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10 Mar 2003 : Column 108—continued

Dr. Palmer: Although I do not agree with the savage attack on the FBU made by the Liberal Democrat spokesman, I share the concern that, in removing the Home Secretary's theoretical power, we might weaken the power of local councillors and Members of Parliament to react to proposals. Can the Minister reassure us on that point?

Mr. Raynsford: I will cover precisely that point in a moment if my hon. Friend will bear with me.

Decisions should be taken by democratically accountable fire authorities, acting on the professional advice of chief fire officers and after taking account of the local community's views. The Government do not believe that the Secretary of State should take those decisions in a modern fire service. I heard the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell), but the most recent case that came to us involved a proposal to transfer a station from one location in the area to another; there was no change in the number of appliances or in crewing. That disproves his claim that section 19 was not about unnecessary or trivial matters being referred to the Secretary of State.

Ms Walley: It is important that the Government do not go ahead with something that is premature, that does not provide the flexibility that will be needed and that could pre-empt achieving a joint partnership agreement to resolve the firefighters dispute. Surely a decision on all that should be taken at one time; it should not pre-empt an agreement.

Mr. Raynsford: The Bain review explored all those issues in considerable detail and made a series of recommendations that has been widely welcomed by almost every fire interest in the country, apart from the FBU. As we are faced with a clear recommendation

10 Mar 2003 : Column 109

from the Bain inquiry, it would be extremely perverse to ignore it and not to proceed rapidly to repeal section 19. That is why we are acting now.

In the fire service of the future, a flexible risk-based approach to fire cover will be achieved through the implementation of locally determined integrated risk management plans, within the framework of national guidance. I explained in Committee that Her Majesty's fire services inspectorate was preparing guidance on the implementation of such plans, including arrangements for local consultation. I gave an undertaking that, barring unforeseen circumstances, hon. Members would have access to that draft guidance before considering the Bill on Report, and I am pleased to have been able to satisfy that commitment.

The fire service is widely respected for its performance in meeting the attendance times set out in the national standards for fire cover, but that will not necessarily deliver the reduction in deaths and injuries that should be our priority. Indeed, as recently published statistics show, the number of deaths and serious injuries caused by fire sadly increased in the last 12 months reported—the 12 months ending in March last year. To reverse that trend, we need to move beyond the 1947 standards. Those standards have their origin in the Riverdale committee of 1936 and were recommended to fire authorities more than 50 years ago. They are based on the characteristics of property and buildings in an area, not on the risk of death and injury from fire.

The current standards do not, as Bain noted, reflect the changes in our cities since 1947: the falling population in town centres, the growth of suburbs and the movement of people to city centres in daytime and returning to the suburbs at night. They do not reflect the changing nature and location of industry or more effective fire safety measures. For example, smoke alarms and sprinklers are now found in many buildings. For much of the time, the current standards determine that fire service resources are targeted on protecting unoccupied buildings and not on ensuring the most effective response to the needs of people who might be at risk.

The current standards are also based on inputs. The Bain review recommended rightly that we need, as a matter of urgency, to move away from this inflexible and formulaic approach to one that puts the emphasis on outputs and outcomes in terms of lives saved and injuries prevented, that is responsive to locally identified risks and needs, that is concerned with a wide range of threats to community safety and that accelerates the move from intervention to prevention.

The repeal will not alter a fire authority's statutory responsibility to provide an efficient service. That will remain by virtue of section 1 of the 1947 Act. Nor will it mean that fire authorities will no longer consult about the deployment of resources. One of the more regrettable features of the propaganda against our proposals has been the suggestion—repeated by the FBU in its brief to Members that the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey) quoted—that the repeal of part of section 19 will mean no consultation with the local community. There is absolutely no truth in this claim, as he made clear.

The guidance provides the national framework under which fire authorities will be able to prepare local integrated risk management plans that are tailored to

10 Mar 2003 : Column 110

the risks and safety needs of the local community. We shall consult in the immediate future on the draft guidance, and we would very much welcome an input from the key stakeholders. Comments made by hon. Members tonight will certainly be taken into account when we consider the responses to the consultation.

Following the consultation, we envisage that the definitive guidance should be published in June, that fire authorities should produce a draft integrated risk management plan in September and that they should consult their local communities, employees and other interested parties over the following three months. There are a number of safeguards in the new arrangements to ensure consistency of approach, without inhibiting local flexibility and decision making. The integrated risk management plans are, as I explained, being drawn up within a framework of national guidance. Her Majesty's fire services inspectorate will be one of the bodies consulted by fire authorities, and it will establish a specialist team to provide advice, training and support to authorities. It will also examine and disseminate examples of innovation and good practice and continue to monitor the performance of authorities in providing effective fire cover arrangements.

In addition, fire authorities must have regard to their general duty, under the best value provisions of the Local Government Act 1999, to secure continuous improvement in the way that their functions are exercised. That is the response to the question from the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge about how we will ensure that there are proper standards. I have covered much of the ground, but I have not been able to answer several questions. I will write to hon. Members on those points.

The new approach that we are seeking to introduce will deliver a fire service that is better placed to deliver community safety and one that offers a real prospect of reducing the incidence of fire, and deaths and injuries from fire. I hope that hon. Members will endorse that approach and support clause 118.

