New Clause 3 — Emergency Powers Committee

Part of Orders of the Day — Civil Contingencies Bill – in the House of Commons at 9:14 pm on 24th May 2004.

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Photo of Hazel Blears Hazel Blears Minister of State (Home Office) (Policing, Security and Community Safety) 9:14 pm, 24th May 2004

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

I thank hon. Members on both sides of the House for their contribution to the development of the legislation. The principles of the Bill command the broad support of all parties, and I am genuinely grateful to hon. Members for the constructive and sensible way in which the Bill has been scrutinised and debated.

As I said at the outset, a joint Committee subjected the Bill to pre-legislative scrutiny, and two public consultations have taken place. When the Bill was introduced on 7 January, the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who is unfortunately not with us this evening, said that it was stronger as a result of the pre-legislative scrutiny, and I am sure that hon. Members share that view.

The Bill's subject matter is not party political, and all hon. Members have been keen to examine possible improvements and to make sure that that process is rigorous and evidence based—we all agree that it is important to get the Bill right. The Bill deals with serious issues, particularly given the heightened threat from terrorism that we all currently face. Although we have occasionally disagreed on the detail, I hope that we all support the broad thrust of the Bill.

As the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said on Second Reading, the legislation's purpose is clear. The aim of the Bill and its accompanying non-legislative measures is the delivery of a single framework for civil protection in the United Kingdom that will hopefully meet the challenges of the 21st century—in some cases, the legislation that is being replaced dates back 80 years. The Bill establishes a proper framework, which will hopefully last for a similar length of time.

We are all familiar with the challenges. Recent events have shown how emergencies can disrupt our way of life, damaging human welfare, the environment and national security. Even now, the events of 11 September 2001 are still fresh in many people's minds, but so are the fuel crisis, foot and mouth and the floods of 2000. The floods of 2000, which predated 11 September, were the catalyst for the emergency planning review, which was set in train by the Deputy Prime Minister and provided the foundations for the legislation.

The Bill will end our reliance on legislation dating from the first half of the last century, which has stood us in good stead but is increasingly unsuitable in today's world. Modernisation is timely—some hon. Members disagree with some of the modernising measures that the Government have introduced—but I am glad that the Bill has all-party support.