Joint Committee on Draft Civil Contingencies Bill Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum from BT



13.   What levels of consultation do you think there should be on regulations issued under Part 1 of the draft Bill?

  Regulations and secondary legislation coming out of the Bill should be the subject of full consultation with all interested parties, including Category 2 Responders such as BT.

  The consultation does not highlight the proposed scope of the regulation making powers for comment. We believe it should do so.


14.   United Utilities have raised concerns that emergency powers will have a life of 30 days before lapsing or requiring renewal: "Category 2 Responders may have been required under such powers to take actions that are contrary to normal regulations and good practice. This could result in operation commitments that are impossible to de-commission rapidly should the powers not be renewed". What kind of protection would you like to see under these circumstances?

  We agree with this. Obligations relating to design standards, planning consents and other regulations etc should lapse in the event of an emergency. BT as a Category 2 Responder may be required, in the interests of the greater good, to take actions that are contrary to normal regulations and good practice in the event of an emergency being declared.

  We do not believe that the Bill should state an explicit time frame but refer to review by a suitable body at an appropriate time after the emergency has ended.

  This would offer sufficient flexibility to adapt to circumstances prevailing at the time of the emergency.


15.   BT has suggested that emergency regulations should not be treated as primary legislation for the purposes of the Human Rights Act because "it would leave companies exposed to legal challenge should individuals or organisations feel their human rights have been infringed by those companies' implementation of emergency regulations". Can you explain this concern in greater detail and suggest how you think this might be overcome?

  In our response, our concern was that, in seeking to comply with regulations, BT (and other utilities) might be identified as "public authorities" and therefore exposed to accusations of breach of the Human Rights Act.

  Looking at it further, we don't think that this would be the effect of Clause 25 of the draft Bill. Nevertheless, greater certainty in this respect would be welcome, because we would be acting in circumstances where a swift and certain response is absolutely essential.

  We have a concern anyway that regulations under the Bill might infringe the Human Rights Act in so far as they permitted the requisition etc of property without compensation. If regulations which infringed human rights could not effectively be challenged, that would be a cause for concern.

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Prepared 28 November 2003