Mr. Hammond: I am grateful to the Minister for offering to write to me with replies to the questions that he did not manage to answer. As I said earlier, Conservative Members are disposed to support the modernisation process. We are dismayed only because it has become mixed up with financing a pay settlement. The Deputy Prime Minister and the Prime Minister will have only themselves to blame if the public become suspicious of the motives for modernisation.

We support genuine modernisation and we acknowledge the fire employers' support for clause 118. I shall not press the amendment. However, we will watch closely as matters unfold. We shall not hesitate to cry foul if it becomes clear that my hypothetical cynical observer is right and the process becomes resource rather than risk driven.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Hon. Members: No.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

10 Mar 2003 : Column 111

The House divided: Ayes 22, Noes 318.

Division No. 110
[8:59 pm


Barnes, Harry
Burnside, David
Clapham, Michael
Cohen, Harry
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Dismore, Andrew
Ewing, Annabelle
Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Llwyd, Elfyn
McDonnell, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Price, Adam (E Carmarthen & Dinefwr)
Sedgemore, Brian
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Wareing, Robert N.
Weir, Michael
Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Neil Gerrard and
Mr. Kelvin Hopkins


Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Allan, Richard
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Darwen)
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary
Bailey, Adrian
Baird, Vera
Baker, Norman
Banks, Tony
Barron, rh Kevin
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Beith, rh A. J.
Benn, Hilary
Bennett, Andrew
Benton, Joe (Bootle)
Berry, Roger
Betts, Clive
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Blunkett, rh David
Borrow, David
Bradley, rh Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brake, Tom (Carshalton)
Breed, Colin
Brennan, Kevin
Brooke, Mrs Annette L.
Brown, rh Nicholas (Newcastle E Wallsend)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Bruce, Malcolm
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Burstow, Paul
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Caborn, rh Richard
Cairns, David
Calton, Mrs Patsy
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Gregory (E Lond'y)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Caplin, Ivor
Carmichael, Alistair
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian (Brigg)
Challen, Colin
Chidgey, David
Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clwyd, Ann (Cynon V)
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Coleman, Iain
Cook, rh Robin (Livingston)
Corston, Jean
Cotter, Brian
Cox, Tom (Tooting)
Crausby, David
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Ann (Keighley)
Cunningham, rh Dr. Jack (Copeland)
Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Dalyell, Tam
Darling, rh Alistair
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, rh Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davis, rh Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Brian H.
Doran, Frank
Doughty, Sue
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)
Drew, David (Stroud)
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff (Barnsley E)
Etherington, Bill
Field, rh Frank (Birkenhead)
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul (Newport W)
Follett, Barbara
Foster, rh Derek
Foster, Don (Bath)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings & Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike (Ilford S)
George, Andrew (St. Ives)
George, rh Bruce (Walsall S)
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gidley, Sandra
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Green, Matthew (Ludlow)
Grogan, John
Hain, rh Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hanson, David
Harris, Dr. Evan (Oxford W & Abingdon)
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Harvey, Nick
Healey, John
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Heppell, John
Hermon, Lady
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Margaret
Holmes, Paul
Hope, Phil (Corby)
Howarth, rh Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hughes, Beverley (Stretford & Urmston)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan (Braintree)
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Eric
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W)
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham)
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S.
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green & Bow)
Kirkwood, Sir Archy
Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lamb, Norman
Lammy, David
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Laws, David (Yeovil)
Laxton, Bob (Derby N)
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom (High Peak)
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Love, Andrew
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)
Lyons, John (Strathkelvin)
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
McCafferty, Chris
McDonagh, Siobhain
MacDougall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNulty, Tony
McWalter, Tony
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John (Bassetlaw)
Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Glasgow Shettleston)
Martlew, Eric
Meacher, rh Michael
Meale, Alan (Mansfield)
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Alan
Miliband, David
Miller, Andrew
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moore, Michael
Moran, Margaret
Morley, Elliot
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Munn, Ms Meg
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan (Wansdyke)
O'Hara, Edward
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Organ, Diana
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Perham, Linda
Picking, Anne
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter (Burnley)
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris (Gravesham)
Pope, Greg (Hyndburn)
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prescott, rh John
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Purnell, James
Quinn, Lawrie
Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)
Raynsford, rh Nick
Reed, Andy (Loughborough)
Reid, Alan (Argyll & Bute)
Rendel, David
Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Ruane, Chris
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Russell, Ms Christine (City of Chester)
Ryan, Joan (Enfield N)
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Adrian
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Shipley, Ms Debra
Simon, Siôn (B'ham Erdington)
Singh, Marsha
Smith, rh Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, rh Chris (Islington S & Finsbury)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns & Kincardine)
Smyth, Rev. Martin (Belfast S)
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh John
Squire, Rachel
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E & Lochaber)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Stunell, Andrew
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Tami, Mark (Alyn)
Taylor, Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Taylor, Dr. Richard (Wyre F)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth (Harrow W)
Thurso, John
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark (S Derbyshire)
Tonge, Dr. Jenny
Touhig, Don (Islwyn)
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
Vaz, Keith (Leicester E)
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Ward, Claire
Watts, David
Webb, Steve (Northavon)
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Williams, rh Alan (Swansea W)
Williams, Betty (Conwy)
Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Willis, Phil
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, David (Telford)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)

Tellers for the Noes:

Gillian Merron and
Mr. Jim Murphy

Question accordingly negatived.

10 Mar 2003 : Column 113

It being after Nine o'clock, Mr. Deputy Speaker, pursuant to Order [25 February], put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that hour.

Remaining Government amendments agreed to.

Order for Third Reading read.

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