Joint Committee on Draft Civil Contingencies Bill Written Evidence


Memorandum from British Energy

INTRODUCTION

  British Energy was formed on 13 December 1995 as part of the restructuring of the United Kingdom nuclear power generating industry and was privatised by the Government on 15 July 1996 through its flotation on the London Stock Exchange. The company has two main operating subsidiaries, the business of which is known as BEGen:

    —  British Energy Generation (UK) Limited, which operates two nuclear power stations in Scotland and

    —  British Energy Generation Limited which operates six nuclear power stations in England.

  British Energy is a significant player in the United Kingdom generation market, being one of the largest electricity companies in Great Britain. Our production is sold through contracts and the electricity market system.

  British Energy, together with its predecessors, has thirty years' experience in developing and maintaining Nuclear Emergency Plans with the United Kingdom. The Emergency Plans established are extensive and have been regularly demonstrated to satisfy the Regulator. The Plans are available to the public and are produced in conjunction with local and national emergency organisations which include the Police, Fire and Ambulance Services; Local and Health Authorities; Government Agencies such as the Environment Agency, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the National Radiological Protection Board; the Food Standards Agency; local water supply companies and other nuclear operators.

  Each of our BEGen stations has an approved Emergency Plan which includes the need for on-site emergency management centres and staff trained to carry out emergency duties, as well as off-site arrangements for the co-ordination of local civil emergency services' response. These Plans are discussed at local consultative meetings and information is provided to local residents. The emergency response arrangements encompass the roles of devolved and central Government.

  In comparison with our mature and robust arrangements, which have evolved within the United Kingdom regulatory framework and guidance, we do not feel that the proposed Bill offers any improvements in the protection of the public to the exposure of radiation following a radiation emergency, as defined in the Radiation (Emergency Preparedness and Public Information) Regulations 2001 ("REPPIR"), from one of our BEGen power stations.

  The draft Bill clearly offers benefit to the existing framework for civil emergency planning compared with the existing legislation. As a consequence there is likely to be an improvement in the co-ordination with the existing response plans for nuclear emergencies.

GENERAL COMMENTS

  The draft Bill appears to be weak in that:

    —  It does not take full cognizance of Existing Chemical and Nuclear regulation requiring premises and industries to have emergency arrangements.

    —  The costs that may be incurred in reviewing and re-developing established approaches to nuclear plant emergency planning in the Bill are not explained.

    —  There is no clear definition between the requirements of emergency preparedness, ie planning for an emergency and the practical response to any emergency situation.

  The stated objective for the implementation of the Civil Contingencies Bill is to provide more resilience in respect to naturally occurring events and those associated with acts of terrorism covering Chemical, Biological, Radiation and Nuclear ("CBRN"). It is unfortunate that in the draft Bill no differentiation is made between the response and preparedness arrangements for unpredictable radiation and nuclear events such as an act of terrorism and that of the controlled environment within the nuclear industry. This lack of clarity within the Bill and the supporting Guidance may well cause confusion amongst responding agencies as to the nature of events that can occur at nuclear power stations. As stated earlier, Emergency Plans and expectations have been managed between response agencies and British Energy over the last thirty years, hence existing arrangements may need to be re-developed to allow agencies to comply with the draft Civil Contingencies Bill in all circumstances.

  The draft Civil Contingencies Bill, as in recent other legislation in this area, the responsibility for preparing for emergencies, preparedness and the actions taken during a response to an emergency are not clearly defined or established. It should be made clearer on whom the highest duty falls for emergency preparedness responsibility. During any emergency response the accepted position is that the Police provide the co-ordinated leadership for emergency response arrangements at a local level. The establishment of a regional emergency response organisation could cause dilution of this position and confusion.

  The mechanism by which the draft Bill proposes to provide financial and budgetary support to civil emergency planning gives confidence that British Energy will not be incurring additional costs during the preparation and testing of Emergency Plans resulting from developments under the draft Civil Contingencies Bill.

  Please see at Appendix A attached our responses to the specific questions raised in this Consultation.

CONCLUSIONS

  British Energy supports the principles of a Civil Contingencies Bill but overall feels that an opportunity has been missed to use tried and tested emergency arrangements and lessons learnt from these in establishing the framework for national, local and site emergency management and response.

  The establishment of a regional level of emergency response management will dilute existing frameworks where the Police act as the lead co-ordinating agency. It is unlikely that the regional emergency response personnel will remain in a state of readiness compared with that of the blue light emergency services which would lead to inexperienced and ill conceived decisions during critical times in the evolution of an emergency situation.


