London: Emergency Response Co-ordination

– in the House of Lords at 3:07 pm on 29th November 2001.

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Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative 3:07 pm, 29th November 2001

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Who is responsible for considering the possible consequences of major emergencies or acts of terrorism within London and for preparing plans to respond to such events.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

My Lords, the London Resilience Sub-Committee of the Civil Contingencies Committee is chaired by the Minister for London. It is engaging all the capital's responsible organisations in a comprehensive review of their plans to respond to and manage the consequences of such events.

Operationally, the co-ordination of any response to a major incident in London is the responsibility of the Metropolitan Police Service.

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

My Lords, does the Minister agree that inevitably in a conurbation there are many bodies and organisations which properly have a role to play in the preparation of an emergency plan to deal with a major disaster? Can he tell me how all these plans are co-ordinated? The House will be all too familiar with the cliche of the committee that was asked to design a racehorse but which came up with a camel. Is there one man somewhere with absolute responsibility to pull all the plans together and present a unified course of action to the committee that he has just mentioned, as there is in most other parts of the country?

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

My Lords, I have nothing different to say from the two previous occasions when I answered exactly the same issue in a Question on the 5th and on a Motion on the 7th of this month. The Civil Contingencies Committee is chaired by the Home Secretary. It has three sub-committees: the London Resilience Sub-Committee, the UK Resilience Sub-Committee and a sub-committee that deals with chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear issues which is also chaired by a Home Office Minister.

From an operational point of view, the Metropolitan Police are in charge. There is good co-ordination. All this is being reviewed and has been reviewed constantly since September 11th. There are operational exercises. They were taking place before September 11th. The role of the Mayor for London is to inform Londoners of the issues, which he is doing. He works in co-operation with the London Resilience Sub-Committee. We are satisfied with the arrangements but we are constantly reviewing them. Nothing is perfect. That is why they are being constantly reviewed.

Photo of Lord Tope Lord Tope Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I know that the Minister is aware, because he has told us before, that most of the actual emergency planning in London since 1973 has been done by the London Emergency Services Liaison Panel, known as LESLP to its friends. As part of the Government's review of the arrangements, are they considering putting LESLP on a more sound basis than at present in terms of both its organisation and its funding? At present, it relies largely on the good will of the organisations involved.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

My Lords, I know of no problems in that respect. The London Emergency Services Liaison Panel—I shall not try to pronounce the acronym—includes the Metropolitan Police, the City of London Police, the British Transport Police, the fire brigade and the ambulance service. It has produced plans to deal with some potentially serious issues: chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear hazards. It has issued guidance to local authorities and emergency planning officers. A sub-committee of the Cabinet Civil Contingencies Committee also deals with the issue.

Resources will always be an issue because many organisations with their own budgets are involved, but they are working to a central aim and are co-ordinated from the centre. The Government are in charge of ensuring that co-ordination.

Photo of Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Conservative

My Lords, did the Minister have a chance to see the recent television programme on transporting nuclear waste from Essex power stations through north London for reprocessing elsewhere? The programme revealed that, although the train is monitored extremely carefully while in progress, it is subsequently parked at Willesden Green sidings for two to three hours—and sometimes overnight—completely unguarded. Is that state of affairs satisfactory?

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

No, my Lords, it is not. I did not see the programme, but I trust that the noble Lord will be in the Lobby next week, if need be, to vote for the minor technical change made to the UK Atomic Energy Authority Constabulary in the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill, to ensure that that issue is dealt with.

Photo of Lord Carr of Hadley Lord Carr of Hadley Conservative

My Lords, as someone who was once Home Secretary, I should be interested to know who—if any—is the particular Minister responsible for overseeing the co-ordination to which the Minister referred a few moments ago.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

My Lords, I pay tribute to the work that the noble Lord did as Home Secretary. The Minister responsible is the Home Secretary. David Blunkett chairs the Cabinet Civil Contingencies Committee, which plays the central co-ordinating role.