Emergency Services (London)

Oral Answers to Questions — Deputy Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 21st April 2004.

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Photo of Mr Roger Casale Mr Roger Casale Labour, Wimbledon 11:30 am, 21st April 2004

What assessment he has made of the state of readiness of the fire service and other emergency services to deal with catastrophic events in London.

Photo of Nick Raynsford Nick Raynsford Minister of State (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Local and Regional Government)

Following the attacks on New York and Washington on 11 September 2001, a multi-agency team was set up to carry out an urgent and comprehensive review of London preparedness. Its report has formed the basis of the work of the London Resilience forum, which I chair with the Mayor of London as my deputy. The role of the forum is to ensure that London is as well prepared as possible to respond to a major attack or incident. The state of readiness of the emergency services is continually evaluated and tested through a series of exercises.

Photo of Mr Roger Casale Mr Roger Casale Labour, Wimbledon

All hon. Members will surely feel an abiding sense of horror at the sheer destructive force of the recent terrorist atrocities in Madrid. What lessons have been learned in this country from that attack, and what further steps have been taken to prepare London for a similar scale attack?

Photo of Nick Raynsford Nick Raynsford Minister of State (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Local and Regional Government)

I share my hon. Friend's horror at the appalling incidents in Madrid. Since the atrocity there, the Metropolitan police, Transport for London and other London front-line agencies have been in regular contact with their counterparts in Madrid to learn lessons and find out what more London could do both to prevent an attack and to respond to any consequences. We have also launched an awareness campaign, which had been planned before the Madrid attack and which has been very visible indeed on the London underground and in other transport locations in London, highlighting the need for awareness and preparedness. That is all part of the work that we are doing to ensure that we are as well prepared as we possibly can be.

Photo of Angela Watkinson Angela Watkinson Opposition Whip (Commons)

In the recent Madrid bombings, the Red Cross played a very prominent role, particularly in the humanitarian aspect of helping people after that atrocity. What discussions has the Minister had with the Red Cross in this country to take advantage of its network of people across the country who can come into the community if there is a parallel incident in London?

Photo of Nick Raynsford Nick Raynsford Minister of State (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Local and Regional Government)

I am pleased to tell the hon. Lady that the Red Cross and other voluntary agencies are regularly contacted by the London Resilience forum. Indeed, the voluntary sector is regularly represented as part of the planning in that forum to ensure the co-ordination of all those who would have a role to play in the event of any such incident.