HC Deb 24 May 2004 vol 421 cc1336-66

'(1) There shall be an Emergency Volunteer Reserve.

(2) The Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument make provision in respect of the Emergency Volunteer Reserve.'.—[Patrick Mercer.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Patrick Mercer

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Madam Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 11, in page 3, line 8 [Clause 2], at end insert— '(h) consult with humanitarian or voluntary organisations through the development of plans maintained under paragraphs (c) and (d) to such extent and in such manner as a person or body listed in Part 1 or Part 2 of Schedule 1 shall think fit.'.

No. 12, in line 36, after 'consult', insert 'with any humanitarian or voluntary organisations or'.

No. 13, in line 41, after 'collaboration', insert 'with any humanitarian or voluntary organisations or any other specified person or body or class of person or body'.

No. 14, in line 44, after 'delegation', insert 'to any specified person or body or class of person or body including any humanitarian or voluntary organizations.

No. 15, in line 46, at end add 'or with any humanitarian or voluntary organisations'.

No. 16, in page 4, line 5, after 'Schedule', insert 'or to any humanitarian or voluntary organisations'.

No. 17, in line 7, after 'body', insert '(including any humanitarian or voluntary organisations)'.

No. 76, in page 5, line 5 [Clause 4], leave out 'business' and insert 'organisation'.

No. 77, in line 8, after 'commercial', insert 'voluntary and community'.

No. 18, in line 8, after 'activities', insert 'or community activities'.

No. 19, in line 20, at end add 'save that a charge may not be made to any organisation carrying out community activities'.

No. 20, in page 11, line 23 [Clause 17], at end add— '"community activities" means activities in fulfilment of any charitable, benevolent, or philanthropic purpose, humanitarian or voluntary organisations" means any voluntary organisation, charity or other body which contributes to civil protection arrangements on an international, national, or local basis which is identified as such by any person or body listed in Part 1 or 2 of Schedule 1.'.

Patrick Mercer

I am sorry that the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is not here, although I am sure he is absent for an extremely happy reason. The new clause and amendments Nos. 76 and 77, which stand in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald), go to the heart of the Bill.

It is fair to say that the Government were a trifle surprised in Committee by some approaches taken by Conservative Front Benchers not to the powers and theory of the Bill, but to the practicalities of delivering it. The new clause and the amendments address the muscle and the manpower that will be required physically to put those powers into practice in horrible events such as those for which we are preparing. I hope, therefore, to range not too far and wide, but essentially over the matter of a volunteer reserve and the involvement of the multifarious voluntary organisations, which I have no doubt we will depend on heavily in the event of a disaster.

The Government have rightly identified the problem—it could be anything from a natural disaster to something horrendous such as a dirty bomb inspired by terrorists that kills perhaps thousands of people. They have also rightly identified the fact that powers need to be put in place to deal with that. We have a Bill before us, and Conservative Members are happy to support many parts of it. We have tried to take a non-partisan and largely supportive approach, but there seems to be a lacuna between the problem and the powers. I have already identified the problem; it is one of delivery.

I do not believe that the Government have thought about the practicalities of the problem in any detail. There is no doubt that local authorities will be empowered to deal with the problem in theory; there is no doubt that category 1 and category 2 responders will be identified and told what powers they have to deal with events on the ground. However, who, physically, will do that?

A cursory glance at the emergency services in any of our constituencies would show the Government how parlous the preparations are. Let us take the example of my constituency of Newark, which, I trust, is unlikely to be attacked by terrorists. It was clear six weeks ago when I spoke to Newark fire service that not a single member of it had received any training whatever to deal with chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear emergencies. It is clear that the pumps we have available in Newark could respond for only a few hours in the event of an intensive incident.

Ten pumps must accompany one of the immediate response vehicles that the Government have put in place to whichever part of the country is the scene of an emergency. There is no doubt that we would quickly run short of the manpower required to take either the fire, police or ambulance service through a sustained emergency. There is no doubt that, very quickly, it would be impossible to replace policemen—they would be exhausted, particularly if they were wearing protective clothing and trying to operate despite all the difficulties of a CBRN attack.

I do not know whether the Minister has ever operated under such conditions, but I can assure her that wearing one of those suits is extremely difficult and that trained and well prepared staff, no matter how many of them the Government believe they have prepared, will quickly become degraded and impossible to replace.

