Joint Committee on Draft Civil Contingencies Bill Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum from the Ambulance Service Association


  The purpose of this draft paper is to proffer a considered response as part of the Public Consultation process for the Draft Civil Contingencies Bill. The latter document sets out a proposal for a new framework for Civil Protection in the United Kingdom which, if enacted will have implications both corporately and individually for all organisations associated with the response to an emergency situation.


  The consultation document accompanying the Draft Bill asks that responses address specifically 23 Questions.

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?

  In the opinion of this organisation the definition provides sufficient width to cover all those events which could reasonably be foreseen. The scope of the definition does not however clearly identify its place in the management of incidents, declared as an emergency which result from events outside of UK borders.

  It is our assumption therefore that any impact on the health, environment or wealth of the UK resulting from an incident or event elsewhere in the world will be declared an emergency for the purposes of the Bill and managed accordingly. Where no such declaration is made then the resulting impact on the areas of activity previously noted will be dealt with under the appropriate existing legislation.

Q2.   Do you agree that the obligation 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 identifies and places a duty on organisations to bring "civil protection into the mainstream of each local responders organisation's functions". In this respect Risk Assessment and Planning and Prevention should be core activity for any of the local responding agencies and the outcomes of these activities shared amongst the appropriate agencies in order to inform planning in the wider geographical context. Similarly information and advice to the public should have a common thread with emphasis given to the necessary area of threat. In other words a health emergency should produce guidance with health and well being at the forefront but underpinned appropriately by the key messages from other agencies.

  Placing such duties as statutory responsibilities is fully endorsed and supported by this organisation, however the draft Bill alone will not ensure that more effective planning and response results.

  Overall the result is likely to vary according to the specific function of each organisation and the degree to which they collaborate with similar partner agencies and their regional liaison groups. The establishment of Regional (Local) Resilience Forums should reduce these differences but is it envisaged that such groups will have the power to regulate and audit compliance or will this continue to rest with existing regulatory bodies, Commission for Health Improvement, Her Majesty's Inspectorates for example?

  It must therefore be acknowledged that in order to fulfil these roles the Government must ensure that sufficient resources are made available to establish and maintain these activities for both individual organisations and those charged with co-ordinating such works at regional level. It is not suggested that the final Bill identifies specifically such funding streams but they must accompany its enactment.

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 agencies listed against Category 1 and 2 responders are broadly balanced between responding agencies and supporting agencies however the NHS response goes beyond that of just Ambulance Trusts (guidance notes p 35 Section iv paragraph 21).

  Indeed Schedule 1, Part 1, Category 1 Responders, Emergency Services, para 6 states "A National Health Service Trust established under Section 5 of the National Health Service and Community Act 1990 (c19) the functions of which include the provision of Ambulance Services must by default include Acute Trusts and Primary Care Trusts as both have a responsibility to provide Ambulance Services to their patients and the community they serve. Critically each speciality within "health" will, uniquely, have either a response or support role depending on the nature and type of incident. Arguably therefore each health agency should be considered as an individual organisation.

  It is clear then that Acute Trusts, Primary Care Trusts, the Health Protection Agency and the National Blood Service, including their equivalents in the devolved administrations should be included in the Category 1 and 2 list.

  In a long term incident it is likely that the powers conferred under the act may be in place beyond the 30 days cited. As such consideration must also be given to the fact that as an incident progresses naturally from response to consolidation and recovery the listed support agencies may well become the responding agencies restoring essential services and supplies.

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 extended.

  The draft Bill facilitates the inception and implementation of a broad range of regulations and advice to be put in place as appropriate to the situation.

  Throughout the document it is noted that a Minister of the Crown may invoke regulations under the Act but does not clearly identify which Minister has the lead. The aim for consistency may therefore be undermined if there is no clear lead across all Government Departments.

  Judgement regarding the balance of regulation making powers to meet the stated aims cannot be determined at this stage. Powers can only be balanced once they have been measured against one another. Until the event occurs on the regulations within the draft Bill developed further we do not know whether those powers will compliment or contradict.

Q5.   Do you agree that consistent arrangements for multi-agency working should be established through the creation of Local Resilience Teams? If not how else should consistency be established?

  Where such arrangements exist there is clear evidence to support this assertion and therefore it is agreed that the aim would be achieved. But clarity is needed around the role the forum would play. Is it just a co-ordinating centre or does it facilitate locally focussed policy regarding responses within its area and do they have a function regarding audit and compliance with the duties outlined in the draft Bill (see also reply to Q2).

Q6.   Do you agree that the partial Regulatory Impact Assessment accurately reflects the cost benefits of the Bill's proposals? If not, how should it be changed?

  The enhancement of UK resilience to an event of a significant scale both locally and nationally is the stated aim of the draft Bill. Option 1 is essentially a "do nothing" option which leaves current arrangements in place. Although as noted previously where collaborative groups exist it is arguable that resilience is satisfactory, however this is not replicated across the country and it is desirable therefore to formalise these ad hoc arrangements.

  Option 2 attempts that formalisation in part and weighs the costs against the achievement of the stated objectives. Option 3 increases the range of functions to be undertaken and requires that co-operation is enforced as a statutory function.

