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Geraint Davies (Croydon, Central): Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the press release to which he continually returns was pre-11 September? Does he accept that the view that a formula-driven approach could lower expenditure to normal levels was expressed in that light? Does he also accept that, by definition, a formula-driven approach can also be adjusted upwards in different circumstances? I am sure that such adjustments will be made.

Mr. Collins: I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has a hotline to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but if the Minister had said that, I would have been very interested and, to an extent, reassured. In fact the Minister, speaking long after 11 September—I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was present—confirmed today that the Government had pencilled in £14 million, again, for future supplies of the civil defence grant.

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The hon. Gentleman's assumptions would be entirely reasonable if the Government had reviewed the position post-11 September, and had recognised that, at least for a short time, it would seem difficult to justify a return to wholly normal peacetime grant levels; but the Government do not appear to be there yet. Perhaps they will get there as a result of the hon. Gentleman's submissions, and those of my hon. Friends and others. I very much hope so.

Mr. Leslie: May I just clarify the issue of the grant for last year, this year and next year? When I spoke of "pencilling in", I was referring to the comprehensive spending review allocation. As the hon. Gentleman will know, we allocate resources for a three-year period, and we hope to do the same for the next three-year period. We are still engaged in discussions about the next comprehensive spending review. No decisions have yet been finalised: we are obviously looking at the whole post-11 September situation, but many other large sums are being spent on civil contingencies—not least the £30 million confirmed by the Chancellor yesterday, to be devoted to policing in London and elsewhere.

Mr. Collins: What the Minister says is entirely right, and very reassuring. It simply reinforces my point. If the Government have recognised that they need to increase resources in all other areas, why are they producing legislation that they themselves say is likely to result in fewer resources in this connection? I realise that it is not the only aspect of civil contingency planning, but it is an important part.

We must also ask why the Government thought it necessary to present this Bill if they were going to present legislation on civil defence. A strong consensus is emerging among those with a degree of expertise and experience that there is an urgent and increasing need for new legislation in this field, but not for this Bill. People who deal with these issues feel that what is needed is swift legislation to modernise the Civil Defence Act 1948, and to provide a new statutory basis for emergency management. Encouragingly, the Minister seemed to suggest that the Government recognised that need; indeed, it is mentioned in some of their consultation documents.

According to the Local Government Association:

The association speaks of the need for a new duty of civil emergency planning, and describes in some detail what it would like to happen. It has also said that it

It feels strongly that the present system does not deliver the level of effectiveness in terms of local response to civil contingencies—which, of course, may or may not be related to the events of 11 September—that is needed in the present climate.

Many people are concerned about the way in which the whole business has been run. It is not just that this is not the Bill that should have been produced. The Government were entirely right to present legislation on civil defence, although many of us would argue that the legislation should have addressed the very concerns that the Minister touched on, and on which I know he is consulting. I do not doubt his personal commitment for a moment, but we

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need a degree of clarification—which, it must be said, cannot be found in the local authority world at the moment—in regard to who, in the present Government, is responsible for these matters. The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) and his hon. Friends have asked a number of questions about that, and I pay tribute to them. The hon. Member for Romsey (Sandra Gidley) asked a very piercing question a little while ago, and the ministerial response was not all that it might have been.

I shall give a classic example of the point. Today, I visited the Home Office website and found a statement on emergency planning. Although it is interesting that the Home Office still has an emergency planning website, the statement begins with these very reassuring words:

The statement is dated August, which is apparently the last time that the Home Office emergency planning site was updated. Moreover, slightly disconcertingly, there was no link between the website and the Cabinet Office. Furthermore, in October, the Home Secretary was still responding to parliamentary questions with statements saying, for example, that he is "the Minister responsible" for civil defence preparations and that all matters were still under review following the events of 11 September.

In the face of all the uncertainty and lack of clarity about exactly where emergency planning staff had gone—although their responsibilities have been transferred to the Cabinet Office, many staff still work in the Home Office—the general secretary of the Emergency Planning Society, which has great knowledge of these matters and with which the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) is associated, said:

That is the scale of the problem facing us, and that is the nature of the difficulty caused by the fact that the Government have chosen to introduce this Bill rather than a different one.

Mr. Don Foster: The hon. Gentleman has been dealing with confusion about which Department is responsible. Did he, like me, note with interest that, when detailing the Bill's various provisions, the Minister specifically said that the Home Secretary is the designated Minister responsible for determining the formula? What are the hon. Gentleman's thoughts on that?

Mr. Collins: The hon. Gentleman is on to an extremely important point, and I did notice that slip.

Mr. Leslie rose

Mr. Collins: Perhaps the Minister is about to reassure the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) and me on that point. We look forward to his doing so.

Mr. Leslie: I do so enjoy re-profiling, the joys of which I am learning minute by minute. We began the process of creating the new civil contingency secretariat at the Home

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Office precisely because we wanted to have at the centre of Government the ability to inter-relate with all Departments at a moment's notice. I think that many people have recognised the need for that. The process of creating it has reflected the responsibilities of the relevant Cabinet committee.

The Home Secretary chairs the Civil Contingencies Committee, which has three Sub-Committees. One of the Sub-Committees deals specifically with London resilience and is chaired by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government; another specifically addresses chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear issues and is chaired by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Police, Courts and Drugs; and I chair the United Kingdom resilience Sub-Committee at the Cabinet Office. The responsibilities have been divided in that manner after 11 September. Hon. Members should, however, always bear it in mind that those matters are under the Home Secretary's leadership and that there is a transfer of functions order to establish the civil contingencies secretariat.

Mr. Collins: I am not sure that that does clarify matters. I noticed, however, that in a slip of the tongue—I hope that he will forgive me for picking it up before it is rewritten by Hansard—the Minister mentioned the civil contingencies secretariat at the Home Office; it is of course at the Cabinet Office. Nevertheless, I pay tribute to his powers of memory in explaining the situation. When he was trying to remember who was in charge of each of the Sub-Committees, he looked a little like someone trying to do their nine-times table but grinding to a halt after reaching 81. Although there was a painful expression on his face when he did it, he got there in the end.

The whole point that Conservative Members and, I believe, Liberal Democrat Members are making is that if the situation is not instantly clear and on the tip of the tongue for one of the responsible Ministers, how can it be clear to the public? Should we not consider having a Cabinet Minister with sole and specific responsibility for the matter, as is the case in the United States which has created the post held by Tom Ridge?

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