What have the Government done about providing an additional work force? We are told glibly that the 60,000 or 70,000 regular Army, Navy and Air Force personnel in this country at any one time, depending on emergencies, would be called on to help, particularly in the event of a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attack. The fact remains that there are no standing plans to use our regular forces, despite the fact that every man Jack and woman Jill has received this sort of training.

Mr. Forth

As my hon. Friend develops that theme, does he not agree that the physical disposition of those highly trained personnel is inadequate to cover the entire country? Given that such events, by their very nature, could occur anywhere, even were we lucky enough to have a centre of trained military excellence, most of the country, sadly, would not be within easy reach of those excellent people should the worst happen.

Patrick Mercer

I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend for that helpful intervention. As usual, he is absolutely right. In fairness, that is probably why the MOD has not tried to tie down its regular forces in great detail. Due to the overstretch of our regular forces, the fact remains that an indeterminate number will be available in this country should an incident occur.

What have the Government done to increase the availability of manpower? Curiously, just before the Committee stage of this Bill was completed, the civil contingencies reaction force, more than two years after the events of 11 September, was finally declared operationally ready. A cursory glance at the CCRF, however, shows that it was far from ready. Interestingly, I note that we spoke on 28 January about this very event, on exactly the same day that Private Kitulagoda of the Rifle Volunteers was killed in action. He was indeed a member of the civil contingencies reaction force. He came from Devon, and his duties were to respond to an incident in the area of Plymouth or Exeter, and yet he was killed in Kabul by a British-born suicide bomber. If the Government have raised that very modest number of territorials and reservists specifically for those duties, why on earth are they posting those soldiers, sailors and airmen overseas? Why are they concentrated on Basra and Baghdad rather than Bermondsey or other areas where they may be necessary? The answer is simply that the Government have made no coherent plan to provide additional manpower in the event of this sort of incident.

That is why we propose the raising of an emergency volunteer reserve—[Interruption.] In response to the sedentary intervention from the Government Front Bench, the intention is not to raise a Home Guard, but to contribute to the British Red Cross or other organisations that already exist. The plan that I suggest is simple: those who have a desire to volunteer and who have skills to contribute to the country should be allowed to do so. A category A responder might be an off-duty surgeon, who would take the training necessary to bring him or her up to scratch, and put himself or herself on a register of willingness or availability, and in the event of an incident occurring, that surgeon might come forward either to reinforce medical staff, or to take the place of those who are exhausted. At the other end of the spectrum, a category F responder might be someone without a specific skill, and without much time to spare, but who would be available, on being contacted by text message, to help the police or other emergency services in the event of an emergency.

I do not understand why the Government did not think the scheme through more carefully. It would be cheap and relatively easy to impose. Training would be practical. Above all, it would mop up the huge reserve of volunteers who I have no doubt would be ready and willing to come forward in these circumstances.

Mr. Allan

When we discussed this in Committee, there was some concern about the overlap between the hon. Gentleman's proposal and the existing voluntary sector organisations. Now his thoughts seem to have evolved. Can he confirm that he is talking about co-ordinating bodies such as the Red Cross and St. John Ambulance rather than about some substitute for them?

Patrick Mercer

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I am interested to note from the mayoral election plans that the Liberal Democrats have taken not just the idea but the term "emergency volunteer reserve" and decided to bend it to their own purposes—shocking behaviour!

Let me answer that perspicacious intervention by reading something about what happened in Madrid. Within minutes of the bomb explosions on the terrible morning of 11th March, Spanish Red Cross volunteers were on the scene. Over the following 24 hours and beyond… 900 volunteers provided medical care, psychological support and handled enquiries from the public. 52 ambulances, 26 transport vehicles and mobile blood collection units run by the Spanish Red Cross worked in close collaboration with the statutory services. Volunteers supported many bereaved families… 61 requests for information on missing persons were received from abroad and dealt with through the International Red Cross Message and Tracing service. Here is the rub: The Spanish Red Cross was able to make such an exemplary response to this tragedy because in Spain the voluntary sector has a formal role in the civil protection framework. The Spanish voluntary sector plays an integral part in emergency planning and is designated to be involved in rescue, medical care, information and communication, and emotional support."

The Joint Committee on the draft Bill recommended that a statutory duty be placed upon Category 1 Responders to consult with and involve relevant voluntary organisations in civil contingency planning. It also recommended that Category 1 Responders be given flexibility to identify and consult with the most relevant voluntary organisations in their area. Yet those points were not included in the Bill.

