Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40-59)|
9 SEPTEMBER 2003
Q40 Chairman: In that case, how should
their contribution be managed?
Mr Dobson: Via the regional resilience
Q41 Lord Roper: With regard to the
commercial sectorfor example, some of the private security
industryhow would you see them being properly brought into
Mr Goldsmith: Category 2, I believe.
The ACPO view is slightly different from CACFOA on that, in that
we believe voluntary agencies could quite probably be treated
as category 2; in other words, they are consulted because they
work on a local basis, usually through the local authority. Providing
a list of who would be category 2 in particular is difficult because
there is so much local variation. As an example, in Lincolnshire
we might actually want the marsh wardens who work in The Wash
actually to be involved at that level. I am sure that to put them
in the list would not mean that in London you would have marsh
wardens . . . I do not know! But there needs to be that flexibility
because we are talking about a local response.
Mr Selwood: If I may add, Mr Chairman,
to the comment about voluntary organisations. Clearly the ambulance
services around the country work very closely with the British
Red Cross and St John Ambulance, but I agree with Alan that those
mechanisms have to flex. The procedures are well-placed and we
would continue to do that, but to place them into category 1and
I know that is not what is being suggestedwould I think
be unnecessary and fragile.
Q42 Mr Jones: If I may touch on the
issue of local resilience teams, are they needed as well as having
a regional resilience team?
Mr Goldsmith: The question is
perhaps wrong. It should be: Is the regional resilience team needed
as well as the local resilience team?
Q43 Mr Jones: I would agree with
Mr Goldsmith: Local resilience
teams are in being at the moment. They work well. They are about
trust at a local level, usually on a police force areawhich
is purely coincidental: it is a handy size. That works well and
certainly I believe that would be removed at very great risk and
very great peril because most emergenciesnot all but moststart
at a very local level and then escalateas I say, not all
but the majorityand therefore they need a very local response.
Q44 Mr Jones: Do you have any use
for the regional resilience team at all?
Mr Goldsmith: Regional resilience
teams are there. It is not a question of whether they should be
there; they were a given, if you like. The ACPO view is that we
have to work with them, we have to see how they develop. There
are some issues which I believe are best dealt with at that level;
one in particular being the provision of temporary mortuary arrangements,
which most police force areas/local authority areas find it difficult
to provide and which, quite rightly, could be provided on a regional
basis. Again, in practice that is what has been happening
with mutual agreement between counties, between police forces.
So I think there is a role there for it. How far that goesand
here I am talking about planning rather than the responsein
the planning phase, I think we will have to wait and see, but
as they are there we will endeavour to work with them.
Q45 David Wright: Could you outline
what role the military currently have in terms of working particularly
at a local level at the moment. What kind of role do you think
they should have in planning and responding at a local level?
Would you like to see greater definition in the draft Bill?
Mr Goldsmith: From the ACPO point
of view, I would just go back to a number of meetings I have attended
with the military both on a national and local level. The one
thing the MOD will say consistently is: "You cannot include
us in plans because we do not know what our availability will
be, we do not know what resources will be there." When it
comes to planning for an emergency, one needs to make sure that
what you plan for will be there on the day. That is not to say
that we should not use them and in practice, of course, we do,
by going through a military district to say, "This is the
task we have got. What have you got? How can they help us?"
Clearly the role of the military in helping any local response
team deal with an emergency, depends on what other commitments
it has. If more military resources go to Iraq, then there will
be fewer to assist in terms of contingency planning. But they
are certainly written into the plans in terms of contacting, and
the military will immediately send a liaison officer to work with
the local strategic coordinating group to establish what resources
are needed and what they can provide. To include them in any greater
detail runs the risk of not being able to fulfil the plans. In
a sense, they are an added bonus if they are available but something
of which we are very conscious.
Q46 David Wright: You are basically
suggesting that they need to be written into the structure but
really there is a national draw-down issue in terms of resource
Mr Goldsmith: Indeed.
Q47 David Wright: And that needs
to be understood in the context of the Bill. Is that right?
Mr Goldsmith: That is my view.
Q48 David Wright: Is that a correct
summary of what you are saying?
Mr Goldsmith: Yes.
Q49 Mr Jones: The announcement last
year of the MOD setting up their regional teams of, you know,
500, how does that fit into what you are saying?
Mr Goldsmith: We are still working
through that but, again, the regional resilience force will not
be available at very short notice. They are talking typically
of 12 or more hours to get 500 individuals there. When dealing
with an emergency, one has to write that into the plan. We have
had discussions with the military, with the lieutenant general
who is heading up the Reaction Force, so they will be included
in there in that sense, but, again, one has to be very careful
about deciding how many are available and for what purpose they
will be used.
Mr Dobson: If we use the example
of the London Resilience Forum, which is already in existence,
we do include the military in the discussion around plans, etcetera.
