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Government amendments Nos. 78 to 99 agreed to.
Mr. Heald: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The result of the guillotine imposed on the Bill has been that six new clauses, one new schedule and 87 amendmentsincluding important Government amendmentshave not been reached or debated. You will know that the Opposition voted against the programme motion. Would it be possible for you to report this matter to the Chairman of Ways and Meanswho is called upon from time to time to give evidence about the effect of programming to Committees such as the Procedure Committeeto ensure that he is fully apprised of the disaster that has occurred today?
Madam Deputy Speaker: That is not a point of order for the Chair. We are following the provisions of the programme motion to which the House agreed. I have no doubt, however, that the Chairman of Ways and Means will read the hon. Gentleman's comments in Hansard.
Peter Bottomley: Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. At the conclusion of the Report stage, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart), was unable to complete either her sentence or her speech, but it sounded as though she was about to make an important announcement. Although it may not have happened often, I believe that there is a precedent for two Ministers speaking at the beginning of a Third Reading debate. Would it be possible for the Under-Secretary to complete her speech before the Minister for Crime Reduction, Policing and Community Safety moves the Third Reading of the Bill? It really is a sadnessI do not want to use a pejorative wordthat the Under-Secretary was unable to complete her speech at the previous stage.
I thank hon. Members on both sides of the House for their contribution to the development of the legislation. The principles of the Bill command the broad support of all parties, and I am genuinely grateful to hon. Members for the constructive and sensible way in which the Bill has been scrutinised and debated.
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As I said at the outset, a joint Committee subjected the Bill to pre-legislative scrutiny, and two public consultations have taken place. When the Bill was introduced on 7 January, the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who is unfortunately not with us this evening, said that it was stronger as a result of the pre-legislative scrutiny, and I am sure that hon. Members share that view.
The Bill's subject matter is not party political, and all hon. Members have been keen to examine possible improvements and to make sure that that process is rigorous and evidence basedwe all agree that it is important to get the Bill right. The Bill deals with serious issues, particularly given the heightened threat from terrorism that we all currently face. Although we have occasionally disagreed on the detail, I hope that we all support the broad thrust of the Bill.
As the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said on Second Reading, the legislation's purpose is clear. The aim of the Bill and its accompanying non-legislative measures is the delivery of a single framework for civil protection in the United Kingdom that will hopefully meet the challenges of the 21st centuryin some cases, the legislation that is being replaced dates back 80 years. The Bill establishes a proper framework, which will hopefully last for a similar length of time.
We are all familiar with the challenges. Recent events have shown how emergencies can disrupt our way of life, damaging human welfare, the environment and national security. Even now, the events of 11 September 2001 are still fresh in many people's minds, but so are the fuel crisis, foot and mouth and the floods of 2000. The floods of 2000, which predated 11 September, were the catalyst for the emergency planning review, which was set in train by the Deputy Prime Minister and provided the foundations for the legislation.
The Bill will end our reliance on legislation dating from the first half of the last century, which has stood us in good stead but is increasingly unsuitable in today's world. Modernisation is timelysome hon. Members disagree with some of the modernising measures that the Government have introducedbut I am glad that the Bill has all-party support.
Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): Devolution is one element of modernisation, and I note the marked difference in responsibilities and authority between Scotland and Wales. Does the Minister feel it appropriate that Wales will effectively have less autonomy to make decisions relating to the Bill, after the Bill is enacted? Does she have a view on the need for a little more devolution to Wales on such matters?
I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman raises devolution. We had an interesting debate on devolution, in which one right hon. Member, who is not in his place, sought to undo the devolution settlement. The provisions relating to Scotland and Wales mirror the devolution settlement, which is why the Scottish provisions discuss action taken by Ministers, who are clearly separate from the legislature in Scotland, whereas the Welsh provisions concern consultation and deliberation with the Assembly, reflecting the different tenor of the devolution settlement in those two countries.
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On Report, I pointed out to the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) that the relationship with Wales is important. Matters that have been devolved to Wales, such as health and transport, are key to making sure that the response to civil contingencies is accurate, integrated and coherent, and the relationship with Wales will continue to be important.
Mr. Heald: Of course, we did not have a chance to discuss amendments Nos. 93 and 94, which the Government introduced following discussions in Committee on the role that they should play in terms of emergency powers to restore the Government and the declaration on human rights. I hope that the Minister will say a word about each amendment.
It is right that the legislation should tackle the local and national levels. Part 1 will ensure that the framework for planning at the local levelalready strong in many respectsis brought on to a more consistent basis. It enshrines the concept of integrated emergency management, which is that emergencies should be considered along a spectrum rather than being planned for in isolation. That is a departure from the Civil Defence Act 1939, and the analysis has drawn wide support from civil emergency protection practitioners. The Bill will deliver clear roles and responsibilities for local responders, and local communities across the country will see the benefit.
The renewal of the emergency powers framework in part 2 is equally important. The Emergency Powers Act 1920 has served the UK well in times of national crisis, but it was last used more than 20 years ago and it has reached the end of its natural life. The fundamentals of the legislation remain the samean ability rapidly to make temporary legislation for the purpose of dealing with the most serious of emergenciesbut the Bill offers a more flexible, deployable and resilient model with stronger safeguards and better procedures than the original legislation.
Nevertheless, we are all conscious of the difficult balance to be struck in these matters. I recognise how strongly Members felt about that in Committee and it is perhaps a pity that we have not had chance to debate them, but clearly Members
Ms Blears: There were no knives in the programme motion, and Members could have sought to prioritise whichever amendments they wanted to. Perhaps we could have had more focused debates on the other amendments. Then we would have had a chance to consider other parts of the Bill.
David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op):
It has been put to me by a constituent who is a member of the human aspects group of the Emergency Planning Society that the definition of "emergency" is not sufficiently broad. Throughout the Bill,
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"emergency" is an event that presents a serious threat to human welfare and is explained in terms of loss of life, illness or injury. She tells me, and I put it to the Minister, that there needs to be much more of a
"recognition that human welfare also includes human suffering (social and psychological) both in the short term and longer term."
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