We propose that we should raise—in addition to the voluntary organisations that already exist—an emergency volunteer reserve that would overlap and interlock with the existing voluntary organisations, and that the voluntary organisations should be brought much more closely into line with the standing blue-light services. That would bring about much more integration of training, approach and operational procedure.

I have no doubt that Labour and Liberal Democrat Members will want to deal with amendments Nos. 11 to 17 and 18 to 20. I want to say a little more about amendments Nos. 76 and 77, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hertfordshire and me. We feel that we should recognise all the good work of organisations such as the British Red Cross, the Women's Royal Voluntary Service, the Salvation Army and St. John Ambulance.

We should recognise the potential of these organisations, and the fact that if we were to use them in a much more sensible, coherent and thoughtful way, although the Government would not get a service for nothing, they would get a wholly trained, thoughtful and thoroughly well-motivated organisation for an absolute pittance. If that were integrated with the emergency volunteer reserve that I outlined, the Government would not be in their current difficult position.

5.30 pm
Helen Jackson (Sheffield, Hillsborough) (Lab)

Amendments Nos. 11 to 17 and the associated ones relate to volunteers and to the realm of the voluntary sector. When considering them, we should remember that the Bill is entitled the Civil Contingencies Bill. As we all know, a disaster—an emergency—affects the whole of society and the surrounding civil society, so the response to, and planning for, emergencies and disasters must involve the whole of civil society as well.

The amendments, which, as the hon. Member for Newark (Patrick Mercer) said, have been backed by the British Red Cross, St. John Ambulance, the Women's Royal Voluntary Service and the Salvation Army, basically reflect the view that the voluntary sector's contribution to caring for the victims of emergencies and disasters in particular should be properly recognised and made explicit in the Bill. They have been introduced on Report on the basis that the "explicit" involvement of the voluntary sector in what the Government are seeking to do in responding to an emergency is not nearly explicit enough. As the Government will doubtless recognise, the Joint Committee, which is acting as consultee on the draft Bill, recommended that representatives from the voluntary sector be included as consultees at both the planning and response stages.

I should point out to the Minister that the Government's record in the voluntary sector is excellent. The Chancellor, the Prime Minister and leading members of the Government frequently refer in their speeches to the partnership that the Government are trying to build with the voluntary sector. Therefore, the voluntary sector's response, which shows that it is puzzled and disappointed that the Government have not involved it in a more explicit way, also reflects my feeling.

I hark back to 15 April 1989 and this country's greatest sporting disaster, which occurred in Hillsborough stadium. At that time, I was not the Member of Parliament for the area, but I was a member of the city council and I represented the area and the people who lived in it. I am aware that that ghastly disaster was felt for many years—indeed, it is still remembered yearly on 15 April—not just by the statutory services but by the whole community, who were involved in responding it. The entire community helped the voluntary services—the Red Cross and St. John Ambulance—by doing what they could.

None of the residents of the Hillsborough area of Sheffield will ever forget that day of sirens going on and on and on, for hour upon hour upon hour, as the vehicles ferried people to hospital. They will never forget the continuing radio appeals for volunteers with skills of any nature to help. They will never forget, because it was, I suspect, one of the first disasters to be covered minute by minute on live television. It was a Saturday afternoon in April, when many people were at home watching sport on TV. They did not expect to see the disaster that unfolded.

Not only organisations and a volunteer force came to help; the local clergy, the league of friends from the hospital, individual doctors and cleaning staff who worked in the football stadium did so too. Those in public housing and other individuals in the area offered accommodation. The answer is not to blame people, but to recognise that all volunteers and voluntary organisations are involved immediately when an emergency arises. It is only right that they should be brought in at the pre-planning stage and for the delivery on the ground, because they are the people who will make a difference in the event of a disaster.

Given the Government's record on the voluntary sector, they should recognise its skills, experience and potential in this context. Government recognition of the sector's potential will improve the chances of voluntary sector organisations being able to deliver the training that is necessary to keep up to date, and being organisations on which we can rely in every city.

Mr. Heald

I agree with what the hon. Lady is saying. Does she agree that the threats that we face and the events that we may have to face are changing quite quickly, so proper consultation and perhaps an overarching body of the sort that we suggest is a good idea? It will mean that everyone can keep up to speed.

