Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180-186)|
16 SEPTEMBER 2003
Q180 Lord Lucas of Crudwell and Dingwall:
The model that the consultation paper sets out for the Emergency
Co-ordinator is of someone who is only appointed when the emergency
occurs and who is chosen, as it were, from a panel of specialists
who have received a little training but are otherwise unpaid and
uninvolved. Is that the model that you favour or do you see the
Emergency Co-ordinator as being a permanent appointment or someone
who is a leader rather than a specialist?
Mr Morgan: It is not an easy question
to answer but we tend to see the Emergency Co-ordinator as being
a person who is exactly what those words say; namely, a co-ordinator.
That is not necessarily a person that is a specialist in the field.
That is the structure of a sort of corporate body, if you like,
that locks different departments into one more tightly than in
the traditional, British Government structures. For Wales, co-ordination
would be very much what you would expect from the lead person.
In England, I think, the complication is "What department
does that person come from?"; therefore there is the concept
of a lead department. I think that is probably inevitable in England.
There is really no right answer and, clearly, whoever is co-ordinating,
if it is a health-related strategy, they will be pulling in an
awful lot of health resources and not an awful lot of resources
from other departments around us. It just depends on the nature
of the emergency. If it is agriculture it will be a lot of vets
and a lot of people from our agriculture division. The actual
co-ordinator we think should be a generalist or an expert in co-ordination
rather than an expert in the field.
Mr Henry: Our preference is very
much someone who is able and capable of co-ordinating and organising
rather than having specialist knowledge. A good organiser, a good
co-ordinator can pull in the experts that are required. I do not
think it would be helpful to have an expert who is incapable of
co-ordinating, organising and developing a team around them. So
I think the co-ordinator and organiser role is the one for us.
Q181 Lord Lucas of Crudwell and Dingwall:
Do you see that person as being a temporary appointment when the
emergency occurs, or somebody who is there and involved in planning
and training? In other words, someone who is really much more
a permanent member of staff?
Mr Henry: I think, from our perspective,
temporary, because different emergencies may require certain different
organisational skills. We think the ability to get the right person
for that emergency as soon as is humanly possible is the best
way to do it.
Mr Morgan: It just depends on
how big the emergency is. Nick Patel, here, is the Head of the
Emergency Planning Permanent Unit, but there may be occasions
when an emergency is that big that you have to have a person that
is able to command the full resources of the whole of the civil
service, if you like, in Wales. I repeat what I said earlier,
that it is possible that, as I answered earlier to James Clappison
(and he was very interested in the answer), there are times when
you think that the co-ordinating is actually a matter for politicians
because the judgment calls are: "Is this defensive politically?"
"What are they going to think about this out there in Wales?"
"Can I stand up there and be challenged, whether it is in
the media or a session of the Assembly and say `Yes, I had to
make those judgment calls.'?" So that is a job, in a way,
for a politician rather than a civil servant, however senior or
Q182 Lord Lucas of Crudwell and Dingwall:
You might have gathered that I have slight prejudice against arbitrary
regionalisation, but I wonder, in light of what Rhodri has just
said, whether in fact we should consider having some sort of national
panela commissionof experts? The type of person
I am thinking about is somebody from the military, somebody from
the police, somebody with knowledge of nuclear issues, somebody
with a knowledge of ecological matters (I am not going to try
and define them all). Should we, in fact, try to have, or superimpose
on whatever process we devise, a panel or commission of national
experts who have the ability to pull in from every source the
sort of information that would be useful and the ability then
to add that on in some sort of coherent form to the organisationwhich,
at the end of the day, will be local authorities and emergency
Mr Morgan: You are in danger,
probably, of going back to what Lord Rothschild argued and described
as the type of person who gets appointed to Royal Commissions:
they always live in the south-east of England, they are aged 53
and they are white, Anglo-Saxon members of the Reform Club, or
something of that sort. I would be worried about a central casting
set of people. I picked up on the word "nuclear", and
Hugh has used it as well. Again, nuclear is important but there
is a danger of reverting too quickly to civil defence in the Cold
War thinking when it was dominated by "What would happen
if there was a nuclear bomb dropped on Birmingham, dropped on
Calais, dropped on London, or whatever?" I think the whole
of this legislation is to try to be much more flexible and much
less black and white than that sort of idea of how would you handle
the day after a nuclear bomb dropped on a metropolis in the United
Kingdom, and the idea that you would devolve power because the
telecommunications have all broken down, health has broken down,
and nobody knows where the food is, etc, and you devolve power
to the chief executive of the county council, as I remember in
the 1970s and 1990s sort of period of civil defencetrying
to get away from that kind of Cold War thinking to resilience.
