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Lord Avebury: My Lords, has the Minister asked the strategy unit to work out how much innovation could have been purchased for £100 million if that money had been spent on innovation for the Underground instead of on consultants' fees?
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, the noble Lord will be pleased to hear that we are about to start a major review of innovation policy. No doubtif he feels that it would be a useful exerciseat the end we shall be able to give him an exact figure of what could be purchased with £100 million and how that could be used in other areas.
Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, in relation to the Minister's answer to my noble friend Lord Hodgson, I am sure that no one in the House disbelieves the Minister when he says that the strategy unit can do what my noble friend asked. However, the question he was really asking was: will it do that?
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, those are the kind of indicators that we want to measure. I am sure that keeping an eye on and analysing those figures will be the kind of task that the unit will undertake.
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the statue of my late noble kinsman Lord Alanbrooke on the foregreen of the Ministry of Defence, whose plinth states that he was a master of strategy, belies that title as he looks up Whitehall towards Trafalgar Square and not down Whitehall towards the Treasury on which he should sensibly keep an eye?
Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, can my noble friend tell the House whether the strategy unit has been able to consider the proposals for the defence export scrutiny committee which some months ago were pressed for at length?
In supporting my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, all departments have a responsibility to plan, to prepare, to train and to exercise for handling major incidents and emergencies that might occur within their area of responsibility. It is their Ministers' responsibility to ensure that they are ready to take the leading role on behalf of central government in managing the initial response to a major emergency in their field of responsibility, mitigating its immediate effects and organising the development of a recovery plan. Departments are brought together within three Cabinet committees that are chaired by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, previously when I asked this Question in the House I was told that the Minister did not know who was in charge of emergency planning at national level. Having had a more elucidating Answer today, is the Minister aware that there is incredible disquiet among emergency planning officers up and down the country and that the Government's lack of focus, co-ordination and direction is shameful in the light of what happened on 11th September and since?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, no. I think that that is a totally unfair way of looking at the issue. The NAO has looked at it and said that there has been great improvement since 11th September. Obviously, one can never get to a point where everything that has to be done is done. One has constantly to keep the issue under review. That is what we are doing. In a sense it is an unpolitical issue where we must work together to identify what are the best arrangements.
Lord Hunt of Chesterton: My Lords, does the Minister agree that international collaboration is also vital to disaster planning, especially natural disaster planning? Will this organisation be responsible for collaborating with the EU and with the UN system through the international secretariat for natural disaster reduction in Geneva? Is this unit also responsible for collaborating with the UK communities involved in research and humanitarian affairs in this matter?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, obviously it will depend on the precise disaster, but liaison with our EU partners and with the United Nations, both in terms of planning and as to what may happen in relation to an individual disaster, will frequently be vital. That obviously must also be worked out at the planning stage.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, is the Minister aware that when the Greater London Council existed each local member had a very detailed emergency plan which they were asked to guard with their lives and which was highly confidential? Of course when the GLC was disbanded they went. What is the present position? Do regional government members in any part of the country have a similar responsibility now? Is there liaison between national, local and regional departments in co-ordinating any kind of emergency?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I was not aware of the position in relation to the GLC, referred to by the noble Baroness. As to planning for emergencies, obviously a vital aspect is the relationship between central government, local government and the Scottish, Welsh and London governances. It is incredibly important that there is proper liaison between those three levels of government. That is part of the contingency planning arrangements.
Lord McNally: My Lords, does the Minister recall that almost every terrorist attack has produced an emergency powers Bill which has chipped away at civil liberties and given more powers to security services, the police and others? If there is to be co-ordination of government departments, does the Minister agree that it would be sensible to have proper parliamentary accountability of what is going on in this areaperhaps paralleling the role of the security service committee, so a committee of senior Privy Councillors could keep an eye on the matter? It is very serious when these matters are taken away into the bureaucracy of Whitehall and when parliamentary probing always gets the, "Well, if only you knew what we knew",
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, in response to recent acts of terrorism, the Government have quite sensibly proposed legislation. The extent to which those particular powers require review was properly debated in this House and another place, and proper safeguards, as required by Parliament, were put in place. What we are discussing at the moment in relation to this Question is contingency planning. That obviously depends on the Government's powers, but it also depends on keeping an eye on those things that one needs to do in order, first, to prevent such a contingency occurring, and, if it does, being able to respond to it adequately. That is what the Question is about.
Lord Waddington: My Lords, can the Minister tell the House which voluntary bodies it is assumed would play a major role in a disaster situation? A few decades ago the WRVS was a very strong organisation with vehicles, cooking implements and so on at its disposal. It played a key role at the time of the east-coast floods at the beginning of the 1950s. Is there any voluntary body in business today with anything like the capability that that voluntary body had a few decades ago? Are we not desperately short of volunteers and voluntary bodies that are well trained to deal with emergencies?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the response to a civil contingency will, depending on the civil contingency, involve a whole range of public, private and voluntary sector bodies. The planning aims to ensure that all those bodies can be mobilised at the appropriate moment.
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, the Minister may be surprised to know that I am about to congratulate him, or to congratulate someone. While sitting in this seat today, I received a communication from the Yeoman Usher of the Black Rod saying that the National Consumer Council has sent me a package with talcum power in it. I should like to commend those who have opened the package for their vigilance.
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