Helen Jackson

I am grateful for that intervention. I agree that the threats are changing, but let us bear in mind the characteristic that a civil emergency is probably not expected. No one could have predicted that an aeroplane would explode and kill 200–plus people in Lockerbie, for example. These things cannot be totally planned for. There is no textbook emergency. That is one of the problems, whether it is a fire at King's Cross, a football disaster at Hillsborough, the Lockerbie disaster, or the terrorist incident in Madrid. Therefore, there can be no definitive Government planning blueprint saying that we have got it all sorted out and we will know exactly what to do. It will not happen like that, although there are always common factors: injury, stress, trauma and shock, and the need for comfort, reassurance and to deal with people who feel bewildered.

The other common factor that the amendments deal with is that, almost universally in our country, there is a huge and immediate willingness to help among everyone who knows about the situation.

That must be recognised and should form part of how we deal with this opportunity to update legislation from the 1920s. Perhaps we can now learn from experience gained between 1920 and the present: we should be proud of and treasure the immediate response of volunteers and voluntary organisations coming together.

One recent event affected us all in the House: the reaction of the people of Spain to the ghastly events in Madrid. I recall how moved I was—I believe every hon. Member felt the same—to see them coming together on the streets to make it clear that they were the people of Spain and that they condemned the tragic events.

I feel strongly that the involvement of the voluntary sector in dealing with disasters should be properly recognised by the Government, both in pre-planning and in operational guidance attached to the Bill. The Government should take this opportunity to strengthen their partnership with the voluntary sector by amending the Bill along the lines suggested in this group of amendments.

Mr. Allan

I was pleased to offer my support and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael) to the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Helen Jackson). We examined the issue in Committee, but it remained, to a degree, unresolved.

Unlike the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), I am in favour of pre-legislative scrutiny, though I recognise that it does not cure all known ills. The consultation process brought to light different views from the voluntary sector. I understand why that created a difficulty and why, given the broad range of voluntary sector organisations, it would not be appropriate to place all of them in the category of those required to respond on a statutory basis.

I agree, however, with the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough that some reference should be made in the framework of primary legislation to voluntary organisations. She has produced some good amendments in an attempt to achieve that. Rather than making all voluntary organisations statutory responders, she would amend clause 2(5) so that the regulations imposed on the statutory bodies—the local authorities—included a requirement that local "humanitarian or voluntary organisations" be involved. That is a wholly appropriate way of tackling the problem, which overcomes the Government's objections to making all voluntary sector organisations potentially subject to statutory duty. The statutory duty to consult would be placed on the local authority, and could be exercised in a common-sense manner. The hon. Lady has found an appropriate way of framing the provision. When the Minister responds, she might say that the regulations could, in any case, require local authorities to consult local voluntary and humanitarian organisations. That may well be the Government's intention, but it would be that much stronger if it were built into the Bill.

I understand the concerns of organisations such as the Red Cross, St. John Ambulance and the Salvation Army, which provide core services. The voluntary sector now provides essential services in many areas. Bodies such as the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children provides core child protection services in my city of Sheffield. If such organisations are in negotiation with local authorities for planning purposes, they will want to have some statutory authority and strength. It would therefore be appropriate to amend the Bill, as the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough suggests.

We debated clause 4 in Committee; I am not at all persuaded that it will deliver anything positive in the context of the Bill. It deals with the provision of advice and assistance to business, and the amendments are designed to extend that to include "humanitarian or voluntary organisations". If the provisions in clause 4 are to be in the Bill, the amendments are appropriate, given that many of those organisations will be providing mainstream services. If the local authority is to provide continuity, planning and advice to anyone, it should provide that to the bodies that are likely to be assisting during a period of crisis or emergency.

My major concern about the business side of clause 4 is that it is hard to see how, if it were on a cost-recovery basis, anyone would be likely to sign up to it.

I find it difficult to envisage how it will work from a business point of view. The amendments suggest that humanitarian organisations should not be charged for the advice.

I hope that the Minister can offer us more than we have had heretofore about the requirements that central Government will place on local authorities to engage with voluntary sector and humanitarian organisations. The Bill could be strengthened in that area.

5.45 pm
Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury) (Con)

I strongly support my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) on these excellent amendments, which address a very important and, indeed, rather grave subject. I also support what the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Helen Jackson) said in such an articulate fashion.

New clause 1 concerns the central issue of setting up a new civilian reserve, while most of the associated amendments concern making better use of our splendid voluntary organisations, such as the British Red Cross, the WRVS and others that have written to us to say that they feel rather left out of the planning process in the Bill. We are blessed with a very strong voluntary sector. As well as the organisations that I have mentioned, let us not forget St. John Ambulance and neighbourhood watch schemes. I was the co-ordinator of one of the first such schemes, and we successfully reduced crime. What a good point of contact they are for disseminating these plans.

