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Would a firefighter have sufficient powers to break into a house or flat if the householder had been locked out and was concerned that a pan of cooking oil was heating on a cooker? The answer is, yes. The householder, or any person acting on the householder's behalf, would be able to authorise the firefighter to enter the premises. In that example there is no fire but a good prospect that one might break out. That is fairly straightforward.
My second example is similar. Would firefighters have powers to break into a property if they were tackling a fire in adjoining premises if the fire was in a common roof void or shared roofing material? The answer is, yes. Subsection (1 )(a) allows the firefighter, if he reasonably believes a fire to have broken out, to do anything reasonable for the purpose of extinguishing the fire or protecting life or property. If there was a fire in a common roof area then we believe the fire and rescue services would have sufficient powers to enter any premises which might be threatened by the fire to prevent its spread, or equally to help the firefighters tackle the blaze.
Arson is a terrible thing, which sometimes takes place when people shove things through letterboxes and follow it up with an inflammable substance. Under those circumstances, the person concerned or the householder might be inside the property; it might be the middle of the night and they may not know what is going on. Someone passing may see what is happening and call the fire brigade, but there would be
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nobody outside to authorise the fire brigade to go in. There would potentially be no fire seen at that momentthere may be a time gap. Under those circumstances, would there be an authority to deal with the situation? In that sort of situation, we need to ensure that there is proper cover for the fire service.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, that is a good example, to which I do not have a specific answer. The note that I have says that the incident that a person outside might have seen would probably have been a criminal act, so one would be quite able to summon the police with a 999 call. If that is not sufficient, we shall have to consider the matter.
The concern has been raisedI am not saying that it has notand we are not unsympathetic, but the amendment would represent a substantial extension of the powers of entry for firefighters. We remain to be convinced that those extra powers would be needed. In the circumstances of the examples that I gave, the answer was yes. In the example given by the noble Baroness, it is clear that the police could be called, and they could then summon the fire service.
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I am still not terribly happy with it. We may need to consider whether another amendment could somehow bring in at least a limited authority for this. I am concerned that there could be situations in which firefighters found themselves legally at risk. So for today, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
"(1A) In section 18 (schemes for basic, attendance and special responsibility allowances for local authority members), after subsection (3G) insert
"(3H) A fire and rescue authority constituted by a scheme under section 2 of the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 or a scheme to which section 4 of that Act applies shall be treated as a county council for the purposes of the foregoing provisions of this section.""
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 52 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 54. These amendments are also prompted by Welsh authorities. They allow for allowances to members of the fire and rescue authorities to be pensionable. They are enabling powers and do not commit the Government or the National Assembly for Wales to introducing pensions. Clearly, more detailed regulations would be needed to deal with the point about double counting that was mentioned in an earlier debate.
The amendment was resisted in Grand Committee on the basis that the Government are reviewing members' allowances later this year and that if the review proposes a change it could be dealt with by subsequent legislation. I said then that enabling provisions in the Bill would mean that we would not have to wait for another legislative opportunity.
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There is also a point on devolution. It may be that the National Assembly for Wales and the UK Government reach different answers to the question of whether members of fire and rescue authorities should receive pensions. Unless the Bill includes an enabling power, the National Assembly is denied the choice given by the Local Government Act 2000 for councillors in England. I know how committed the Government are to devolution so I am sure that they will understand that argument. I beg to move.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I must repeat what the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, said in Committee. We will review members' allowances in general later in the year and allowances for members of fire authorities will be considered as part of the review. As the noble Baroness was speaking, my noble friend checked with me. I am a bit surprised to learn that the legislative change would require primary legislation and not an order. I suspect that there is a crossover with police authority allowances and other matters. The matter is obviously much more fundamental than I had thought, particularly as regards the inclusion of pensions.
I am going to have to retreat with that answer, which is exactly the same as the one given in Committee. However, I had not appreciated that primary legislation would be needed. I cannot give a commitment at this time. At the moment, we have no plans to make a change. However, a review is under way, and these allowances will be a part of that. We will need to take the views of all the stakeholders concerned. This is not a five-minute task. I am sorry that I am not able to give a more helpful response.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I am sure that the Minister appreciates that I am not seeking an answer about the outcome of the review. I am simply trying to smooth the way. As the legislative timetable gets so clogged at this time of year, one is persuaded of the value of enabling legislation. However, having made the point and tried to help out, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment also concerns pensions, as does Amendment No. 56, which is on much the same point. That amendment is not grouped with this one, but that is my fault.
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Amendment No. 53 ensures that the Scottish Executive have the functions under the Bill in respect of pensions for employees of Scottish fire authorities. As my notes seem to have negatives in the wrong places, perhaps I will not continue this paragraph.
If the Bill confers functions with regard to pensions in Wales directly on the Assembly, it should protect the current devolution of that responsibility in respect of Scotland by amending the order referred to in the amendment. The Bill can achieve the same outcomes for Scotland and Wales. I suggest saving a little parliamentary time by not having to approve an order. That is a bit cheeky because I received my briefing from Wales and I have not been briefed by the Scots.
The proposed functions for the Assembly with respect to pensions mark a significant development in the devolution settlement for Wales. Why that should happen has not, I am told, been the subject of reasoned argument by the Government; nor have the implications that it would have for other public service pensions schemes been considered. Currently, the Assembly has no functions under Section 7 of the Superannuation Act 1972 in respect of the local government pension scheme, under Section 9 in respect of teachers' pension schemes or under Sections 10 or 104 of the National Health Service Act 1977 in respect of the NHS pension scheme. I am told that the Bill's proposals represent the first occasion on which the Assembly will have functions in respect of pensions in the public sector. I beg to move.
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