Examination of Witnesses (Questions 33-39)|
9 SEPTEMBER 2003
Q33 Chairman: Welcome, gentlemen.
This session is being televised. Obviously, given the limit on
time, we would welcome brief responses to what I hope will be
brief questions from my colleagues. You have had prior notice
of them, so they should not come as a dreadful surprise to you.
Would you introduce yourselves, please. I will not ask for opening
statements because I recognise that time is of the essence here.
Mr Goldsmith: I am Alan Goldsmith,
Deputy Chief Constable, Lincolnshire Police, and Chairman of the
Association of Chief Police Officers Emergency Procedures Committee.
Mr Selwood: I am Philip Selwood,
Assistant Chief Ambulance Officer and Chair of the Civil Emergencies
Committee of the Ambulance Service Association.
Mr Dobson: I am Ron Dobson, Assistant
Commissioner, London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority and
representing the Chief and Assistant Chief Fire Officers Association.
Q34 Chairman: If I could take Chairman's
privilege and start the questions. Do you consider new legislation
to deal with emergencies necessary?
Mr Goldsmith: I think it is necessary
to distinguish between emergency planning and emergency response.
In terms of emergency planning, then, yes, it gives clear statutory
responsibility which is important and something which has been
lacking. In terms of response, some of the powers which could
be provided under emergency legislation would be extremely helpful
to the policing function. With regard to other issues such as
the nominated regional co-ordinator, perhaps one will have to
wait and see.
Q35 Chairman: Just following from
that point, considering recent emergencies and incidents, would
the emergency services press the Government to use the powers
in the Draft Bill if they had been available?
Mr Goldsmith: The recent emergencies
have tended to be those that have not been police led: fuel, foot
and mouth, fire dispute, etc. In that instance, the police did
not really have a remit to either invite those powers or welcome
Mr Selwood: Speaking on behalf
of the Ambulance Service as a part of the broader health economy,
the fuel dispute did put into some difficulty the supply of resources
to the broader health economy including the Ambulance Service
such as with the fuel itself but also fuel for lorries that may
be supplying food for patients. So, speaking from that perspective,
I could see that this Bill would have played some part.
Mr Dobson: From a Fire Service
perspective, with the emergencies we have had in the country recently,
we do not see that there would have been any need to have enacted
the powers so far.
Q36 Chairman: The definition of emergency
includes, for example, a serious threat to the welfare of the
population caused by human illness or a threat to political, administrative
or economic stability. Should the draft Bill's definition of emergency
be drawn more narrowly or more widely and perhaps incorporate
a level of scale?
Mr Goldsmith: I think there is
merit in repeating what Brian Ward said in his evidence previously
in the sense that the definition as given in the Bill would include
a number of events to which the emergency services respond every
day in terms of danger to health etc. Therefore, to narrow the
definition to include major emergencies in line with "Dealing
with Disaster", those that are beyond the immediate day-to-day
resources of the responders, would be helpful.
Mr Selwood: It might be worth
saying that most major emergencies, particularly in the capital,
have been resolved without such legislation. So, it is about scale
and, speaking from our perspective, we would wish to see it confined
to the scale issue which may have consequence to management which
shorter-term emergencies just do not.
Q37 Chairman: Where there is a major
incident, are there powers provided in the draft Bill which the
emergency services will need immediately?
Mr Goldsmith: In terms of the
Bill, this question, I suppose, is more about the response in
terms of needing powers urgently and it would be very helpful
to have those powers there in the regulations straightaway. In
terms of the Bill providing powers for planning, then I do not
believe it is essential that they are here immediately because,
in my experience and that of police forces, the present system
works very well in terms of what will be called local resilience
teams in most cases and now strategic groups working within authorities.
That works well. It is a question of emergency powers should we
get to the stage of a state of emergency being declared.
Q38 Chris Mole: The draft Bill gives
the Government powers to make regulations about the duties and
performance of local responders in emergency planning and during
a state of emergency. Should the local responders be consulted
about regulations while they are being drafted?
Mr Goldsmith: Yes.
Chris Mole: I thought you would say that!
Chairman: Would that all responses were
Q39 Baroness Ramsey of Cartvale:
Do you think that any other organisations should be included in
the list of local responders? Do you think it is sensible to draw
a distinction between the two categories of responders? Do you
think the classification of responders between 1 and 2 is right
or would you suggest some changes?
Mr Goldsmith: I think there is
value in having two categories. First of all, category 1 which
are those key agencies which must be involved from the outset
in planning. They, in my view, should not include the voluntary
sector in the sense that the voluntary sector would, I imagine,
have great difficulty in resourcing the work that would be entailed
in category 1 responsibilities. There is also in my mind a paradox
in a voluntary organisation having statutory responsibilities
and I think that is something that needs to be thought through
carefully. In terms of category 1, the ACPO view is that to have
both county councils and district councils could lead to some
confusion and indeed could mean that local resilience teams are
quite large in number. The County of Lincolnshire, for example,
has seven district councils and that is by no means the largest.
There would be more merit, in our view, in having the county council
clearly responsible and then working with districts in a supportive
way. In terms of the NHSand I am sure Philip will have
more commentour view is certainly that the local ambulance
trusts must be category 1. They have clear responsibilities at
the site of an emergency and transporting patients. When one deals
with longer term care of patients, then again there should be
someone involved, because that is needed for planning of that,
but whether it is primary care trusts or strategic health authority
is a matter about which perhaps we would bide our time.
Mr Selwood: Picking up the point
from Alan, it is our view as an association that category 1 should
be expanded to include the broader remit of health. It may be
that the Bill as drafted is actually saying that, but I think
there just needs to be some more clarity.
Mr Dobson: We would certainly
support the inclusion of primary health care trusts as category
1 responders because clearly the response of primary health care
trusts is absolutely fundamental to dealing with an incident of
the nature and severity which we are now envisaging. If I may
pick up on the point on voluntary sectors, we feel it is absolutely
imperative that voluntary sectors are included as part of the
planning organisations, but as part of the regional resilience
committees and forums rather than as category 1 or category 2
responders because we do feel it would be difficult to apply statutory
responsibilities to voluntary organisations because of the obvious
funding issues that would then result from that.