Joint Committee on Draft Civil Contingencies Bill Written Evidence


Memorandum from North Wales Police

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 is broad enough to cover most eventualities and far wider than previously covered by the Emergencies Powers Act. This is welcomed and will provide greater flexibility to declare an emergency in a specific and localised area in a wider range of scenarios.

CLEAR ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES AT THE LOCAL LEVEL

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 Draft Bill clearly defines category 1 and 2 responders and describes in detail the legal responsibilities the act imposes on both. Whether the framework will produce financially efficient planning and response is debatable. One could argue that the Draft Bill fails to provide any increased funding stream for this work. The intention is to remove direct grants for such work (Civil Defence Grant) and include the funding in the general grant (Revenue Support Grant). This will leave local authorities free to decide themselves what level of resources to put into such matters and there is a danger that these matters will be:

    (a)  Under funded by Category 1 responders—local authorities in particular.

    (b)  That different local authorities in different areas will fund to differing amounts providing a greatly varying quality of service dependent upon where you happen to live—the so called postcode lottery syndrome.

  The Draft Bill imposes significant responsibilities on all Category 1 responders but fails to identify or provide any new funding stream to pay for these increased responsibilities. Category 1 responders will be expected to meet performance targets and reach published standards in relation to their responsibilities—although these are not defined in the literature—and therefore additional central government funding should be provided to meet the new requirements, responsibilities, standards and performance indicators consequential to this legislation. In the absence of a clearer duty there is a real risk of underfunding.

  The Category 1 and 2 lists form some of the main proposals in the Bill and should be supported. It has long been argued that there is a need for statutory duties to be placed on those responsible for the planning and response to major disasters and the Category 1 and Category 2 responsibilities and relationships as described in the Draft Bill are a very positive step. Local Authorities will need to gear up to their new responsibilities but it is at least clear in the Bill where these responsibilities now lie.

  What is not clear from the Draft Bill is which agency is to take the lead role in the Category 1 responder group. Traditionally this has been the police—there is a danger that no one organisation will take the lead role and this should be clarified in the legislation.

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

  Where does the devolved Welsh Assembly Government fit into the Category 1 and 2 listings? The Welsh Assembly Government has responsibility for key funding on Health and in Wales the Ambulance and some other services are under the direct responsibility of the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG)—should the Welsh Assembly Government therefore be listed as a Category 1 responder? One could argue that they should also be in Category 2 with a duty to co-operate with the other responders in Category 1. This could create a situation where the Welsh Assembly Government is under a duty to co-operate with itself. There are a number of constitutional issues impacting upon the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) and its responsibilities as a consequence of this Draft Bill. These issues can only be addressed by the Welsh Assembly Government and the United Kingdom Government but resolved they must be.

  All Local Health Boards should be listed as Category 1 responders.

  All NHS trusts, Hospitals, Primary Care Trusts and Public Health organisations etc should be in Category 1 responder list.

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.

  It is accepted that the Draft Bill gives a range of options to allow regulation making powers in the event of a wide range of defined emergencies and disruptive challenges. Judgment is reserved on whether these will meet the government aims of consistency and flexibility. There are unanswered constitutional and political questions concerning what role and function the devolved Welsh Assembly Government will have and what implications the Draft Bill will have on such devolved administrations. Section 12 of the Draft Bill indicates that the UK government ministers can't act without consulting the Welsh Assembly Government on most measures contained within the Draft Bill but there is a clause attached which allows this to be disapplied in the event of urgency!

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?

  These structures already exist—in Wales for example we have four multi-agency Strategic Emergency Planning Groups. These then have sub working groups tasked to carry out many of the functions being described in the Draft Bill for Category 1 responders. There is nothing new in the proposals which tend to mirror the structures already existing in Wales and in North Wales in particular. All that is required to comply with the structure described in the Draft Bill would be for the North Wales Strategic Emergency Planning Group to be renamed the North Wales Local Resilience Forum—its present composition and function would remain largely unchanged.

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?

  Yes as far as it goes.

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?

