Schedule 1 - Category 1 and 2 Responders

Civil Contingencies Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:00 pm on 29th January 2004.

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Photo of Douglas Alexander Douglas Alexander Minister of State (Cabinet Office) and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster 5:00 pm, 29th January 2004

I beg to move amendment No. 71, in

schedule 1, page 22, line 33, after 'Ambulance', insert 'Service'.

In the light of further consideration, it has become apparent that one technical amendment is required to schedule 1. Paragraph 16 specifies the Scottish ambulance board as a category 1 responder. The body's correct title is, of course, the Scottish Ambulance Service Board, and the amendment corrects that regrettable oversight.

Amendment agreed to.

Question proposed, That this schedule, as amended, be the First schedule to the Bill.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Shadow Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

The Minister said earlier that he had written to me, but I have checked with my office, and there is no record of a letter having been received. If I have misunderstood schedule 1, this might be a helpful juncture at which to enlighten me.

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

This has been a very busy week for the Government, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the letter should be with him. I do not have a copy in front of me, but I am endeavouring to be provided with one so that I can read it out in full. Suffice it to say that I went through the letter before signing it, and it explained the Government's clear rationale. It also made it clear that the hon. Gentleman's contribution had not brought to light an error. It should have arrived at his office by now, and if he has any further comments, I will endeavour to give them due consideration. The advice that we received was entirely in order.

I have now been handed a copy of the letter, so let me help the hon. Gentleman by addressing a number of points. The letter notes that he wrote to me with several questions about schedule 1 and that I promised to write to him. It continues:

''Determining how part 1 of the Bill should apply in the devolved administrations has given rise to a number of difficult issues.''

Those have been the subject of a range of discussions between the Government and the Scottish Executive, as well as devolved authorities elsewhere. It goes on:

''The two guiding principles have been coherence across the UK and consistency with the devolution settlements. This has been achieved by adopting an approach which differs in each constituent part of the UK as the devolution settlements themselves do, but that will achieve the same practical effect''.

Given the hon. Gentleman's and, indeed, my own constituency considerations, I shall deal first with Scotland. The letter says that

''civil protection is a largely devolved matter. Most of the bodies which are responders in England and Wales are, in Scotland, bodies which exercise devolved functions'',

such as the Scottish Ambulance Service Board. The letter adds that, as a result of the consultation process that I mentioned

''the Executive asked the Government to extend Part 1 of the Bill to Scotland. The Scottish Executive propose to bring a Sewel motion before the Scottish Parliament shortly'',

I anticipated that motion earlier in our discussions. The letter continues:

''In light of the devolution status of most of the responders in Scotland, it is appropriate for the Scottish Ministers to make secondary legislation in relation to their activities and to issue guidance to them. This is what the Bill provides.

To clarify which bodies are within the jurisdiction of the Scottish Ministers and which responders are within the jurisdiction of the UK Ministers, the draftsman has split Schedule 1 (list of Category 1 and 2 responders) into four parts. Part 1 lists those Category 1 responders who will be subject to secondary legislation and guidance issued by a Minister of the Crown. Part 2 list those Category 1 responders who will be subject to secondary legislation and guidance issued by the Scottish Ministers. Parts 3 and 4 list those Category 2 responders who will be subject to legislation and guidance issued by a Minister of the Crown and Scottish Ministers respectively.

However, there are certain bodies which exercise functions on a UK-wide basis which are primarily reserved. These bodies are the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the Health and Safety Executive and the chief constable of the British Transport Police Force.''

That is the matter that precipitated the hon. Gentleman's question. The letter continues:

''The Government has agreed with the Scottish Executive that it should be for a Minister of the Crown to make secondary legislation and guidance in relation to these bodies. As a result, these bodies are listed in Parts 1 and 3 of Schedule 1. In light of the fact that these bodies do exercise functions in Scotland, Parts 1 and 3 are headed 'General' rather than 'England, Wales and Northern Ireland' or anything similar.''

That is the point the hon. Gentleman raised. The letter continues:

''Legislation and guidance made by a Minister of the Crown will apply to the activities of these bodies in Scotland. UK and Scottish Ministers will consult each other when making regulations or giving directions so as to promote a common framework across Great Britain.''

That deals with the nub of the point that was raised. If it would be helpful to the hon. Gentleman, I should be happy to narrate the circumstances that relate to Northern Ireland. The letter explains both the title that was used–''General'' rather than ''England and Wales''–and indicates the careful thought and consideration that has been given in the amendment to the appropriate relationship between the Scottish Executive and the UK Government in those matters.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Shadow Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

I am grateful to the Minister for his letter, and I look forward to considering its terms when I receive it. However, he has not cured the defect that arises under the operation of the disclosure of information under clause 6 (2). That states:

''Scottish Ministers may make regulations requiring or permitting one person or body listed in Part 2 or 4 . . . to disclose information . . . to another person or body listed in Part 2 or 4''.

The power for disclosure between Parts 1 and 3 operates in the same way under clause 6 (1). If the Maritime Coastguard Agency requires information held by a chief constable or a local authority in

Scotland, there is no power for a Scottish Minister to order disclosure to the Maritime Coastguard Agency, the Health and Safety Executive or the chief constable of the British Transport police under Clause 6(2). That appears to be a defect. If I am wrong about that, can the Minister show me where?

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

I am happy to concede the point. That may be a lacuna that we need to address. Given the complexity of drafting in that area, where matters need to be resolved not only by ourselves but with the Scottish Executive and others, I will ensure that, if the

lacuna that the hon. Gentleman has identified exists, I will take it back and discuss it with officials after today's committee. I will ensure that suitable technical amendments are proposed at a later stage to address the point.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule 1, as amended, agreed to.

Further consideration adjourned.–[Ms Prentice.]

Adjourned accordingly at eight minutes past Five o'clock till Tuesday 3 February at half-past Nine o'clock.