Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20-32)|
CHALKE CBE, MR
9 SEPTEMBER 2003
Q20 Mr Clappison: Just to go back
to the point about regional government, Mr Ward, is it a fair
summary of what you saying that you see the role of regional government
as co-ordinating but not one of leadership and assumption of responsibility
in the first instance which should be for the local authorities?
Mr Ward: Yes, I do.
Q21 Mr Clappison: Do you think that,
in the heat of an emergency, there is a risk of lack of clarity
and duplication if the leadership were seen to be shared between
Mr Ward: Yes. The Bill does introduce
the role of the regional nominated co-ordinator and providing
there is an in-depth understanding of each of the responsibilities
and when these actual bodies function and there is clarity there,
I can see that this situation can work. The main emphasis is that
the local level is where the first response will occur in all
eventualities and that is the important level. I see the regional
government and the regional resilience teams much more concerned
with the information flow between ourselves and central government
in terms of resources etc and in terms of what one county can
provide to another because, within certain counties, there are,
for example, mutual aid agreements between the authorities, but
this, with the incidents we have seen, needs to be beyond a particular
county into other counties and they can come in here to assist
in these mutual aid agreements, which is very much like the New
Dimension Project. So, this co-ordination and information flow
is very important. When I alluded originally to the 9/11 incident,
as a planner, at the frontline, there are two things I want to
know: (1) where can I get additional resources and (2) where can
I get the intelligence to tell me whether it is going to hit me
again? So, it is information flow and resources which are vital
for the local responders.
Q22 Mr Clappison: Can I briefly ask
if Mr Chalke has anything to add to that.
Councillor Chalke: No, I do not
Mr Griffin: With your permission,
perhaps I have. I do not see problems with what is proposed provided
there is clarity. We have a situation at the present moment where
the lead responsibility for responding will transfer from one
organisation to another. I take the example of the exercises we
do in connection with nuclear disasters. The immediate response
is led by the police and when one transfers to a recovery phase,
then that would transfer to the local authority. That is understood.
Whether it would be actually as clear as that in practice is another
issue. That is understood. There is some clarity about the respective
roles. I think it is important that, when one is looking at introducing
another tier to this, the regional tier, there is clarity about
what that regional tier is and there is an understanding both
of what is the responsibility of the local authority and what
is the responsibility of the government office and whatever and
what are the triggers where responsibility transfers from one
to the other. That is one of the reasons why we were talking about
the importance of clear triggers and understanding in certain
parts of this legislation comes in. I do not have a problem with
it provided there is clarity about it. I have to say that, at
the present moment, there could be more clarity than there is.
Q23 Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: If
I may continue on that subject, of the existing organisations
in category 1 or 2 who, if anyone, should be the lead co-ordinator
in planning and responding to an emergency? Perhaps you might
also say something regarding the criticisms you have made about
the concept of lead government departments not working particularly
well and what you would see as an alternative.
Councillor Chalke: If I may answer
the first part, we believe that the lead co-ordinator for planning
and preparation should be the local authority. The response is
incident dependent but usually at the moment it is the police,
but it would be the relevant agency. All of the category 1 organisations
should be responsible for risk assessment; they should all be
doing their own risk assessment. The second part . . .
Mr Ward: Yes, if I could just
amplify. The community leadership in the planning phase should
lie with local authorities. Clearly, with the response, I believe
the lead should be with the police, as it is at the moment. Regarding
the categories, we have stated that there should be other agencies
involved in the category 1 and category 2 tiers. Particularly
in the category 1, we have cited the health agencies: the primary
care trust, the health protection agency, the strategic health
authorities and the hospital trusts. We feel it is vitally important
that they are brought in because they are an extension of the
scene. In the eventuality of rescue by the fire service, victims
are delivered by the Ambulance Service to the health service,
I believe that they must be included in category 1. With regards
to the category 2, we have also stated there that the utilities
and the major transport providers should be aligned to this category
and I can give a fine example with transport agencies because
local authorities rely on transport to take people from the incident
site to rest centres and therefore there must be that co-operative
requirement for us to be able to plan adequately.
Mr Griffin: The second point related
to concerns which were touched on about the lead government department
arrangement and I think our concerns there relate to consistency.
One of the key issues why we support this legislation so far as
it imposes obligations on local authorities is that it is likely
to be a contributor to greater consistency of quality than we
have at the present moment and we have concerns about inconsistency
both of quality and of co-ordination where the responsibility
lies with a potentially wide range of government departments.
There are ways in which that can be addressed. Perhaps, as we
said earlier on, the issue of imposing a duty on central government
departments is one way of trying to mitigate those difficulties.
The alternative, instead of having a lead government department
approach, is for CCS to co-ordinate.
Mr Ward: I would advocate the
latter because, in the past, we have had such confusion with lead
government departments with regards to the Kosova refugees and
with the fuel crisis and I think that clarity is required.
Q24 Mr Jones: The accountability
of the regional co-ordinator is actually going to have quite a
lot of powers under this Bill and I agree with you that it should
be done at a local level. What concerns me a littleand
I accept that we have perhaps a disagreement over regional government
and democratic accountabilityis that in a local authority,
you have democratic local councillors who are responsible and,
in government departments, you have ministers who are democratically
response. With the police, for example, you have an authority
that is responsible. Is there not a danger here that nobody is
going to be responsible for this person who is going to have a
lot of powers and does it not have to be brought under some type
of accountability or democratic mechanism, otherwise you could
have someone here who is in a influential position and who could
override you, as local practitioners, and would not be accountable
to my local constituents or your local constituents as councillors?