  No—It is accepted that Local Government Associations have stated, as a point of principle, they do not want Specific Grants (Civil Defence Grant) retained as this involves central government dictating to them what will or will not be spent by them on a specific area of their responsibility—this is seen as central government interference in local government issues. However if funding is to be placed into general grant funding (through Revenue Support Grant) no guidance will exist on what local authorities or other Category 1 responders should be spending on the consequences and implications of the work falling out of the duties and responsibilities associated with the Draft Bill (please see answer to Q2).

  The Draft Bill mentions that Category 1 Responders will in future be subject to performance review and the setting of standards and the legislation provides for future additional responsibilities and regulations to be imposed on Category 1 responders as the Government sees fit. The placing of emergency planning issues on a more structured basis, defining the additional duties and responsibilities all creates additional work—in some cases significantly so. This Draft Bill appears to be deliberately imposing significant additional work and responsibilities but denying any further government funding to meet those responsibilities and the additional work involved. This it could be argued is wrong in principle.

  Mention is made of local authorities and funding streams to them via Revenue Support Grant—It should be noted that the emergency services do not and have never had funding for emergency planning responsibilities. We do not benefit from the Civil Defence Grant nor the Revenue Support grant system. Again the Draft Bill will cause additional work and there is no additional funding proposed—there should be???

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.

  Funding streams are too low. Local authorities already fund to very different extents with some authorities funding above that given to them under the Civil Defence Grant. This results in very different levels of quality of service being provided by the differing local authorities depending on where one happens to live. If the Government are serious about the consequences and implications of the Draft Bill it should also identify and properly fund these issues in an equitable manner across all Category 1 responding organisations.

  Police budgets are already under pressure and the drive is focused primarily on operational front line policing performance. Few police forces give a higher priority to emergency planning as a care function and emergency planning tends to have a lower priority in terms of police related funding. In my experience a bid for additional staff specifically for this area has already been turned down on the basis that this will adversely impact on front line policing. Greater police resources are required in emergency planning where workloads are already significant and there is an historical build up of work. The additional requirements imposed by the Draft Bill coupled with the higher importance and status resulting from these requirements should attract additional specific funding from central government to the emergency services and other Category 1 responders.

  Even without additional funding from central government—police forces need to be alive to the additional responsibilities and work falling out of the Draft Bill and put additional staffing resources into their emergency planning teams.

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

  It would appear sensible to audit performance and standards through existing established processes involving the agencies described—a new "inspectorate" is not supported.

  Again the imposition of performance management and standards monitoring processes on Category 1 responders where no additional funding streams have been identified to meet the requirements and responsibilities under the Draft Bill would appear to be incongruous.

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?

  Yes in general but there are some issues which need clarification:—

  1.  A Regional Nominated Co-ordinator will have significant powers granted to him/her when a proclamation of an emergency is made under sections 18 or 19 of the Draft Bill—therefore such individuals should be identified well in advance of any particular type of emergency (after all we know the majority of emergency types already). Appointment must be on the basis of experience and skills required for a particular type of emergency.

  2.  In Wales we already have a "High Level Group" which mirrors what the Draft Bill is suggesting is put in place. Renaming this "High Level Group" as the Regional Resilience Forum would basically have Wales complying with the Draft legislation. This group would in reality become the Regional Civil Contingencies Committee in the event of a stage 1 emergency being declared and there is no need to have a separate committee at all. The Regional Resilience Forum is sufficient to progress all the responsibilities attributed to the proposed Regional Civil Contingencies Committee and there is simply no basis to have a separate committee at all. Additional members required to assist the particular emergency can simply be co-opted to the Regional Resilience Forum as and when necessary depending on the emergency being dealt with at the time.