As my hon. Friend said so effectively, we simply do not have enough manpower so we have to rely on the wider community. That reliance must be based on structures that are in place and properly rehearsed before the event, and not on ad hockery.

We saw with the unhappy incident in the Chamber last Wednesday that we as MPs had not been briefed on or rehearsed the steps that we should take. Had it been a biological attack, we should all have stayed in the Chamber until we had been decontaminated. Had it been a chemical attack, we should all have got out very quickly. Who distinguishes, and how the message is relayed quickly, are matters that present serious problems for the House authorities. Those problems need to tackled in advance. There may have been a great deal of planning behind the scenes, but at the level where it matters—the point on the ground where the incident occurred—the message had not got home, and, above all, the steps had not been rehearsed.

It is difficult to exaggerate the thinness of the official structures that we have in place for civil contingencies. My hon. Friend gave the touching example of the Territorial soldier, nominally a member of the civil contingency reaction force, who was killed on duty in Afghanistan—illustrating how overstretched that structure is. It is not only overstretched but completely inadequately structured. I have twice challenged Defence Ministers—I challenge the Minister again today—to explain how the 14 organisations can organise anything, when they are based on the headquarters of the 14 TA infantry battalions, which were stripped to an absolute skeleton in the most recent defence review. Although intelligence officers have finally been put back into them, there is still no intelligence cell to handle incoming information, the signals set-up is tiny and the whole structure is too woefully small to command anything. Those concerns were raised by TA officers who are very anxious to do this job and do it well.

Mr. Heald

Is my hon. Friend aware that it is thought that, of the civil contingency reaction force of 6,000, about half—or certainly between a third and a half—are overseas?

Mr. Brazier

I cannot entirely endorse my hon. Friend's figures, but a significant number are overseas and the organisation is anyway well below strength. I support the concept, but the organisation is far too small and under-resourced. The essence of having a surge capability to deal with an emergency is the ability to expand provision. If most of the people who form part of that surge capability are being used abroad, there is little surge capability available. The proposal for a new civilian force as a supplement would go a long way towards bridging the gap.

The ideas behind the other amendments in the group for a much closer relationship with all the vital voluntary organisations are also essential. The role played by the Red Cross in Madrid has been mentioned, but the point is that exercises are needed. I know of one small voluntary organisation that already does some of the work necessary. I have not spoken about it in the House before, as far as I remember, although my wife is a serving member. It is the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry, whose colonel-in-chief is the Princess Royal.

The organisation is only 100-strong, so its ability to make a difference is limited, although it punches well above its weight. It had a gallant record in both world wars and members were covered in decorations, but its role for more than a generation has been to support the City of London police force. For three days after the Moorgate tube disaster, it manned all the communications for the hospitals treating the injured. It was called out during the great storm of 1987 and, for the subsequent IRA bombing in the City, it again manned the communications so that relatives could find out where their loved ones had been taken. It is a small organisation that does an excellent job, and it is worth mentioning in this debate.

The truth is that we need all the voluntary organisations. They deserve silver-tongued praise in this House, but they should also be part of the planning for the frightful emergencies that may happen at any time. Colleagues would be surprised if I did not mention that I still hope to persuade the Government to support my Promotion of Volunteering Bill. I already have 150 signatures to my early-day motion from Members from all parties, broadly pro rata to their representation in the House. Surely a debate such as this should convince us that it is wrong that volunteers who sign up to organisations that may already do exercises on these potential dangers should face the same risk of negligence suits in the civil courts as, for example, a commercial company would.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Brazier

I was about to finish, but I will give way to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Bercow

My hon. Friend will not have reason to regret his decision. He is speaking eloquently to new clause 1, and I hope that it will warm the cockles of his heart to learn that only this morning I received three letters from constituents vigorously urging me to support his Bill.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. Laudable as that Bill may be, we are discussing new clause 1 of the Civil Contingencies Bill.

Mr. Brazier

I am grateful to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, although the organisation that would be set up under new clause 1 would face the risk that my Bill attempts to remove. I might say that it is always a wise decision to give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow), not only because I work for him in another capacity but because he invariably hits the nail on the head. Colleagues from both sides of the House are writing to me and telephoning my office because their constituents have contacted them.

