisations etc. which the Department had in mind in framing these restrictions.

A1. In drafting these provisions CLG was seeking to address concerns relating to the express aims, ethos or doctrines of any organisation which were opposed to the Core Values. For example an organisation which had express aims to cause harm or detriment to people from a specific ethnic background or to gay men would clearly fall within this remit making a member of their organisation unsuitable for employment in the Service.

Q2. The Committee asked CLG to outline how it would foresee the practical application by FRAs of these restrictions in their decisions on employment of individuals.

A2. Fire and Rescue Authorities are not directed on the action they must take, and it is not the role of the National Framework to provide detailed guidance. Fire and Rescue Authorities must properly satisfy themselves that the aims of an organisation to which a member of staff or prospective member of staff belongs, are clearly opposed to the Core Values and that the employee (or applicant) is indeed a member of that organisation, before taking action. Any action taken by the Authority is expected to be in accordance with the law, including its own duty to comply with the ECHR.

Q3. The Committee also asked CLG what precedents there may have been for the restrictions and referred to the Police and Prison Service.

A3. With regard to provisions put in place by the Police and Prison Service, we understand from our research undertaken in 2005 that both organisations have been more prescriptive in this matter. Our understanding is as follows:

Prison Service

  • In 2001 the Prison Service made it a job requirement for new recruits that they could not belong to any group or organisation that the Prison Service considered to be racist.

Police Service

  • The Police introduced a similar policy for Police Officers from January 2005 but have not yet extended this to the rest of the workforce.

The Committee may find the following background helpful:

The role of the Fire and Rescue Service has changed significantly over more recent years from a principally reactive service, responding to calls and attending emergencies, to a more proactive one with prevention at the heart of its activity. A key objective for the Government and the Service is to further reduce the numbers of fires, deaths and injuries through the delivery of fire prevention programmes. To do this effectively Fire and Rescue Services must engage closely with, and understand the needs of, all our diverse communities. To achieve this close engagement it is important that as a service, and as individual employees, they have the trust and confidence of the communities they serve. This engagement is key to the reduction of fire deaths and injuries particularly among the most vulnerable and often the hardest to reach sections of society.

Until their revocation the Fire Service (Appointment and Promotions) Regulations required those appointed to the Fire and Rescue Service to be "of good character". The Regulations were revoked on the commencement of the Fire and Rescue Service Act 2004 in October 2004. During 2004 the Fire and Rescue Service developed Core Values for the Service and its staff (see annex). These Core values were published in both the Fire and Rescue Service National Framework 2005-6 (published December 2004) and the National Framework 2006 -8 ( published April 2006).

During 2004/5 concerns were raised with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (predecessor Department to Communities and Local Government) by representatives of the Black and Minority Members Committee of the Fire Brigades' Union, representatives of several individual Fire and Rescue Authorities and the Chief Fire Officers' Association about the appropriateness of employing staff within the Fire and Rescue Service who belonged to organisations whose express ethos or doctrines were in total conflict with the Core Values e.g. by being racist, sexist or homophobic.

Ministers were asked to consider what guidance might be placed within the National Framework with regard to the employment of staff who are members of organisations which have an ethos or doctrines which are in opposition to those of the Fire and Rescue Service. In response to these concerns Paragraph 5.2 - 5.3 of the 2006-08 National Framework stated that:

"5.2… The Core Values have been developed to apply to both the Fire and Rescue Service as an organisation and to all members of staff. They provide a clear statement of the expectation of the Fire and Rescue Service with regard to the attitudes and behaviour's of all staff what ever their role within the organisation.

5.3 All staff within the fire and rescue service and those applying to join need to be made aware that active membership of extremist groups could challenge their ability to discharge their duties impartially in a work environment where they serve the whole community. Affiliation to such organisations is contrary to the ideals promoted by the Core Values and in conflict with the Fire and Rescue Authorities' legal duties under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000. The public relies on the honesty and integrity of all Fire and Rescue Service staff. Behaviours that contravene the Fire and Rescue Service Core Values risk serious consequences both for the individual and for the reputation of the Service."

In reviewing the provisions for the 2008-11 version of the National Framework it became clear from the consultation process that some Fire and Rescue Authorities were unclear about what type of organisation might be considered to be an "extremist group". The reference was therefore redrafted in the terms of paragraph 3.3 currently under consideration by the Committee. The wording of the paragraph was drafted to make it clear that Fire and Rescue Authorities must properly satisfy themselves that the aims of an organisation to which a member of staff or prospective member of staff belongs, are clearly opposed to the Core Values, before taking action.

June 2008



 
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