|Civil Defence (Grant) Bill
Mr. Leslie: I am beginning to sound rather like a broken record. We are still in negotiations over the next financial year. The Bill is not about the level of funding of local authorities. The amendments could cause distortions, not only in reduced or increased budgets, but also in continuing a process that is unhelpful to emergency planning across the country. The events of 11 September changed our policy in a number of ways, but we must remain pragmatic and focused on a common-sense approach to both threats and realities. The Bill is necessary, even if it focuses on a limited area of the wider picture of emergency planning at a national level and our emergency services. I urge the Committee to resist the proposed new clause and the amendment, and ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.
Mr. Oaten: I was convinced by the Minister's comments on clause 1, but not by his arguments on clause 2. The Minister virtually made the compelling case for waiting to have the question of funding of local authority grants wrapped up by the major review on funding. In a year's time we could be in a ridiculous situation where the review is completed and it recommends that these provisions are not the best way to implement funding. We will have asked local authorities to augment the change, and in a year's time we will change it again. It would be good, sensible government—I might even say joined-up government—if we waited a year for the outcome of the review and wrapped everything up at the same time.
The second compelling argument is that there is not enough information about what local authorities have done, day in and day out, in the past three months to implement their work. The Minister could not tell me how much money has been spent by local authorities; the Government may not have required them to take action as part of their civil defence procedure, but I am convinced that local authorities have done so, and have put plans in place, and they will have spent money. It would be sensible to find out what they have done and how much they have spent before putting a system in place.
It would make sense to have a delay and to wrap the matter up as part of the review, so that we can learn the lessons of 11 September. I seek support from Conservative Members in voting on the amendment.
Question put, That the amendment be made:—
The Committee divided: Ayes 6, Noes 9.
Division No. 1]
Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
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