Preparing for Extreme Risks (RARPC Report) - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:45 pm on 12 January 2023.

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Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Minister of State (Cabinet Office) 5:45, 12 January 2023

I thank the noble Lord for his intervention, and I will reflect further on the best way of satisfying him.

I emphasise that the framework is important and strategic. It strengthens the systems, structures and capabilities which underpin the UK’s resilience to all risks and those that might emerge. It is based on three key principles. The first is a shared understanding of the risks we face. The second is a focus on prevention rather than cure, wherever this is possible, as several people have mentioned. Some risks can be predicted or prevented, but it is more difficult to do so for others. The third principle is of resilience as a whole-of-society endeavour. Everyone seems to agree on the importance of that. We are more transparent, and we want to empower all parts of society to make a contribution, so I was glad to hear from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester about the possible role of faith groups and volunteers of all kinds. He is right about the contribution they make in crises, as I know from the work of the churches in my own local area of the Nadder Valley. Faith groups are also part of the local resilience forums. In London, for example, we have a voluntary, community and faith sector sub-group—but the key message is about resilience as a whole-of-society endeavour. Covid taught us the value of that.

Nobody has mentioned this, but central to delivery on those three principles is improving the communication of risks and impacts. We want people to better understand what they may actually experience, and what they can do to protect themselves, their families and their communities. We must drive early action on risks; that is at the core of the framework.

Some noble Lords will have looked at the framework, which sets out our ambition to 2030. It includes improved risk communication by growing the Government’s advisory groups to bring in experts, academics and industrial partners. We are strengthening local resilience forums, which has included extra DLUHC funding to improve multi-agency planning. I should say that my husband is chair of a parish council, so I know that resilience systems already assist in great detail in towns and villages, and how important that was in marshalling voluntary effort during Covid. We need to build on those sorts of strengths. The measures include delivering a new UK resilience academy built up from the Emergency Planning College, thereby making world-class professional training available to all who need it. I have a lot of material on that, if noble Lords are interested. We are also establishing a new Cabinet sub-committee of the National Security Council. I suspect that we will have many more debates, because we are introducing an annual statement to Parliament on civil contingencies risk and the UK Government’s performance, which I hope will help noble Lords to hold us to account.