Clause 9 - Monitoring by Government

Civil Contingencies Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 29th January 2004.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Mr Richard Allan Mr Richard Allan Shadow Spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, Cabinet Office, Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry)

It is worth pausing for a brief moment on clause 9, because we referred earlier to how we will know that local government and all the authorities referred to are actually doing what they should be doing. How can we maintain some kind of quality control over contingency planning, which will be spread around the country?

I am curious about clause 9. The explanatory notes say that clause 9 will allow the Government–Scottish Ministers or a Minister of the Crown, in the case of England and Wales

''to require a Category 1 or Category 2 responder to provide information which relates to the performance of their functions under Part 1 of the Bill. It is likely that this power will be used to support the functions of making secondary legislation under Part 1 and of taking enforcement action under clauses 10 and 11.''

What seems curious is that that is a generic power. The Liberal Democrats have called for assurances that there will be an inspection and performance monitoring regime. However, no detail is given. The explanatory notes say:

''It is likely that this power will be used''.

The clause therefore says that the Government will have the power to act, but we have no detail on how they envisage things actually happening or how such powers will be used. Can the Minister give an early indication of the Government's proposed monitoring regime for part 1?

Photo of Patrick Mercer Patrick Mercer Conservative, Newark

Clause 9 strikes me as being in direct opposition to clause 7, which talks in such detail about ''urgency''. Clause 9 strikes me as micro-management of the worst sort. It lacks an understanding of the nature of an emergency and makes something of a mockery of clause 7.

Photo of Douglas Alexander Douglas Alexander Minister of State (Cabinet Office) and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

In terms of the requirements of monitoring and measuring performance for public sector organisations, the Government propose that performance should be monitored through the usual auditing mechanisms, such as the Audit Commission for local authorities and the fire services inspectorate for fire brigades. If that proves insufficient, further action may be necessary. Clause 9 is designed to enable the Government and, in Scotland, Scottish Ministers, to obtain information from responders about the performance of their duties under part 1. It will support the legislation-making powers conferred by the Bill and will facilitate enforcement. I hope that I have answered the hon. Gentleman's query: I recollect that the Joint Committee recommended an entirely separate audit regime, but the Government remain

minded to say that standing procedures, principally the Audit Commission, will be adequate for the task.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 9 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 10 to 13 ordered to stand part of the Bill.