Joint Committee on Draft Civil Contingencies Bill Written Evidence

Memorandum from Devon County Council

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?


Q2.   Do you agree that the 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?

No. There are no indications of how financial efficiency will be measured, and planning and response takes place at national, regional and local levels, so, for clarity, statutory responsibilities also need to be placed on central government and regional bodies.

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

No. Liaison with the Health Service has always been a difficult area in the past, because of its sheer size and complexity. To ensure involvement in joint planning, Primary Care and Acute Hospital Trusts, and the Health Protection Agency should be added to Category 1. Because of the introduction of the Environmental dimension to the definition of an emergency English Nature should also be added to Category 1. The Military should be included in Category 2.

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.


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?


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?

No. See answer to question 8 below.

Q7.   Do you agree that 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?

Yes, but clearly identified.

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.

No. The new areas of work indicated in the Bill indicate a need to increase Central Government funding for emergency planning. In particular:


The new definition of an emergency includes, for the first time, the need to plan, and respond to, threats to the environment. This effectively introduces two new duties for local authorities.

Firstly to plan for response to Coastal Pollution. This was one of the recommendations of the Donaldson Report.

The Local Government Association (LGA) carried out a survey on the need for a specific duty for planning for Coastal Pollution in 1997. The majority of local authorities that responded were in favour, provided it was accompanied by new Central Government funding, to cover the cost of preparing and reviewing plans, providing training and carrying out exercises, Estimates from County Councils varied from £20-40K per annum (average £30K) and from District Councils from £7-15K per annum (average £11K).

The LGA communicated the result of the survey to Shipping Policy 3 B, in a letter dated 30 January 1998. The reply, which was circulated to local authorities in LGA Circular 585/98, was that "the Government has considered this recommendation carefully. We will take a decision on it once the current review of the National Contingency Plan (for oil pollution response) has been completed and progress made, implementing the proposals contained in the Government's proposals for modernising local government published in White Papers in July, Both may have an impact on local authorities' responsibilities and powers." The National Contingency Plan was introduced in January 2000. The matter has not been addressed since.

NB The Circular also included a copy of the LGA letter.

[It should also be noted that by making coastal pollution contingency planning a statutory duty local authorities will no longer be eligible to fund this activity from sources such as the European Union. As a result there is a need for increased financial support for the Bill.]

Secondly, the inclusion of the environment in the new definition will lead to the need to include environmental impact assessments in all multi-agency plans developed. For emergency planning purposes Local Authorities currently only have a duty to consider environmental impacts for sites covered by the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations, and environmentally sensitive areas close to the major gas pipelines transiting their area.


The consultation document will place a duty on local authorities related to two main areas of business continuity work. These will be:

    —  the Council's own internal Business Continuity Management;

    —  taking the lead in promoting BCM throughout their area.

These two new areas of involvement in business continuity will increase the workload of the local authority's Emergency Planning Service. A new post will need to be established to carry out all this work.


These two new areas of work indicate that funding to support the Bill needs to be increased:

    —  by £70K per "maritime" authority;

    —  by £30K per "non maritime" authority.

In addition the Bill will enable subsequent Acts, which may well produce future needs for additional funding.

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

Existing mechanisms are local, and vary, usually based on local Performance Indicators, or annual reports. Further work is required in this area, if true comparison of performance is to be achieved.

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?

No. A Regional Nominated Co-ordinator appointed from a lead Department may not have the broad overview needed. Regional Resilience Teams have now been appointed, and it would seem sensible to have the Head of the team undertake this role. There would also seem to be scope for including the role of the Regional Resilience Team in the Bill.

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

Yes. It allows for a flexible, and more local response, to an emergency within a Regional area.

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.


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 UK and to threats to its security resulting from war or terrorism? If not, how would you like to see the circumstances narrowed or extended?


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


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


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 the 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?


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


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