The amendments in this group go to the heart of the way in which we should tackle these emergencies. It is no good just recognising the excellent work done by voluntary organisations. We need to bring them into the planning framework and introduce a new reserve to assist them. I urge the House to support all the amendments.

Mr. Llwyd

I agree entirely with what the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) said and thought that the contribution of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Helen Jackson) was very sensible. If we are serious about involving the voluntary sector—as we would have to in the circumstances that we are discussing—we should give it statutory recognition for its important work and include it in planning. We should not forget that many of those who gave evidence to the pre-legislative scrutiny Committee were from the voluntary sector.

I cannot understand how the Minister can pay warm tribute to the voluntary sector but also cut it out of the scene. It does not make sense and I hope that the Government will think again, even at this late stage. The amendments are sensible and would improve the Bill. I recall that, in Committee, we discussed the civil contingency reaction force and the hon. Member for Newark (Patrick Mercer) said that the Government hoped to establish a complement of 7,000 but that at the time—towards the end of January—only 5,000 had been trained and accredited. Can the Minister tell us whether that figure has improved? We should not forget, of course, that many of those people are already serving in other theatres.

The amendments would be useful and provide an element lacking in the Bill. I see no reason why such a volunteer force could not complement other organisations involved in this sphere.

Mr. Djanogly

I support what my hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Patrick Mercer) said in his informed and important speech on the need to use the full resources of the nation, rather than just the full resources of the state, when it comes to national emergencies. I fully support the suggestion of an emergency volunteer reserve to make full use of the pool of talent that we have. However, I was spurred to speak this afternoon by a letter from the British Red Cross that I am sure that other hon. Members have received and that also bears the names of the Women's Royal Voluntary Service, the Salvation Army and St. John Ambulance. It makes several significant points that made me realise the importance of the amendments.

The letter refers to the explosion in the plastics factory in Glasgow on 11 May, where, for more than three days, Salvation Army and Red Cross volunteers and staff provided emotional support and first aid at a reception centre set up in Maryhill community hall. It refers to the Morecambe bay cockle pickers tragedy, where the survivors were comforted by Red Cross volunteers who provided first aid treatment, blankets and clothing. The letter points out that, within 50 minutes of the Ladbroke Grove rail crash, St. John Ambulance had 32 volunteers and 11 ambulances on the scene and transported 22 people to hospital. For the following seven days, volunteers provided a 24-hour mobile treatment centre for workers at the site. The organisations were also involved after the terrible fire at the Yarlswood centre for asylum seekers in Bedfordshire, which is close to my constituency. The WRVS played an important role in providing food and comfort to the survivors and—importantly—to the fire workers and other emergency service personnel involved. The importance of the voluntary sector is not only the help provided to victims but the assistance to primary emergency workers. In that way, the volunteers become part of the primary team.

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West) (Con)

Does my hon. Friend agree that, for international disasters and other such scenarios, we are keen to include NGOs such as the Red Cross in the planning phase? Why are the Government so willing to make use of voluntary organisations for the delivery of international relief, but not when there is a crying need for them in this country?

6 pm

Mr. Djanogly

My hon. Friend makes an important point. I shall refer later to the experience in Madrid and try to answer his question, although of course I do not have one, so it might be for the Minister to address his concerns when she replies.

The Red Cross points out: In situations like these, volunteers help to absorb the impact a disaster makes on victims and their families. They are local, community-minded, ordinary people who give aid in extraordinary circumstances. Local authorities and emergency services turn to such volunteers knowing that they can provide comfort, emotional and practical support when most needed, yet there is no formal mechanism to involve the voluntary sector in the planning for emergency response… The Civil Contingencies Bill has presented the ideal opportunity to formalise arrangements by specifically including the voluntary sector in the legislation".

As for the international experience, my hon. Friend the Member for Newark mentioned what happened in Madrid, which very much involved the Red Cross. The British Red Cross says:

Within minutes of the bomb explosions on the terrible morning of 11th March, Spanish Red Cross volunteers were on the scene. Over the following 24 hours and beyond… 900 volunteers provided medical care, psychological support, and handled enquiries from the public. 52 ambulances, 26 transport vehicles and mobile blood collection units run by the Spanish Red Cross worked in close collaboration with the statutory services. Volunteers supported many bereaved families as they went to identify the bodies of their loved ones. 61 requests for information on missing persons were received from abroad and dealt with through the International Red Cross Message and Tracing service.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newark mentioned the massive input that the Spanish Red Cross had in the aftermath of the disaster in Madrid. The British Red Cross goes further and says: The Spanish Red Cross was able to make such an exemplary response to this tragedy because in Spain the voluntary sector has a formal role in the civil protection framework. The Spanish voluntary sector plays an integral part in emergency planning and is designated to be involved in rescue, medical care, information and communication, and emotional support".

