Joint Committee on Draft Civil Contingencies Bill Written Evidence

Memorandum from West Yorkshire Police (as lead for Regional Resilience Yorkshire and Humber Region)

  The response of West Yorkshire Police is structured approximately in accordance with the format of suggested questions contained within the draft bill. There are however a number of areas where additional comments are required.

  I do not seek to pass comment on those parts of the bill which relate solely to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.


  No comment.


Q1.  The lack of precise definitions within this part of the bill causes some concern. The proposed common definition of "emergency" is exceptionally wide ranging and leads to the conclusion that almost any incident or chain of events could lead to its application—especially as the term "serious" remains undefined. As drafted the definition would cover the activities of many criminal groups especially those involved in large frauds or involving large scale financial transactions. The recently reported raids in London involving Colombian drug traffickers and the seizure of 4.4 billion pounds in bonds are good examples of criminal activity that can have a major impact on the economy. If criminal activity is intended to be included the bill should say so. If not the definition needs to be considerably tightened.

  It is the experience of the police service that the criminal activity and terrorism are often intimately inter-related.

  Page 13, paragraphs 8 and 9—I cannot support the contention that actions taken to prevent a terrorist attack are not "Civil Protection" as herein defined. The reason why they should fall outside the definition are not explained.

  The differentiation between "Civil Protection" and "Public Protection" seems to have been arbitrarily drawn, and would have little meaning for ordinary citizens. In common parlance the terms civil and public are practically interchangeable.


Q2.  Yes.

Q3.  The decision to exclude the Military from the list of Category 1 responders (or category 2) is incorrect. Over the last decade the armed services have consistently proved their vital role in public protection. Recent involvement in tackling Foot and Mouth Disease, floods and "Operation Fresco" have demonstrated that they have the staff and resources to respond to almost any challenge in a flexible and effective way. The explanatory notes describe how the definition of "Emergency" includes war or armed conflict, and yet the Military are curiously omitted from the list of responders. It is noted that the Armed Forces are expected to support the activities of the RRF.

  It is my view that in the event of a local or national emergency current Health and Safety legislation should be suspended until the crisis is resolved. Responding to novel and dangerous challenges places an enormous burden upon police management. The expectation that the police will always be able to protect the public without incurring some measure of risk to our own staff is unsupportable. I do however believe that the HSE are correctly included as Category 2 responders.

  The bill makes no reference to the Special Constabulary. Whilst they are a "voluntary organisation" they are also an increasingly significant proportion of police resources. Furthermore the "voluntary" nature of their working arrangements might become one of the issues addressed in emergency regulations following a significant disruptive challenge. They could conceivably be called upon to serve much as members of the Territorial Army do in times of military conflict.

Q4.  No comment.

Q5.  I support the creation of Local Resilience Forums but feel that the concept has been poorly outlined. The relationship with the Regional Resilience Forums needs to be better defined. If these are not to become an additional tier of influence, what are they to replace? If the drafters of this legislation had a particular model in mind they should describe it.

  Paragraph 5 makes an undefined reference to "community partnership". What does this mean? How will the LRFs relate to local Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships? Is it anticipated that the partnerships will be represented on the LRFs? If "local civil protection must be brought firmly into the mainstream of local public service delivery" (page 16, paragraph 5) how can this be achieved without the support of CDRPs? Public involvement and co-operation is clearly envisioned in the delivery of Civil Protection, but the means by which it will be achieved are vague.

  What level of information is expected to be available to members of responder organisations? Will the members be vetted? Who will fund the vetting process?

  The statements in paragraph 29 (page 19) are inconsistent with the idea of a ministerially chaired response to a specific disruptive challenge.

Q6, Q7 and Q8.  I do not believe the Regulatory Impact Assessment accurately reflects the costs of the proposals in the Bill. If the Secretary of State is to prescribe the nature and content of Civil Protection Plans, then they should provide adequate funding or at least direct resources. If the government proposes to "use guidance with a view to ensuring consistency of approach" (page 19, paragraph 21) it must be prepared to fund delivery.

