Joint Committee on Draft Civil Contingencies Bill Written Evidence

Memorandum from Torbay 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?

  Operational effectiveness—Clearer obligations should lead to greater operational effectiveness at the local level, however the planning and response to emergencies takes place at national, regional and local levels. Therefore statutory obligations should be imposed not only on local responders, but also on central government and regional bodies.

  Financial efficiency—It is not clear how financial efficiency will be measured, and what the benchmarks will be to measure against.

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 Bill should include express reference to Unitary Authorities notwithstanding the fact they are technically District Councils.

  Category 1—Should also include Primary Care Trusts, Acute Hospital Trusts and the Health Protection Agency.

  Category 2—As Civil Contingency Reaction Forces are being established, the Armed Forces should be included.

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 response to Q8 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?

  No—Specific grant "ring fences" funding for local authorities to undertake civil contingency planning. If funding is transferred to RSG it must as a minimum be at the current level of funding.

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—Without knowing what specific obligations will be imposed it is difficult to comment, however a duty on councils to plan for a wider range of emergencies will present a challenge unless additional resources are provided.

  Environmental aspects are included in the draft Bill and funding must be sufficient to enable planning for the response to incidents threatening the environment. As a coastal authority the response to coastal pollution is a major concern for Torbay. Attention should be drawn to the response to work undertaken by the Local Government Association summarised in LGA Circular 585/98 regarding the possible need for a statutory duty for local authorities to plan the response to and undertake the clean up of maritime pollution incidents.

  If local authorities are to be required to promote business continuity in the local business community, they will need to have sufficient resources to develop and maintain their own business continuity arrangements.

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

  No—Existing mechanisms for auditing vary considerably but generally rely on local Performance Indicators.

  Work was undertaken by the Emergency Planning Society to develop quantitative, qualitative, uniform, national Performance Indicators for local authorities to support Best Value reviews, but this work was never completed.

  Standards for Civil Protection provided a framework, but did not provide any quantitative or qualitative measurements. These were partially audited during the first year of implementation, however results were not shared, and no further audit has been carried out.

  Further work is required in this area, and should include the development of some basic standards aligned with the legislative requirements, regularly monitored and audited, to enable comparative performance to be measured and examples of best practice shared.

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 organisation might not have the broad overview and leadership qualities required to fulfil such a role.

  Regional Resilience Teams have now been established, and the Head of these teams should undertake this role.

  The role of Regional Resilience Teams should also be included within the framework of the bill.

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

  Yes—This should allow a more flexible and appropriate response to emergencies contained within a specific geographical 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.

  Yes—to provide a more flexible and appropriate response.

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?


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, providing the "triple lock" safeguards to prevent misuse contained within the consultation document is included within the primary legislation.

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.

  As stated in the consultation document, many of the rights protected by the Human Rights Act may be suspended when there is a public emergency that threatens the life of the nation. Therefore emergency regulations should be treated as secondary legislation and subject to injunction.

Questions 18 to 23

  These relate specifically to arrangements for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London and have not been considered in this response.

Richard Clarke

Emergency Planning Officer

13 August 2003

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