Joint Committee on Draft Civil Contingencies Bill Written Evidence

Memorandum from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

  In the main, as the Emergency Planning Officer for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, I welcome the proposals contained in the draft Bill. I await the detail that is to follow in the drafting of regulations and guidance before resting totally content.

  I have concerns, as highlighted in the answers to the questions posed, as to the arrangements within London and the financial implications but feel sure that the consultation over the drafting of the regulations will allow an opportunity to explore these concerns.

  I have responded to the questions as shown below.

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, as it stands, does not include an element of scale and could therefore apply to a relatively minor road traffic accident or small fire. In the document issued by the Cabinet Office "Dealing with Disaster" the definition of a major emergency includes the following ". . . on such a scale that the effects cannot be dealt with by the emergency services, local authorities and other organisations as part of their normal day to day activities". The inclusion of this phrase would make the definition more relevant to Civil Protection.

Q2.   Do you agree that the obligations imposed on 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 explanation given in the consultation document should provide for a suitable framework. Much will depend on the regulations and guidance issued under the Bill when enacted.

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

  It is believed that Category 1 should include the Primary Care Trusts and that Category 2 should include bus and coach operators.

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 will be easier to answer this question when the details of the regulations and guidance are known. There will be the possibility of amending regulations and guidance, which will allow the required flexibility.

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?

  It is assumed that in London the Local Resilience Forum will be at borough level and the London Resilience Forum dealing with the regional. If this is the case the burden placed on the small number of utility companies to meet at 33 Local Resilience Forums would prove to be onerous. It would be more effective if they were to meet with a smaller number of boroughs such as those in the existing Mutual Aid Groups.

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?

  It is agreed that it is not possible to be specific at this stage about the potential regulatory impact. Much will depend on the regulations and guidance drafted under the proposed legislation.

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?

  Those consulted prior to the drafting of the legislation expressed reservations as to the moving of funding to the Revenue Support Grant. Those views are supported.

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 is sufficient to support current civil protection activity. However, this may change if further activity is required when the regulations and guidance are published.

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

  It is agreed that auditing locally and by the NAO should continue.

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?

  It is agreed there is a need for a person to be identified in the planning stages of civil protection to act as a focal point for both planning and operational response.

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

  This is agreed, many incidents in recent years, such as flooding, have been of a wide local nature and would require emergency powers to be limited to that area and not the whole country.

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 agree.

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

  Yes agree.

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

  Yes agree.

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?

  Yes agree.

Q16.   Do you agree that in the event of 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 agree. A delay is not acceptable, it is essential that in the event of Emergency Powers being needed there are no delays.

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.


QQ18 to 22.   Ask questions which relate to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland only.

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?

  The make up of local government in London demands that the local authority arrangements be different. The London Resilience Forum is an established body and seems to function efficiently. The question of local resilience forums needs more clarification. As stated in the answer to Q5 the burden placed on utilities to attend 33 local resilience forums will be onerous. Each London borough currently meets with its own emergency services and NHS Trusts and plans for Local resilience. In order to include the utilities and others in Category 2 use should be made of the existing five Mutual Aid Groups in London. It is believed that if the Groups were put on to a legal footing they would provide a practical solution, allowing the co-operation envisaged in the Bill.

A Morris

Emergency Planning Officer

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