I regularly receive representations on the proposed civil contingencies Bill. The Bill has been developed through a consultative process, beginning with the emergency planning review in 2001 during which we received many replies on proposed legislation. Since then, the Government have engaged closely with the emergency planning community and key external groups, which have made written and oral representations that have informed our work.
How do the Government intend that local councils should pay for their emergency planning provisions in the event that the Government proceed with their plans to stop the ring-fencing of that budget under the Bill?
The hon. Lady raises an important point. It will help the House if I make it clear that in addition to the Government's direct contribution of £90 million, local authorities contribute extra money from their general funds. The Local Government Association estimated in 2001 that the local authority contribution for England to that work amounted to an additional £9.9 million. Consultation on the specifics of the Bill will, of course, continue in the weeks and months to come.
Will the Minister give some reassurance to local authorities that are worried about the long-term imposition of any powers that might come from a civil contingencies Bill? If it becomes necessary to use such powers not only in the short term but for a prolonged period, what additional resources might be made available?
The Government spend hundreds of millions of pounds on emergency planning and civil protection in the UK. There is central Government funding for organisations that are involved in the provision of responses to emergencies, which of course include local authorities. Additionally, the Government have increased the direct grant aid paid to local authorities for such work. We shall continue to discuss with local authorities their responsibilities under the proposals that we aim to introduce this summer.