  Option 1 is discarded because it is likely to exacerbate existing failings. Option 2 appears to provide the best way forward due to its attempt to establish equilibrium between accomplishing the aim of the policy and the financial impact resulting from formalising these activities. This option also allows for other organisations, the voluntary sector for example, to be brought under the umbrella of this Bill. The contribution and development of the voluntary "health" sector, eg St John and the British Red Cross Society is inconsistent across the country and as such a key resource has in some circumstances been marginalised.

  Option 3 is not fully discounted as it places a duty on all involved to establish and maintain partnerships and look beyond their normal function and core activity when planning and undertaking risk assessments.

  The latter would ultimately be the ideal because, despite being obligatory, it promulgates a much broader based integrated approach for both Category 1 and 2 organisations, however it is agreed that ensuring consistency across the UK and the costs involved could negate the operational gains realised from improved collaboration.

  Option 2 is therefore supported but as the products of this legislation mature Option 3 should remain the goal.

Q7.   Do you agree that funding for Category 1 Local Authorities should be transferred from the specific grant (Civil Defence Grant) to the Revenue Support Grant?

  The emergency services identified in Category 1 do not receive funding in the manner prescribed, so to comment in detail would be inappropriate. Even so the additional duties and responsibilities placed on such organisations will have a financial burden, accordingly the necessary funding must accompany this Bill.

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?

  The Government is of the opinion that there is sufficient funding to support Local Authorities in executing their responsibilities under the terms of this Bill. Whether this is or is not true is a matter for discussion within the appropriate forum, what is clear is that to effectively discharge the responsibilities outlined it will be necessary to allocate specified resources to the task. In realising the aims and objectives of the draft Bill the barriers to funding must be removed.

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

  Performance Management and audit are key parts of core activity, however where it is not then Clause 8 states that a Minister of State may require a person or body listed in Part 1 or 2 of Schedule 1 to provide information regarding compliance and action taken to fulfil the requirements of the Act. Our contention is then that the question is not whether existing mechanisms can be used but whether such existing processes are appropriate. What are the performance measures? Without such information it is difficult to agree or disagree with this question.

  Whatever the outcome performance monitoring and audit requires additional resources both monetary and human, the necessary financial support must therefore be provided.

Q10.   Do you agree with the role of the Regional Nominated Co-ordinator? If not, who should take responsibility at the Regional level, and with what responsibilities?

  The proposal is supported, but it is stressed that the individual(s) must have previously established and test links with the relevant Local Resilience Forum and moreover must have a specialist background appropriate to the task/incident.

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

  The principle enshrined in the draft Bill is welcomed as localised declaration provides scope for a specifically targeted response appropriate to the needs of the region, locality involved.

  What is not clear is who has responsibility for initiating the declaration from regional, locality level to the Secretary of State and beyond. Is it envisaged that the local Commanders ask for Catastrophic Incident to be declared and COBR take the decision to invoke regulations?

Q12.   Do you agree that current emergency powers framework is outdated and needs to be replaced? If you do not think it should be replaced, please explain why?

  When the existing legislation was enacted its intention was to facilitate the management natural disasters, wide scale industrial unrest, civil disorder and other incidents commensurate with the threat at that time. It has until now stood us in good stead however in light of recent events, domestic and international terrorist activity, fuel crisis etc the need to update Emergency powers legislation is clear.

  The draft Bill accommodates that need and as such is supported fully by this organisation.

Q13.   Do you agree that the circumstances in which special legislative measures may be taken should be widened from the 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?

  The scope of the powers outlined is fully supported.

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

  The pan UK Emergency Powers Act is no longer seen as appropriate to either the actual or the perceived threats which we face as a sovereign state or as part of a larger geographical alliance. The provisions of the draft Bill enabling sub-UK powers is supported.

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 this sit with?

  The premise upon which the draft Bill builds is one of improvement in the ability of this country to prevent or mitigate the impact of an event or incident which affects the welfare or economic stability of the UK. Whilst the Queen, as Head of State must retain the power to formally declare "Emergency Powers" it is necessary, in our view for Ministers and representatives of the devolved administrations to have the ability and authority to invoke such measures before such a formal declaration is received. This appears to be the position of this draft Bill and is supported.

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 place of the Queen, as Head of State acting on the advice of Ministers? If not, is it acceptable or is there another alternative mechanism.

  The answer to question 15 refers.

Q17.   Do you agree that the emergency regulations should act as primary legislation for the purposes of the Human Rights Act? If not, please explain why?

  The draft Bill strives to maintain a balance between the immediate needs of managing the event and the rights of those affected directly or indirectly by the incident. As primary legislation the draft Bill still allows the freedom to challenge its powers but not at the expense of the task. In other words, where action is needed it can be taken without let or hindrance but such action is still subject to challenge and scrutiny as and when it is appropriate. As such this position is supported.

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 not, what changes are necessary?

  In its current formulation the local responders, as listed are not consistent, therefore that section of the draft Bill will not apply whilst the "Emergency Powers" element will. Where this framework suits the needs of Scotland then it should be adopted. That not withstanding, the issue remains in respect of who has the right within the devolved administration to invoke the powers contained within the draft Bill.