CONSULTATION QUESTIONS

RESILIENCE, EMERGENCIES AND CIVIL PROTECTION

Q1.   Is the definition of emergency the right one? If not, in what ways should it be tightened or expanded to exclude certain classes of event or situation?

  The definition of emergency within the draft Bill requires development to exclude emergencies declared under existing legislation where emergency planning is carried out against reasonably foreseeable emergencies where the risk element of the occurrence is managed under Health and Safety Legislation. However, the ability for events associated with this existing framework of emergency planning that is beyond the reasonably foreseeable to provoke an emergency response under the civil contingencies' arrangements should not be excluded.

CLEAR ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES AT THE LOCAL LEVEL

Q2.   Do you agree that obligations imposed on both Category 1 and 2 responders by or under the new framework will ensure operationally effective and financially efficient planning and response to emergencies at the local level? If not, how should these obligations be increased or reduced?

  The examples of Category 1 and 2 responders under the new framework in principle seems to be an effective approach. However, there is an opportunity for further categories to be established for the management of the media and the responsibilities of the public. Within the draft Bill it is suggested that establishing the need for reasonable behaviour from the public and the media during any emergency response would be of benefit.

Q3.   Do you agree that the membership of Categories 1 and 2 is right? If not, which organisations should be added, moved or removed?

  The obligations placed on Category 2 responders, which would include British Energy, is appropriate where the civil infrastructure such as electricity supply is threatened. However, for events such as an accident at one of our nuclear power stations the obligation imposed appears to conflict with existing legislation under where there are existing, mature emergency response plans for reasonably foreseeable accidents.

Q4.   Do you agree that the Bill gives the Government the right balance of regulation making powers to meet its aims of consistency and flexibility? If not, please explain how the powers should be expanded or constrained.

  The situation has been rightly recognised within the draft Civil Contingencies Bill that during an emergency normal procedures and regulatory control systems may not be applicable. Introducing a mechanism for flexibility on developing emergency powers is a positive step forward in managing a major emergency in an unexpected location.

  However, in dealing with emergencies the aim is to re-establish normality and recover the situation as quickly as possible. Achieving this aim would be greatly increased if there is a relaxation of the specific provisions and regulations under the Health and Safety at Work Act during emergency situations, but the principle of managing risks to as low as reasonably practicable, or ALARP, should be maintained at all times. The framework on the relaxation of Health and Safety provisions and regulations during an emergency should be established prior to the emergency occurring and agreed through the Health and Safety Executive.

Q5.  Do you agree that consistent arrangements for multi-agency working should be established, through the creation of Local Resilience Forums? If not, how else should consistency be established?

  British Energy supports the creation of the Local Resilience Forums for co-ordination of the regional level response. However, it should be noted that consultation forums are already required through other legislation and obligations regarding emergency arrangements and also co-operation between blue light responders and other authorities at a more local level. Some recognition of this is required within the draft Bill to ensure that a continuity or otherwise is clearly established.

Q6.  Do you agree that the partial Regulatory Impact Assessment accurately reflects the costs and benefits of the Bill proposals? If not, how should it be changed?

  As an objective of providing costs of the implementation of the proposed Bill the costs are probably accurate. It is not transparent, however, how the costs of ongoing training, exercises and learning from real and exercise events or regulatory requirements will be accommodated within existing cost bases or are in fact included in the impact assessment.

Q7.   Do you agree that the funding for Category 1 local authorities should be transferred from specific grant (Civil Defence Grant) to Revenue Support Grant? If not, why should specific grant be retained?

  British Energy agrees.

Q8.   Do you agree that the level of funding to support the Bill is sufficient? If not, please explain why you believe it to be too high or too low.

  British Energy does not agree. The level of funding suggested to support the Bill is termed as "the basic responsibilities for local authorities that flow from the Bill" but in paragraph 12 on page 13 a multi million pound investment programme has been undertaken to bring the arrangements to a sufficiently robust and resilient level. It is British Energy's experience that investments in developing emergency arrangements reflect into ongoing maintenance programmes on a similar level of funding. To maintain and/or improve resilience funding must be linked to reviews of technology, technological developments and experience gained through real events and exercises. Funding should be sufficiently high to accommodate the maintenance of adequate resilient emergency arrangements and provide immediate finance to sponsor the response at all levels of the regional and local effort prior to further national emergency funding becoming available.

Q9.   Do you agree that performance should be audited through existing mechanisms? If not, what mechanism would you like to see established?

  British Energy does not agree. The existing mechanisms for monitoring performance in contingency planning should be maintained for the specific agencies that the bodies are designated regulators. However a supplementary organisation or body needs to be identified with sufficient competence to provide a single review of a multi-agency response as the existing mechanism would lead to potential conflict between assessors viewing the individual components of the response.