  There are issues of transparency to be addressed in respect of funding. Hypothecated funds ensure that money goes where it is intended, and I favour the retention of the Civil Defence Grant.

Q9.  Performance should be monitored through existing mechanisms. HMIC has the experience and facilities to carry out any necessary reviews. It would be surprising if Her Majesties Fire Service Inspectorate were unable to provide a parallel service. Local Authority provision should be audited by regional government offices.


Q10.  The proposals fail to address the constitutional position of chief constables. For many kinds of emergency it is hard to imagine how anyone other than a chief constable could provide adequate leadership. However no chief constable is currently able to direct the activities of another. If it is intended that they should do so this must specifically and overtly addressed. I believe that individuals should be identified in advance. I favour the idea of a "Regional Police Commander Designate", and a similar person for the Fire Service.

  If the RNC for any specific situation is not a chief constable (such as in the case of an outbreak of SARS) than consideration needs to be given to the inability of the RNC to direct police activity. If a directional role is intended, this must be clearly stated in the ensuing act.

Q11.  Agreed. The special legislative measures should include the suspension of Health and Safety Legislation for responder agencies and clearly defined powers to enforce police cordons—including the power to detain persons within an affected area.

  I do not perceive the need for a separate Regional Civil Contingencies Committee and do not see why the RRF should have no role in response to an emergency. As the membership of the two bodies would be essentially the same I favour co-opting members from appropriate additional partner agencies to deal with specific challenges.


Q12.  Yes.

Q13.  The definition should be extended to make specific reference to criminal activity. There is a continual overlap in the activities of criminal, terrorist and subversive groups.

Q14.  Yes.

Q15.  Agreed.

Q16.  Agreed—in the event of a significant disruptive challenge a speedy response to events will be crucially important.

Q17.  Agreed.

  The three guiding principles laid out in paragraph 19 are illogical. A far more coherent and defensible basis for determining the need for emergency powers is already contained within the 6 principles underpinning the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act 1998;

  They are:

    —  Legality: Is there a clear legal basis for an agencies' actions? (Actions of public authorities must have a clear basis in law).

    —  Proportionality: Can the agency demonstrate that actions taken were "proportionate" to the threat or problem which they are seeking to prevent?

    —  Relevance and necessity: Was the agencies' action strictly relevant to the particular threat/problem?

    —  Subsidiarity: Was the agencies' action the least "intrusive" available?

    —  Equality of arms: In any trial process did the defendant have the same information and access to information as the police/prosecution?

    —  Remedy: Is there an independent public remedy, independent from the agency, available to the citizen to hold the agencies' officers to account for their use of legal powers?

  As the use of any emergency powers created under the new act will be subject to challenge if they are in breach of the ECHR principles it follows that the principles provide an appropriate validation to prevent possible misuse (paragraph 19). The suggested "triple lock" is over complicating the process of creating necessary powers.

  The proposal to limit the territorial extent of the new powers where appropriate is confounded by the differing geographic areas of the main agencies involved. Police, Fire, Military and Regional Governments all observe very different boundaries, and this may need to be addressed.

  Overall the creation of a single framework for civil protection in the United Kingdom is to be applauded. The current framework is disjointed in places and the Bill should help to ensure consistency of approach and outcome. It is to be hoped that the capabilities programme will target increased investment in the activities which underpin the response to emergencies. One area which urgently demands attention is the provision of additional funding to enable police forces to train and equip their officers to respond to a CBRN incident or attack.

  The role of central government in preparing for and dealing with emergencies has needed enhancement. It needs to be able to respond effectively, co-ordinating where necessary and making central government resources available where required to tackle the most serious emergencies. The legislative tools available to Government to deal with the most serious challenges must be modernised to provide for greater flexibility, proportionality, deployability and robustness. Subject only to the limited suggestions I have made for changes this bill has my support.

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