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?

  The structure within Wales is already similar to that proposed by the draft Bill. It is believed therefore that the Welsh Assembly should have the ability to and be accountable for using the powers contained within the draft Act.

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?

  The answers to Questions 19 and 20 apply.

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?

  The draft Bill sees the post holder as the conduit between the local incident management group and the appropriate central Government body. He/she will have to have the ability to enforce/enact powers at a local level in a manner consistent with need. By definition therefore they must have the flexibility required to effectively and efficiently deal with the incident irrespective of its origin.

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?

  The draft Bill proffers arguments both for and against the ability to declare and invoke emergency powers and control the resources necessary to mitigate the impact of the incident.

  If a key area of the Bill is to assess, identify and mitigate local risk then the ability to declare the need for emergency power and manage the event must rest entirely with the devolved administration unless the incident is of such magnitude that the administration is incapable of making that decision.

  If this is not to be the case as implied by the content of the draft Bill then the system as proposed could be argued as unequal. This organisation contends therefore that the advantage of empowering devolved administrations to seek and control local solutions to local dilemmas far exceeds any argument to the contrary.

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?

  It is a widely held view that London, as capital, centre of international trade and a key part of the UK and Global economy is a prime target for terrorism and moreover could be significantly affected by any national or international event. The draft Bill acknowledges this in so far as it states that the city has "a unique challenge within the resilience agenda" but it also notes that it has historically prevented and dealt with a large number of emergencies. Much of the latter activity has been the result of close collaboration between the "blue light" services and their counterparts in the Local Authorities and other partner organisations under the umbrella of London Emergency Services Liaison Panel.

  Specifically in relation to the provision of Ambulance Services the London Ambulance Service and the London (Prince of Wales) District of St John Ambulance have developed a close working relationship the productivity of which must not be underestimated. It is acknowledged that this relationship may not be reflected across the country however Part 1 of the draft Bill seeks to ensure collaboration between partner agencies. As such it is not, we would suggest beyond the realms of possibility that under the aegis of the local resilience forums such relationships could be developed elsewhere.

  The recent creation of the London Resilience Forum and Team has seen further developments in collaborative working and broadened the range of organisations engaged in incident/emergency management and contingency planning. The proposed structure therefore must be accepted as "right" for ensuring the resilience of the capital but it must not be assumed that the capital's capability is founded on equitable or freely available funding. Each organisation has its own unique funding streams out of which it must finance its activities.

  If the capital's organisations as listed in Category 1 and 2 are to comply with the provisions of the draft Bill then the funding for such activities must support that aim. How that is achieved is a matter for discussion outwith the remit of this consultation process however it is a critical element in the successful execution of the duties contained within the draft Bill.


  Many of the concerns raised by this draft Bill will manifest themselves at the tactical and operational level once the powers are invoked but it is our belief that highlighting some of these points at this consultation stage may enable the necessary actions to be put in train to alleviate these anxieties.

  The draft Bill proposes that organisations will be required to work outside their normal scope and function. This raises the prospect of key emergency workers being diverted to other work for which they are not trained or equipped. Whilst the logic is understandable there is a concern that such action could severely impact on the core activities of the Emergency Services.

  Also working outside the norm may involve Ambulance Staff being asked to undertake clinical interventions for which they are not authorised. The question here is not one of capability but one of governance and accountability. Will there be a need to ask the professional bodies who govern practice to suspend their Codes of Conduct? The draft Bill also raises issues around the assessment of competence by staff not trained to make such judgments. This is especially relevant where the evaluation of that competence could result in patients receiving treatment against their will.

  The draft Bill places duties on the listed organisations to undertake pre-planning and risk assessments to deal with and mitigate the effects of an incident. Although this is in some part already a core activity it is clear that this function will have to expand.

  There is no issue with this increased scope of responsibility however some of the activities necessary may require supporting legislation. For example in respect of Ambulance Trusts we will have to enter into detailed discussions regarding the availability of suitable alternatives to transport patients. Private Ambulance companies are an obvious choice but these are unregulated bodies and NHS Ambulances Trusts have no legal power to inspect or assess the levels of competence of their staff. Equally there is no requirement for Private Ambulance Services to equip their vehicles to the same standards as NHS Vehicles. The contingency plan could therefore be weakened from the outset.

  The inclusion of Ambulance Trusts as Category 1 responders is welcomed, however as noted in the core text of the answers given previously the Ambulance Service is but one part of the initial response by Health. There is an absolute need therefore to include those other NHS bodies within the cadre of core responders.


  The strategic aim of the draft Bill is acknowledged but there are a number of key operational and tactical aspects of its implementation that will need further debate. Critically this legislation must rationalise existing practice without compromising its effectiveness.

  Overall the framework proposed in the draft Bill is supported but funding will be key to the achievement of its aims. The commitment to the latter must be clear and the inclusion of a bland statement regarding consideration of extra funding in the context of the wider resilience agenda does little to inspire confidence.

Philip Selwood

Assistant Chief Ambulance Officer

Chair, Civil Emergencies Committee

4 September 2003

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