As the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Helen Jackson) rightly said, the support provided in such a situation goes beyond emotional support, making tea and giving comfort. Voluntary organisations have many specialist skills. The British Red Cross gives the following examples: Information services, clothing and shelter, first aid and medical care, comforting and befriending of individuals affected, staffing rest and reception centres, support to hospitals, support to ambulance services, search and rescue, transport services, message and tracing services for those who have lost contact with loved ones in an emergency overseas, radio communications, faith and cultural support and awareness. That is an enormous list of invaluable services that go together to make the complete emergency service that the state could never provide acting on its own.

In summary, the British Red Cross says: As key providers of emotional and practical support to victims and their families, the voluntary sector is united in calling for formal, explicit recognition of the contribution of the voluntary sector in emergency planning and response on the face of the Civil Contingencies Bill. A duty should be placed on statutory authorities to involve the voluntary sector fully in emergency planning and response. An acknowledgement of the voluntary sector's contribution will formalise an already active response. Without the involvement of the voluntary sector in emergency planning and response, the response to the human dimension of an emergency may be less effectively addressed.

Why have the Government marginalised the contribution of the voluntary sector in the Bill? It cannot be on the ground of cost, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newark said earlier. It cannot be on the ground of the voluntary sector's ability, which is well proven. It cannot be in terms of its commitment, which is exemplary.

Mr. Brazier


Mr. Djanogly

My hon. Friend made that clear in his own speech.

One wonders what the reason is. Could it be the Labour party's long-held disdain for public services being performed outside the public sector? If so, that is a sorry set of circumstances. I look forward to hearing the Minister's explanation of her position and fully support the new clause and the amendments.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD)

I support the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Helen Jackson) and supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Allan). Whatever the Government's intentions—I am sure that there was never any intention to exclude the voluntary organisations, which do such a wonderful job in providing practical and emotional support when there is a disaster—an explicit recognition of that role would be enormously helpful. I hope that the Minister will be able to explain further how she sees the relationship between the statutory and the voluntary sector in this context.

I urge the hon. Lady to accept the proposal, because an explicit reference in the Bill would be in the interests of all concerned, in terms not only of planning but of understanding capabilities and recognising what resources may be available. It would also acknowledge the essential role played, albeit often at a slightly lower level than the first responders who arrive at the scene, in providing support not only to victims and their families and others affected but, as the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Djanogly) said, to the people who have to deal at first hand with the emergency, and looking after their emotional and practical well-being, which is equally important.

The point that I want to raise is slightly different and I would be interested to hear from the hon. Member for Newark whether it is encompassed in his proposal. I welcome the fact that his proposal has been developed since the Bill was in Committee, because there was a concern that it might lead to two parallel organisations—the voluntary sector as already established and what he proposed. It is now clear that his proposal would integrate existing structures.

I am concerned about maintaining a register of professionals in a variety of fields who can be deployed at short notice in case of a civil contingency. We are not terribly good at that in this country. We are good at getting our emergency services on the scene and doing the job, but we sometimes then need more members of the caring, medical and surgical professions to be available, simply because of the scale of the emergency and we are not very good at knowing where those individuals are.

I am talking about people who do not have commitments within their own hospital or medical environment, but who could be used in a particular region or situation to provide support. For example, there are chronic emergencies, such as foot and mouth, as well as acute emergencies. During the outbreak, I had colleagues and friends in the farming community in my area who were experienced veterinary surgeons but were not, for one reason or another, in practice. They volunteered their services either to go in and identify potential infection, or to replace those who were doing that, and were therefore unable to do their normal work. Those offers of support met no response whatever from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

That was a scandalous and avoidable waste of professional resources. A similar situation could arise in, for instance, the nursing profession. There is not a surplus of trained theatre or accident and emergency nurses, so we cannot afford to lose people who have left the profession but retain the necessary skills to help in an emergency.

