An Advisory Agency
256. In his evidence, the Minister in charge of the
Bill firmly rejected the concept of an "Emergencies"
super Ministry, along the lines of the Department for Homeland
Security in the United States.
We accept and support his arguments. That said, as in the case
of leadership discussed above, we are not convinced that preparedness
for events of such potentially catastrophic consequence can be
effectively overseen by anything less than an organisation established
for that specific purpose. That is in no way to diminish the expertise
developed within individual departments in the confrontation of
terrorism and other threats to the population, the economy and
the environment, or the professionalism demonstrated by those
who routinely manage emergencies.
257. What we propose is the formation of a relatively
small permanent national Civil Contingencies Agency (CCA), not
a department, staffed by people with expertise in the management
of crises and their consequences, and perhaps answerable to a
body of part time Civil Contingencies Commissioners, who in turn
report to the Home Secretary. In addition to fulfilling a management
and audit function, the Agency would also be responsible for setting
national response standards for Category 1 and 2 Responders. We
believe that by having subject matter experts, from the department
or organisation within whose sphere of routine responsibility
the emergency falls, providing specialist advice to the emergency
manager a consistently high level of emergency management would
be provided. We also consider that by providing the emergency
management function at both National and Regional tier level there
will be a high level of operational coherence.
258. In his evidence, the Minister in charge of the
Bill described the coordination of the response to the foot and
mouth epidemic as "the beginnings of an effective regional
response in parts of the United Kingdom",
having earlier commented that central Government was able to "draw
on the expertise of a range of outside bodies to assist it in
that work of central coordination and resilience".
In our view, that function could more easily be achieved through
a separate Agency, which could include individuals seconded from
appropriate fields of emergency expertise (for example, military,
logistics, police, CBN,
etc) for 2/3 year periods - ultimately building up a reserve of
men and women who can be pulled in to advise at every level of
Government, and to advise on the management and coordination of
responses to crises requiring the use of emergency legislation.
An equivalent group but with the potential for extended tenure
would have responsibility for the management/coordination of response
to crises requiring the use of emergency legislation. It would
serve several objectives without cutting across Whitehall boundaries.
These could include:
- To measure capacity, set training
objectives and operational standards and ensure compliance across
all contributing departments, organisations and agencies, including
those of central government, to ensure consistency in planning
and response capability
- To provide a channel for expert advice to local
- To collate technical, scientific and other information
as it becomes available (including intelligence on terrorist techniques)
and to consider strategies for dealing with wide area emergencies
- To develop the ability to "horizon scan"
to improve levels of anticipation and the planning necessary to
cope with the unexpected
- To develop an intimate knowledge of capabilities
and skills at Local Government level and among the emergency services,
so that any contingency could be dealt with by bringing together
those individuals best able to manage the given emergency. This
would require the Agency to develop a tactical as well as a strategic
- The Agency would report to Parliament annually
(through the Home Secretary), and its reports should be published,
as is the case with the Security and Intelligence Committee.
259. The national Civil Contingencies Agency could
have representatives based in the Government's regional offices
to advise and support potential Regional Nominated Coordinators.
They would bring some focus for what is at present a vague concept
of the Regional Tier in crisis planning and management (see chapter
8). They, and the Agency itself, would also provide a link to
those organisations which are currently absent from the Bill but
who would be involved in the process, namely the military, central
government departments, and an array of national bodies and utilities.
Such arrangements would be preferable to relying on the senior
regional civil servant having responsibility for a role for which
s/he was ill-equipped.
260. We therefore recommend that
the Government gives careful consideration to the establishment
of a Civil Contingencies Agency which, like other Agencies, would
have both advisory and supervisory responsibilities.