Alan is absolutely right that we do need to be very cognisant
of the response times and the availability of the military. I
think the setting up of the local resilience forums, the military
is going to assist in that process. I think from a military point
of view as well there is significant benefit in being involved
in the regional resilience forums because they are at least aware
of what the plans are and therefore able to adapt their response,
maybe when it is available, to fit in with the plans which they
know from the civil emergency services are already in place. As
an association we feel that, yes, we do need to take account of
the potential restrictions on the military capability for deployment
in these circumstances, but there is certainly advantage in involving
military partners within the planning at a regional level so that
they are aware of what the plans are.
Q50 Lord Lucas: Of the existing organisations
in categories 1 and 2, who if anyone should be the lead coordinator
in planning and responding to an emergency? The Bill proposes
that category 1 responders should assess the risk of an emergency
occurring. Are all category 1 responders in a position to assess
risk? Who is best placed to assess risk? What scope have category
1 responders to prevent or reduce an emergency from occurring?
Mr Goldsmith: In terms of emergency,
I go back to the point about separating response from planning.
In terms of planning, if any of the category 1 responders should
take the lead then, in my view, it is the local authority at the
county level. That appears to me appropriate. When it is response,
in most cases it will be the local chief constable, although it
will depend to some extent upon the incident; for example, in
foot and mouth then the police had a supportive role rather than
a lead role. I think it is dangerous to start saying that this
organisation or that organisation will always have the lead. There
needs to be a flexibility about that response. In terms of risk
assessment, our view is that it is a team approach by the category
1 responders working together. It might be that for some risks
the lead is taken by one of those responders in agreement; there
will be others when we would want to work together.
Mr Dobson: We would agree with
what Alan has said. I think on the issue of who takes the lead
role there needs to be differentiation between the planning and
then the response to the incident. The response to the incident
does need to be specific to the incident, who takes the lead role.
We can see distinct differences between a foot-and-mouth or a
fuel-type crisis as opposed to potentially a terrorist-led crisis
which should always have the lead from the police. From a risk-assessment
point of view, we agree that it needs to be a coordinated risk
assessment, where category 1 agencies are required to carry out
risk assessments relevant to their own response to various types
of crisis. But whether or not all agencies currently have the
capability to carry out those risk assessments comes back once
again to the new responsibilities being placed on category 1 responders
particularly as a result of the new Bill, and therefore developments
that some agencies would need to make in order to be able to comply
with the new requirements being placed upon them.
Mr Selwood: I agree with both
my colleagues. Just to add value to the conversation, the primacy
alters, particularly in some of the more catastrophic type measures,
and it may well start off with police colleagues acting as the
lead coordinator but it soon becomes, say, a health problem and
therefore health starts to take the lead. The way that the Bill
is constructed would allow for that, I think.
Q51 Lord Lucas: At the beginning
of an emergency, do you always know who is in charge?
Mr Selwood: We do.
Mr Goldsmith: Yes. It is not necessarily
"in charge". The term I think we have all used consistently
has been "coordinate". There is a strategic coordinating
group established if a major disaster is declared. There is a
very early meeting and it is agreed who will chair the Strategic
Coordinating Group and therefore coordinate, but at no time would
a chief constable command fire service or ambulance resources
Mr Selwood: Indeed, just to add
to that, we are very comfortable with the notion that the fire
service take command of the inner, very hazardous area; the police
prevent other people coming in; and the paramedics pick up the
patients and so have primacy in terms of delivering clinical care.
It is that sort of arrangement which brings command into some
sense in what is otherwise a chaotic situation.
Q52 Kali Mountford: I am pleased
you know what you should be doing in the event of an emergency
but I do not know if the public do. What role, if any, do you
think the public needs to play in the event of an emergencyperhaps
one unforeseen so far? What role should they play in the development
of contingency plans? What should they be told, if anything at
all? Having decided that we might tell them something, who do
you think should do the telling? What is the balance between proper
public awareness, so that they can perhaps play a part in preventing
an incident as opposed to perhaps creating such an atmosphere
of fear that people feel unable to do anything at all?
Mr Goldsmith: Public information
is critical in managing a major incident. The issue about what
the public can do to help is a difficult one. Unfortunately,
on a number of occasions the public will hinder even when they
are given advice not to, particularly in the sense of a major
fire, perhaps, or a major road or air crash. "Please stay
away from the area"well, of course, not every one
does that. A number of people do try to go and "rubber-neck"
the situation, which causes problems for us. In terms of public
information, provided nothing is done which could compromise either
national security, if we are talking about a CPRN incident, for
example, or, indeed, the safety of officers for any of the services
working at an incident, my view is that we should be as open as
we can be. That has to be, though, I think a judgment at the time.
Again, the Strategic Coordinating Group would come up with a media
policy, a public information policy to work that through, so that
we did not have, for example, someone from the press office of
the fire brigade saying one thing, someone from the ambulance
service saying another or from the police another. We work very
closely. All of these actually are very much tied in with "Dealing
with Disaster", which is recognised, I think worldwide, as
being the way to handle major disasters.
Q53 Kali Mountford: You did not mention
at all who should take the lead in communication.