A graduated response to all sorts of different emergencies means
much greater flexibility than you are talking about. That is the
reason, I think, for going forthis is UK Government, not
our thinkinga regional tier, not the response to a nuclear
bomb which means you have to go right down to the local authority
or county level as dominated Cold War nuclear bomb thinking. We
now look at the range of health, agriculture, flood, fuel (all
sorts of shortages) crises, and if they are big enough to be called
emergencies then they are not anticipatable in the way that we
thought that you could try to plan for a nuclear bomb on Birmingham.
Q183 Lord Lucas of Crudwell and Dingwall:
You must represent the point that I am trying to make. There are
certain issues that we recognise. Terrorism as we know it today
will be with us for the next two decadeswe can say that
with some certainty. Global warming will bring a migration of
plant and animal disease that is difficult to anticipate. It will
bring, undoubtedly, flooding in the United Kingdom; perhaps we
will see mutations of diseases between various breeds of animals.
That type of thing, I believe, is what needs to be dealt with
by my commission. It is not an alternative club to the kind which
I now belong to, but it is a working group of experts who, in
fact, can create some sort of cohesion that I do not believe you
will get from inflexible, regional organisations.
Mr Morgan: All right. Just a quick
response. The concept of a region in England has been around formally
since 1965, as I recallHarold Wilson's first administrationso
it has been there for 37, 38 years. The strength of the regional
tier of administration in England has expanded regardless of swings
from Labour to Conservative and back again over the past 38 years.
Each region commands the resources of nine Whitehall departments
in the 11 English regions. London is a bit of a special case,
Wales and Scotland are definitely special cases and Northern Ireland
is a special-case-and-a-half, as you know. It fits a model in
which you are saying we are not talking about nuclear explosion
and a breakdown of everything, and we can graduate the response
and try to anticipate it, and the resources available at regional
level in England now, without a democratic top tier, are pretty
big and that is where the co-ordination should be done. Forecasting,
we would probably agree, is a matter for more centralised resources,
sometimes international, sometimes national.
Q184 Lord Bradshaw: I have only got
one question now because I think you have dealt with the lead
department and the other questions. If an emergency occurred tomorrow,
either nationally or locally, are you satisfied that there is
in place some form of resilience team in either Scotland or Wales
which would be in a position to respond?
Mr Henry: We believe so. The Head
of the Scottish Executive Justice Department chairs the Scottish
Emergency Co-ordinating Committee and we have a number of senior
officials involved in that now. I think that we are well-prepared.
I am sure that there will always be things that we can do better,
and one of the things that we hope we do is to continually review
how we are doing it, what we are doing, whether we have the right
people involved. We also want increasingly to be able, as I said
earlier, not just to react but to be able tonot to anticipate
emergencies because there are certain things that we cannot anticipatecontinually
update skills and revise procedures. So while we think we are
well-equipped and well-prepared it would be foolish to be complacent
and say that there are no improvements ever to be made.
Mr Morgan: I would not disagree
with any of that. We have a permanent team of civil servants led
by Nick Patel, here. We have a permanent headquarters unit within
the Government headquarters building in Cardiff. We have a high-level
forum which pulls in the three armed services and the four uniformed
life services (that includes the coastguard and health and safety)
and local government. When we met last week it was very striking
how you could say "All right, we are all round this table"
but everyone of those people represented has a slightly different
relationship to the Welsh Assembly and its Government, but that
does not matter; that is something to be overcome with a bit of
common sense. Do we have common sense in vast quantities? By getting
to know each other we are as ready as we can be, but that is not
complacency. Yes, part of the planning for this Bill is trying
to see what you can do to make it more effective, while accepting
that nature or terrorism will always throw the completely unexpected
at you at some stage. So if you do not have your wits about you
you will get lost. In 2000 and 2001 we were put to the test, if
you like. We think we came through. A very important part of the
early days of democratic devolution in Wales was crisis management.
