Joint Committee on Draft Civil Contingencies Bill Written Evidence


Memorandum from Kent and Medway Towns Fire Authority

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?

  Broadly yes, but the inclusion of a reference to off-shore marine incidents would be helpful in clarifying the coverage, as these are currently excluded by the wording "in England and Wales". The fire service is from time to time involved in dealing with major emergencies of this kind.

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?

  The new framework will help to promote improved arrangements for planning and response.

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

  Yes, but it would be helpful to include the Maritime and Coastguard Agency at a local as well as a regional level, where appropriate.

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 balance of powers appears reasonable.

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?

  Consistent arrangements across regional boundaries is not a key issue for agencies which only operate within one region for planning purposes. It may however be helpful for dealing with national bodies such as the Health Service and public utilities.

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?

  The potential costs of not handling major emergencies efficiently is undoubtedly high. However the assessment does not quantify the costs of additional activity to local authorities. (See also Q7)

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?

  There is no reason why civil defence funding should not be transferred from specific to general grant. However, this does not address the issue of funding additional costs which may arise for fire authorities, which although Category 1 responders and local authorities, are not currently eligible for CDG. There is also the issue of the general funding deficit for civil contingency planning which has been evident in the SSA formula. While this has in part been addressed by specific funding for local authorities for increased working, this has not yet been translated into the FSS formula. Fire Authorities have been given additional money for specialist equipment, but the need for ongoing funding for both service provision and enhanced planning needs to be recognised.

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?

  Currently CDG does not cover the cost of local authority activity, and the simple conversion of this funding to general grant will not cover the costs of enhanced activity.

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

  Existing audit mechanisms should be entirely adequate.

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?

  The role of the RNC will effectively codify what already takes place under the existing protocols. Giving the lead role to the main agency involved is a sensible response.

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

  Yes. In circumstances where short-term emergency powers are necessary, they should be limited as far as possible to the affected 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.

  Yes. The types of emergency planned for and the complexity of response has developed considerably since current legislation was put in place.

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?

  Yes, provided there are sufficient safeguards in place on the activation of such emergency powers.

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

  Yes, provided there are sufficient safeguards in place on the activation of such emergency powers.

Q15.   Do you agree that the 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?

  Yes.

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?

  Yes, provided there are sufficient safeguards in place on the activation of such measures.

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.

  Yes.

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

  No comment.

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

  No comment.

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 UK? 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?

  No comment.

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.

  No comment.

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 arrangement should be put in place?

  If different arrangements for co-operation are set up in London, it is important that these are able to interact smoothly with neighbouring LRFs, and do not have an adverse effect on the development of cross-border working and support for emergency response.

P J Coombs

Chief Executive and Chief Fire Officer

11 August 2003


 
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