Mr Goldsmith: The Strategic Coordinating
Group would determine that if an incident has occurred, in terms
of what information is given. What is it that we want the public
to do? Do we want them to self-evacuate from an area? Do we want
them to go inside, close the doors and windows and listen to local
radio for further information?
Q54 Kali Mountford: So it is an event
by event approach.
Mr Goldsmith: On that. And of
course COMAH (Control of Major Accident Hazards) Regulations do
require some industries, top-tier COMAH sites, to provide information
to the public within an area around it. Again that is already
well in place and well practised.
Mr Selwood: The Committee was
hearing about the Civil Contingency Secretariat earlier on and
I think they have played an important part in bringing together
this public information aspect of communication. Providing that
piece of work continues, I think we will see some consistency,
as Alan refers to, in the messages that go out. They are absolutely
critical to public confidence, both before the event and in the
course of the event. I think the point I am making is that there
does need to be a lead government department to ensure that there
is consistency across the media handling process.
Q55 Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: If
I may follow up on this issue of public involvement. Okay, we
may have problems with a bit of rubber-necking, but equally there
could be an opportunity for a greater involvement of the public.
I am wondering whether you see that this is an element which is
missing from this piece of legislation and whether you have any
ideas on what might be developed that the public themselves could
be planning in a contingency way, in the same way that you are
seeing it being done by different agencies.
Mr Goldsmith: I do not believe
that legislation is the way to approach that. I think it is a
matter to be taken in each event, because they will vary so much.
It would be probably difficult to word legislation such that members
of the public had a legal duty to do things. One can then get
into all sorts of difficulties, and human rights legislation has
been mentioned previously. Again, it works well at the moment,
is my view. Where we have given public information, then it has
very much worked around what is required at that time. As a simple
example, the National Steering Committee for Warning and Informing
the Public produced a video called Go In, Stay In and Tune
in, in the sense that in most emergencies, a chemical incident
or something, we would collectively want people to go indoors,
stay indoors and turn on the local radio, which is used as a means
of getting further information. The difficulty, of course, is
that if it is a fire you are talking about then the last thing
you want people to do is to go into a burning building. One has
to be very careful as to how things are worded because there would
be dangers of misinterpretation.
Mr Selwood: In terms of public
consultation, I wonder whether the already established community
safety groups that exist, looking at crime, for instance, would
be an appropriate mechanism for consulting people. But it has
to be locally driven. I do not see that it can be done at a higher
level than the local level.
Q56 Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: The
Home Office has set up a web site recently, which advises people
to keep bottled water, to get batteries and so on. Is there not
any possibility that down at regional level and local level there
is initiative to be taken there to?
Mr Goldsmith: Yes. Some have.
Q57 Lord Maginnis of Drumglass: Can
you quantify how much extra work the Bill as drafted would cause
the emergency services and how much that additional work would
cost? In answering that, perhaps you would clarify how the emergency
services currently decide how much to spend on civil contingency
planning. How do those setting budgets ensure resources are adequate.
Would an indicative or ring-fenced budget laid down by central
government ensure enough resources for civil contingency planning?
I think you probably all realise government wants to deliver this
Mr Goldsmith: Yes. I guess it
would be better if we each spoke for our own services with regard
to this. At present, police budgets are locally determined by
the police authority following a draft from the chief constable,
and the amount given to emergency planning is arrived at in that
sense. I am quite sure that police authorities, as most other
public bodies, had a reassessment of that following September
11 two years ago. I think it is inevitableas I believe
was mentioned in the previous sessionthat emergency planning
can take a back seat as far as members are concerned: there are
not many votes in it and it is not a high priority if nothing
particularly seems to be happening. You get an event such as September
11 or, indeed, more local events and suddenly one realises that
resources need to be put into that. My view is that an inspectorate
process, whether in one's own service (in our case, Her Majesty's
Inspectorate of Constabulary) or whether there were to be a separate
inspectorate agency for emergency planning, would be the way to
test out whether (in our case, the police service) each police
force had put sufficient resources into that. Because the volume
of work varies so much depending upon the force, somewhere like
Cheshire or Cleveland or Essex, each with probably 40 COMAH
sites, is significantly different from somewhere like Lincolnshire
with one COMAH site. Again, one cannot just separate out rural
and urban, because there are nuclear power stations in Suffolk,
as an example. So it is very much local need. I am hesitant to
suggest that central government should dictate how any one part
of the budget should be spent in police forces, because that removes
the local accountability of police authorities and I believe they
have that responsibility on behalf of the local population.
Q58 Lord Maginnis of Drumglass: The
recommendation would come from Her Majesty's Inspectorate, is
that what you are saying?
Mr Goldsmith: Yes, in terms of
"Is this force efficient?" Amongst many other questions:
Do they make adequate provision for emergency planning?
Q59 Lord Maginnis of Drumglass: Have
you any idea of potential increased costs?
Mr Goldsmith: No, other than in
terms of additional exercise and training there would be costs.
But in the police service we are used to absorbing additional
costs without new money, so . . .
Chairman: Music to our ears!