HC Deb 20 February 1997 vol 290 c1029
2. Mr. Purchase

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received concerning West Midlands fire and civil defence authority. [15278]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Tom Sackville)

There have been two such representations in the past six months: one about the fire brigade's bid under the capital challenge pilot scheme, which I am glad to say resulted in an award of £3 million to build a new fire station at Handsworth, and the other about civil defence grant.

Mr. Purchase

Is the Minister unaware that the grant to the West Midlands fire service is now less in real terms than it was in 1992, that it has lost an aggregate of £16.5 million since the last election? Is he unaware of the great stress in the fire services resulting from having to deal with so many different problems—motorway crashes, difficult access and, in some cases, abuse on difficult estates? Is he completely unaware of the stress that firefighters feel, or is it just another case of our being unable to trust this Government—especially when they are playing with fire?

Mr. Sackville

I have no doubts about the difficulties of the job, but the hon. Gentleman should remember, first, that the national standards for levels of fire cover are agreed, not by us, but in the Central Fire Brigades Advisory Council, on which all the fire service organisations are represented. Secondly, the standard spending assessment for the West Midlands service went up this year by 6.9 per cent. which will allow additional spending of over 6 per cent. I see no commitment from the Labour party to spend any more on fire services.

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