A NEW REGIONAL TIER

Q10.   Do you agree with the role of Regional Nominated Co-ordinator? If not, who should take responsibility at the regional level, and with what responsibilities?

  British Energy does not agree with the role of the Regional Nominated Co-ordinator. The lead for co-ordination of the multi agency response should always be with the Police. This is tried and tested in many emergency situations such as those that support the mature arrangements for nuclear power stations. Within the organisation of the strategic co-ordination of an off-site response for a nuclear power station emergency the roles of Government Technical Adviser and Senior Government Liaison Officers have been developed. We would recommend that consideration is given to forming a support group within the multi agency response of a team to advise that Strategic Co-ordinator on the regional contingency issues and provide a conduit for information flow to Central Government. This would enable the Strategic Co-ordinator to maintain an overview of the event whilst this key support group would establish any emergency regulations, powers or resources required to manage the ongoing situation. It is unlikely that any other organisation would be able to maintain competence of co-ordination in emergency situations other than the Police through a Senior Police Officer.

Q11.   Do you agree with the principle of applying special legislative measures on a regional basis? Please explain your answer.

  British Energy agrees. The ability to apply special legislation measures on a regional basis would provide a degree of flexibility to terminate or prevent an escalation of the situation at an early stage. This is particularly important when the situation is developing with time.

STRONG CENTRAL STRUCTURES AND TARGETED POWERS

Q12.   Do you agree that the current emergency powers framework is outdated and needs to be replaced? If you do not think it should be replaced, please explain why.

  It is essential to develop a framework for contingency planning and civil emergency response that utilises modern risk management techniques and experience from real events. This should not be focused on one specific risk such as the Cold War.

Q13.   Do you agree that the circumstances in which special legislative measures may be taken should be widened from limited threats to public welfare to include threats to the environment, to the political, administrative and economic stability of the United Kingdom and to threats to its security resulting from war or terrorism? If not, how would you like to see the circumstances narrowed or extended?

  British Energy agrees.

Q14.  Do you agree that the use of special legislative measures should be possible on a sub-UK basis? If not, please explain

  British Energy agrees.

Q15.  Do you agree that authority to declare that special legislative measures are necessary should remain with the Queen as Head of State, acting on the advice of Ministers? If not, who should it sit with?

  British Energy agrees.

Q16.  Do you agree that in the event the process of making a Royal Proclamation would cause a delay which might result in significant damage or harm, a Secretary of State should be able to make the declaration in place of the Queen, as Head of State, acting on the advice of Ministers? If not, is delay acceptable or is there another alternative mechanism?

  British Energy agrees.

Q17.  Do you agree that emergency regulations should be treated as primary legislation for the purposes of the Human Rights Act? If not, explain why.

  No comment.

SCOTLAND, WALES AND NORTHERN IRELAND

Q18.  Do you agree that the arrangements proposed for Scotland strike the right balance between reflecting the devolution settlement and ensuring consistency across the United Kingdom? If not, what changes are necessary?

  British Energy agrees that the arrangements proposed for Scotland should strike the right balance. However, the Scottish Executive or regional response should have the ability to apply special legislative measures as per Question 11 above.

Q19.  Do you agree that the arrangements proposed for Wales strike the right balance between reflecting the devolution settlement and ensuring consistency across the United Kingdom? If not, what changes are necessary?

  British Energy agrees that the arrangements proposed strike the right balance.

Q20.  Do you agree that the arrangements proposed for Northern Ireland strike the right balance between reflecting the devolution settlement and ensuring consistency across the United Kingdom? If not, what changes are necessary

  No comment.

Q21.  Do you agree that the role and accountability of the Emergency Co-ordinator in a devolved country should be flexible to reflect different types of emergency? If not, what alternative role should the Emergency Co-ordinator have?

  British Energy does not agree with the role and accountability of the Emergency Co-ordinator in a devolved country. It is British Energy's experience that this role is best performed by a Senior Police Officer and that support is provided by Regional Government Representatives through to Central Government—see our response to Question 10 above.

Q22.  Do you agree that the devolved administrations should be able to declare that special legislative measures are necessary, and take action accordingly? If not, please explain why.

  British Energy agrees that devolved administration should be able to declare special legislative measures.

LONDON

Q23.  Do you agree that London should have different arrangements for co-operation, and that the proposals set out are the right way to deliver this? If not, what arrangements should be put in place?

  British Energy agrees that London should have different arrangements for co-operation as proposed.


 
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Prepared 28 November 2003