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 will certainly do my best to cover all the areas that are dealt with by the Bill, because I recognise that we did not have time to deal with issues that are important to Members.

It is right that the legislation should tackle the local and national levels. Part 1 will ensure that the framework for planning at the local level—already strong in many respects—is brought on to a more consistent basis. It enshrines the concept of integrated emergency management, which is that emergencies should be considered along a spectrum rather than being planned for in isolation. That is a departure from the Civil Defence Act 1939, and the analysis has drawn wide support from civil emergency protection practitioners. The Bill will deliver clear roles and responsibilities for local responders, and local communities across the country will see the benefit.

The renewal of the emergency powers framework in part 2 is equally important. The Emergency Powers Act 1920 has served the UK well in times of national crisis, but it was last used more than 20 years ago and it has reached the end of its natural life. The fundamentals of the legislation remain the same—an ability rapidly to make temporary legislation for the purpose of dealing with the most serious of emergencies—but the Bill offers a more flexible, deployable and resilient model with stronger safeguards and better procedures than the original legislation.

Nevertheless, we are all conscious of the difficult balance to be struck in these matters. I recognise how strongly Members felt about that in Committee and it is perhaps a pity that we have not had chance to debate them, but clearly Members—