Civil Contingencies Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 14th October 2004.

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Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Shadow Minister, Home Affairs 3:45 pm, 14th October 2004

In moving Amendment No. 83B I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 83C, 86A and 86B. In so doing, I appreciate that I shall be repeating to an extent some of what was said in relation to the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. At that stage I was in two minds about whether to intervene, but I was concerned that I might confuse the Minister more by interjecting with different amendments that would have to be taken out of place. So I shall attempt to be brief and I apologise for any repetition.

In bringing forward this group of amendments we are again attempting to redress what we on these Benches perceive as serious omissions from the list of those bodies that should be included as category 2 respondents. There are a number of striking general omissions: broadcasters, bus and coach companies, the entire food distribution and sales industry, the petrol and diesel distribution industry are not included. National chemical and radiological hazard identification and response schemes such as NAIR, RADSAFE and CHEMSAFE are also missing.

The omission of such organisations is all the more puzzling given the important role that they would play in any large-scale emergency or incident. For example, bus and coach companies, presumably, would have been a vital component of most evacuation plans in assisting to transport large numbers of people away from the affected areas. On this issue, perhaps the Minister can explain why, if London Underground, train and airport operators are included on the list, bus and coach companies are not.

I additionally would have thought, given the events of the September 2000 fuel crisis and the near standstill that that incident brought to the country, the Government would have been keen to include in the Bill the producers and distributors of fuel. Again, I look forward with anticipation to the Minister's answer on this issue.

Furthermore, why is there no mention of broadcasters among category 2 responders? Surely it would be up to both national and local media outlets to publicise during the crisis what was going on and, indeed, to offer advice on what people should be doing—a point we made earlier in relation to informing the public. They could advise, for example, whether they should be staying in their homes or mustering at an evacuation point. Where else are we going to get our information in times of crisis?

In addition, in any specific locality there are likely also to be particular organisations whose co-operation may be vital to comprehensive planning, such as the operators of major shopping, leisure and sporting complexes. Again, these are not included.

I hope the Minister will be able to provide an assurance that the reason why these organisations are not included as category 2 respondents on the face of the Bill is that they are already adequately included in other legislation. If the Minister is not able to give me that assurance, I anticipate that he will be happy to accept this group of amendments today. I beg to move.