  3.  Where does the Welsh Assembly Government fit in to this process? Could or would a Welsh Assembly Government Minister ever be appointed as a Regional Nominated Co-ordinator? If the answer is "yes" then this could result in possible political control in the response stages of an emergency on resources such as the police. This clearly takes the devolved responsibilities too far as the Welsh Assembly Government currently do not have responsibility for the police service and law and order in Wales. If the answers is "no" then there is a danger of the Welsh Assembly Government not being properly engaged on emergency co-ordination issues for which it may be directly responsible under the terms of devolved administrative responsibilities. There is some confusion over the role of devolved administrations in the Draft Bill which requires further clarification and work. The concept of lead government departments is mentioned but does this mean individual officers or individual ministers should take the lead—this may prove constitutionally difficult in Wales where the devolved administration is charged with many of these responsibilities attributed to lead government departments in England. As an example one could find that the Regional Nominated Co-ordinator for a health related emergency could be the director of public health in Wales (an officer) who is answerable to a Welsh Assembly Minister? The chair of any Regional Civil Contingecies Committee in Wales would be an officer of the Welsh Assembly Govrnment and sitting on the committee would be a minister from the Welsh Assembly Government—the chair as an individual could find him/herself in conflict with his/her own devolved governmental ministers in the Welsh Assembly Government (who would probably chair the Regional Resilience Forum in Wales anyway). Quite how such conflict would be resolved is unclear. In addition the move to levels two and three which are described in the Draft Bill as being prompted by the Government Offices of the Regions would presumably be prompted by a Welsh Assembly Government official in Wales but this may conflict with the need for the Welsh Assembly Government ministers to decide such issues in Wales.

  4.  The pool of Regional Nominated Co-ordinators identified and agreed as part of the contingency planning process should be local to the region concerned and not parachuted in by central government. There is no point in having a Regional Resilience Forum and Committee if at the first sign of an emergency central government undermine the principle of local accountability and response by sending in someone from outside that region. In addition a locally appointed and agreed Regional Nominated Co-ordinator will have the local knowledge and experience to deal properly with the existing structures and establishment in such circumstances.

  5.  Responsibility, authority and the ability to deploy all and any multi-agency resources to mitigate the effects of any emergency after a proclamation of an emergency has been made is essential for the Regional Nominated Co-ordinator to function properly. There are serious constitutional issues concerning whether this can or would happen in Wales given that some functions lie with the Welsh Assembly Government and some do not.

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

  Yes in principle but a number of issues cause concern:

  1.  Why does the Queen need to be involved in any declaration of a "state of emergency"? This would appear to be perverse when any such decision would have to be made on the basis of ministerial advice anyway. It would make more sense to leave the Queen out of the decision making process and leave such matters to Governmental Ministers.

  2.  Constitutionally it would make more sense for devolved administrations such as Welsh Assembly Government to have the power to "Proclaim" or "Declare" an emergency for the purposes of additional emergency powers which occur in their geographical areas. Constitutionally it does not make sense for the UK Government and/or the Queen to have control over these issues when the Welsh Assembly Government and Scottish Parliament have devolved powers. Surely the Welsh Assembly Government know better and are better placed regionally to decide these and associated matters involving their localities than those in Central Government.

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.

  Yes—the old emergency powers legislation was written to cater for circumstances existing after the last war and catered for attack scenarios in the main. Things have changed on a pan world basis since then and the emergency powers act is woefully inadequate in meeting today's threats and needs.

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.

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

  Yes—There is an identified need for the use of special legislative measures being made on a sub-UK basis—the previous emergency powers legislation was out of date.

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?

  No—There is no reason for the Queen to be involved at all—Responsibility should sit with Ministers in the English regions, the Scottish Parliament in Scotland and the Welsh Assembly Government in Wales. Retention of global responsibility and power to declare special legislative measures by the Secretary of State is sensible in cases of urgency but the devolved administrations should have the responsibility in the first instance. There is no point having devolved governments and administrations if the UK government does not give them autonomy to act and the authority to do so. Local devolved administrations are better placed in terms of the local response to know what is required in their areas—Central Government should then be obliged to assist with practical and logistical support when specifically requested by the devolved administrations.

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?

  Decisions on "Proclamations" should not be with the Queen—but with the devolved administrations in the first instance and the Secretary of State in an urgent case—this would keep any delays to a minimum. First Ministers in each devolved administration should be the ones tasked with the responsibility of making any declaration to invoke special legislative powers.