Nobody wants a crisis but, my goodness me, it is a very, very
good test of competence, flexibility, resilience (if you like)
and it did teach us an awful lot of lessonsit taught everybody
a lot of lessons. September 11th taught a lot of lessons in bringing
forward the modernising of this legislation. So I think we are
good and okay, but that does not mean we cannot do better and,
post the legislation, I think we will be a lot better.
Q185 Chairman: Just one final question
for you. We are discussing emergencies here and we have used the
word "crisis"although perhaps it becomes a crisis
after the Government becomes involved rather than before it! Would
you consider that this legislation goes some way to preventing
Mr Morgan: I used the term "crisis
management" just because it is a sort of standard term. Emergency
management just sounds slightly awkward tripping off the tongue.
It is not something you ever welcome, is it, but an absolutely
critical test of government is what contribution can each level
of government make to the protection of human health (and sometimes
animal and plant health) when something unexpected arises from
nowhere and hits civil society? You have to respond to that. I
think that is a test of good governmentthe ultimate test
of good government.
Mr Henry: As far as we are concerned,
this legislation is overdue and makes a significant contribution
to enabling us all, collectively, from our individual perspectives,
to be able to respond as well as we can on behalf of the people
who we represent and on behalf of the communities who will be
affected by an emergency or crisis, or whatever you want to call
it, whenever that happens.
Q186 Chairman: Have you any particular
lessons from your own experience in Wales, Scotland and the rest
of the UK as to how your structures are, perhaps, better than
others or any advice you can give? Now is your chance.
Mr Henry: I am sure that there
are things that we do well and that others could learn from, but
equally I am sure that there are things going on elsewhere that
we can very clearly learn from. What is obvious is that that consistent
administrative structure, where people are able to work together
and able to relate at a local level, is very important. I suppose
if anything has been looked at in terms of this legislation, as
far as at least England is concerned, local co-ordination and
delivery, albeit within national frameworks, is very important.
Mr Morgan: Small countries cannot
really teach lessons applicable to big countries and with England
we are always conscious it is 17, 18 times bigger than Wales in
terms of population, but I think the key thing is what have we
learnt over the past three years? We have put a lot of work into
our administrative arrangements and we have also, at the same
time as having those administrative arrangements, had some crises
as object lessons in dos and don'ts of crisis management, and
that goes then into the next phase of emergency planning. What
struck me about the meeting of the high-level forum that we had,
which I chaired ten days ago or so, was how very similar it was
to the arrangement that we had right in the middle of the foot-and-mouth
disease crisis. It was actually in the same room (but with a partition
so it was only half the size), but it was terribly similar to
Sunday morning sessions which we would have in the middle of the
foot-and-mouth period. You had the Army in one corner and you
hadin that casethe vets (although we did not have
them on this occasion), but you had all the different specialist
groupspolice, veterinary officers, Army, our civil servants,
maybe some other civil servants from the transport department
or whatever it might beand a big map in the middle. You
are trying to get the same degree of inter-departmental co-working
regardless of who is paying your wages, whose turf you officially
work in, and the high-level forum that we had last week paralleled
(even though we were only talking generally about emergency planning)
how we did it in response to the foot-and-mouth disease. I think
that is the sort of atmosphere that you have to get. What you
will not have in England, that is comparable to that, as far as
I am aware, is a minister who is going to take the flak politically
for whether what was done was defensible or not. I think that
full time civil servants, army officers, specialist civil servants,
they do like to have a political steer, that is what they need.
Now whether that is a seriously missing element here in what is
proposed, I do not know, that is for others to judge.
Chairman: Thank you both very much indeed.