Councillor Chalke: We are not
expecting too much of that role to be overriding the local responders.
We are looking for more of a liaison role.
Q25 Mr Jones: But they could under
the powers of this Bill.
Councillor Chalke: We would resist
that and I do not think, if they were accountable to even the
regional assembly, it would make that much difference.
Q26 Mr Jones: Who would they be accountable
Councillor Chalke: They are accountable
to the government office and therefore to the Government.
Q27 Chris Mole: Could I just pick
up where Mr Griffin was talking about consistency of quality.
How do you believe the adequacy of civil contingency planning
should be measured and audited? Can joint preparedness actually
be tested and audited in any way?
Mr Griffin: If I may take the
second question first, I think joint preparedness can be tested
and audited. There are good examples in totally different fields
but they are analogous. If one looks at the Crime and Disorder
Partnerships which exist under the 1998 legislation, they are
based on obligations placed jointly in two-tier areas, on the
county council, the district council and the chief officer of
police. They are inspected and audited and they are partnership
arrangements which are inspected and audited and they generally
work well. So, that is possible. It is not impossible. So far
as the question of assessing the adequacy of local authorities'
response to their obligations, I think that the introduction of
legislation will certainly facilitate that because it is likely,
as part of encouraging greater consistency of quality, to result
in a greater acceptance of benchmark standards and practices and
procedures which I see now as best practice. I think it is important
that an audit and inspection process occurs because organisations
can benefit from that. It is important however that it does not
become too much of a burden on the organisation. I think that
if one has the legislative framework and the regulations and guidance
to build behind that, then peer examination/bench marking/self-assessment
can very effectively measure the quality of response to the Bill.
Q28 Lord Condon: Linked to that last
question and the earlier points about the chance of consistency,
is the Civil Contingencies Secretariat a sufficiently strong and
powerful central focus or would you advocate some other form of
central focus to avoid the inconsistency of lead departments and
Mr Griffin: From my perspective,
I would say that the changes in the central government structure
in the last few months/couple of years or so and the creation
of the CCS has produced an organisation which is much stronger
and much more effective than the previous arrangements. I would
not criticise the CCS; I would not question their capability.
Mr Ward: I agree. With the transition
from the Home Office to the Cabinet Office and the evolution of
CCS, very strong measures have been taking place and the Society
obviously welcomes the publication of a Bill, which I must confess
I did not think at one point I would see in my lifetime, but here
we have the Bill and I think that the team must be complimented
on it. What I would like to add is that I would like to see the
team continue in some form within central government.
Q29 Lord Roper: Just to return to
this question of a regional dimension consistency, would you not
agree that there is obviously a difference between the situation
in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Greater London Authority
and the rest of England, and therefore one does not have consistency
as far as the regional dimension is concerned?
Councillor Chalke: The LGA does
not represent Scotland or Northern Ireland so I cannot comment
on that. I am personally slightly hazy as to what does happen
in Wales who do have different arrangements and different responsibilities.
We are a disparate nation and I understand that London is obviously
a region but it is a slightly different region in a different
context than the other regions we talk about.
Mr Griffin: But the concepts of
consistency and diversity are not necessarily mutually antagonistic.
You can have consistency in terms of quality of response, you
can have consistency in terms of ensuring that resilience is built
into civil society without necessarily solving the problem in
exactly the same way everywhere.
Mr Ward: If I may turn to our
submission, with regards to Scotland, the Emergency Planning Society
agrees that the arrangements for Scotland are appropriate and
it is clear that the Scottish Parliament has a right to access
and consult on any proposed legislation for civil protection in
Scotland. With regard to Wales, the Society asks for attention
to be paid to how the service would be funded. Under devolved
government, secondary legislation would have to be introduced
to reflect that the Welsh Assembly Government was funding the
Emergency Planning Service, while responsibility for it still
sat with Cabinet Office. So, there are issues for both of these.
Northern Ireland is a different structure altogether and we have
alluded to that in our submission.
Q30 Chairman: It is about time that
we were drawing this session to a close, but may I just ask a
couple of brief points which I hope will elicit brief answers
but my apologies if they cannot. Do you believe there are sufficient
checks and balances on the use of emergency powers in the draft
Mr Griffin: I am aware that this
is an issue which has been commented on by the Defence Select
Committee and they talked about a "triple lock". I think
the emergency powers legislation does definitely need to be reviewed
and, provided there are the kind of safeguards which the Defence
Select Committee consider should be in place, then I think there
are sufficient safeguards.
Q31 Lord Archer of Sandwell: What
are your views on the provisions relating to regulations being
treated as legislation for the purpose of human rights, so that
the courts cannot strike them down as ultra vires. Do you
regard that as rather draconian?
Mr Griffin: Providing the safeguards
about which we have just been talking are in place, then, no.
I think that for this legislation and subordinate legislation
to be effective, that provision, so far as the Human Rights Act
is concerned, is going to be necessary. The whole Human Rights
legislation is about balance, balancing human rights with other
overriding needs, and I think that provided that the kind of safeguards
I have just talked about are in place and are taken seriously,
treating the regulations as primary legislation for the purposes
Q32 Lord Archer of Sandwell: Would
you not trust the courts to strike that balance or do you want
to exclude them?
Mr Griffin: I would trust the
courts to strike that balance, but the difficulty is the delays
that that can introduce and the uncertainty that that can introduce,
and delays and uncertainty are not necessarily conducive to building
greater resilience where there are overwhelming national security
Chairman: Thank you very much, gentlemen.