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—special legislative measures if brought into effect are by definition emergency measures which may need to contain some draconian and restrictive actions designed to ensure the public/property/infrastructure etc are properly protected or the effects of the emergency minimised. Such measures and especially the enforcement of them may well breach individual's human rights and this in extreme and emergency situations may need to be accepted. The Draft Bill and all special legislative measures made as a result of it should be treated as primary legislation so as to enable the UK Government to derogate from the Human Rights Act should this be necessary—The courts must not be allowed in emergency circumstances to usurp any special emergency measures by ordering an interim suspension of the special measures on the basis that there has been a perceived breach of someone's human rights.

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 UK? If noy, what changes are necessary?

  No—The Scottish Parliament should be allowed under this legislation to declare an emergency itself and take whatever special legislative measures it believes are necessary to deal with it—within its competence as a devolved administration. The UK Government should only be involved where the measures required are outside that devolved competence.

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? If not, what changes are necessary?

  No—The Welsh Assembly Government should be allowed under this legislation to declare an emergency itself and take whatever special legislation measures it believes are necessary to deal with it—within its competence as a devolved administration. The UK Government should only be involved where the special legislative measures required are outside that devolved competence at which time the UK measures would supercede those of the Welsh Assembly Government.

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—The Northern Ireland Assembly should be allowed under this legislation to declare an emergency itself and take whatever special legislative measures it believes are necessary to deal with it—within its competence as a devolved administration. The UK Government should only be involved where the special legislative measures required are outside that devolved competence at which time the UK measures would supercede those of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

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?

  Yes in Wales the Emergency Co-ordinator should be answerable directly to the Welsh Assembly Government via his/her Civil Contingencies Committee (possibly through the first minister).

  A Regional Nominated Co-ordinator (or Emergency Co-ordinator in devolved areas) will have significant power granted to him/her when a proclamation of an emergency is made under sections 18 or 19 of the Draft Bill—therefore such individuals should be identified well in advance of any particular type of emergency (after all we know the majority of emergency types already). Appointment must be on the basis of experience and skills required for a particular type of emergency ie Chief Constable for any emergency which involves a potential crime scene including terrorist incidents, plane crashes, train crashes, ferry disasters, explosions, possibly water contamination events (deliberate)—Lead Government Departments (Draft Bill does not make it clear whether this would be Ministers or Officials) for incidents such as Foot and Mouth or disease and Public Health Director for Human disease such as Flu epidemic. Appointments should very definitely be local to that region ie in the case of Wales someone from that area. This ensures consistency, knowledge and experience at the regional or pan Wales level. Such individuals will already know the area, the key players in the emergency planning world and have built up a network of contacts locally in Wales (or any other region for that matter) to enable them to carry out the role of Emergency Co-ordinator effectively. A pool of Emergency Co-ordinators should be identified and agreed as part of the contingency planning process and should not be "parachuted in" by central government at the time of a particular emergency. There is no point in having a regional resilience forum and committee if at the first sign of an emergency central government undermine the principle of local accountability and response by sending in someone from outside that region. As stated a locally appointed and previously agreed Emergency Co-ordinator will have the local knowledge and experience to deal properly with the existing structures and establishment in such circumstances.

  The Emergency Co-ordinator must have authority and the ability to deploy all and any multi-agency resources to mitigate the effects of any emergency after a proclamation of an emergency has been made if the Emergency Co-ordinator is to function properly. There are serious constitutional issues concerning whether this can or would happen in Wales given that some functions lie with the Welsh Assembly Government and some do not.

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.

  Yes—The Welsh Assembly Government should be allowed under this legislation to declare an emergency itself and take whatever special legislative measures it believes are necessary to deal with it—within its competence as a devolved administration. The UK Government should only be involved where the special legislative measures required are outside that devolved competence at which time the UK measures would supercede those of the Welsh Assembly Government.

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 in put in place?

  Yes—but the measures currently put into effect in London need to be mirrored and financed in a like manner for other regions. The London Resilience Team has in excess of 40 staff working for it—Wales as a devolved administrative region has none. Why should central government finance the London set up to this extent and not properly fund the same or similar requirements in other areas? If it's good enough for London then it is good enough for Cardiff and other areas where the key governmental and economic business of the day needs to be protected.


 
previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2003
Prepared 28 November 2003