Either as a result of the proposal of the hon. Member for Newark to establish a volunteer reserve that identifies professionals in the same way that people with medical training are retained as a distinct category within the military reserve list, or as the result of Government action that the Minister may tell us about in her reply, we should identify professionals who are willing to provide their services, can be easily contacted and, most importantly, are available at short notice to drop whatever they are doing to help in an emergency. People are willing to use their skills and professional abilities, but they need a mechanism to enable them to reach the right place at the right time.

Mr. Swayne

If such an emergency arose in the hon. Gentleman's constituency or, indeed, mine, the primary response would probably be made by firemen, who are effectively volunteers retained for precisely that purpose. The principle is acceptable and works now, so it is a mystery why it should not work in the scenario envisaged in the Bill.

Mr. Heath

The hon. Gentleman is right. Retained firefighters do a wonderful job in rural constituencies such as ours and I have long argued that we should have retained police officers to provide a presence in rural areas, but that is to depart from the purpose of this debate.

We have a reservoir of ability that we should be able to call on at short notice. The key is identifying before an emergency who those people are, how we can get hold of them, how they can be recruited to serve in an emergency and how they are to be organised. Those crucial elements are missing from the Bill and I hope that they will be included in the proposal of the hon. Member for Newark.

Mr. Forth

I remain to be convinced by the argument for a volunteer reserve despite the avalanche of consensus in our debate. I am worried when my hon. Friends come to the House to propose yet another bureaucracy or, dare I say, a quango, which is to be interposed between, on the one hand, the existing bodies described in the Bill and the amendments and, on the other, the excellent voluntary bodies that they rightly praised. I am not entirely sure, despite the advocacy of my hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Patrick Mercer), what added value the new organisation would provide, never mind its size, scope, scale, statutory powers and so on. New clause 1 is skeletal to say the least, and gives little or no indication of how the organisation would fit between existing statutory authorities and the voluntary sector. The proposition is therefore problematic.

6.15 pm

It would be much more valuable to explore the prospect of enhancing the role of existing bodies before we rush to create a new one. I often argue on a Friday, as you well know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because you do Fridays along with me, that we should enforce the existing law more effectively instead of rushing to introduce new laws. The new clause is a parallel case. Before we rush to create yet another body or organisation, however virtuous it might appear—the words "emergency volunteer reserve" give it a patina of respectability or desirability, but that is not enough—we are owed an explanation from my hon. Friend about how it will work. To be fair, he gave the example of a surgeon who wants to volunteer his expertise and experience to contribute to an emergency such as Hillsborough, which was deployed as an example by the Minister and which we all recall only too well. I immediately wondered where the surgeon would go to volunteer and to whom would he make himself known. Where would his skills be recorded, who would be the repository of that information, who would give him any additional training that he needed—although he would have surgical skills, he might need retraining or reorientation to deal with emergencies—and by whom would he be co-ordinated? My first thought was that he would want to sign up with the Red Cross or St. John Ambulance, and a woman volunteer might want to sign up with the WRVS or another organisation well versed in responding to such contingencies. The Territorials, local authorities or other bodies mentioned in the Bill may be in a good position to accept to such volunteers.

We should therefore pause before establishing the additional organisation for which my hon. Friend argued. I was worried when he used the words "overlap" and "interlock", because such terms do not satisfactorily explain the complex relationship between existing statutory bodies and the voluntary sector. He argued that the emergency volunteer reserve would be included in the Bill if his new clause is accepted, thus giving it a statutory footing.

Mr. Brazier

My right hon. Friend has gone to the heart of the matter, but does he not accept that certain skills, such as those needed to deal with chemical, nuclear and biological warfare, are not widespread in voluntary organisations? One option is to increase the Territorial Army to its previous size, but some people may want to make a lesser commitment and make themselves available only for such civil defence work. There is therefore a case for establishing a new, lower-cost body instead of expanding the Territorial Army, for which I have argued for many years.

Mr. Forth

I am disappointed that my hon. Friend has reached for that solution, as he could have pressed for an enhancement of the Territorials on the one hand or the fire services on the other. The other day, I heard someone on the radio arguing, albeit in the context of the regrettable reoccurrence of the firefighters' dispute, that we ought to consider making prevention and the sort of response detailed in the Bill a role for firefighters, now that the incidence of fires in society has happily decreased a great deal. Why are we therefore not looking at, for example, adjusting or enhancing the role of the fire services, perhaps introducing an additional service, volunteers and so on, to fit neatly with their organisational responsibility? The role of such volunteers would be not unlike that of retained firefighters in rural areas, who have already been mentioned.

In setting up the organisation proposed in the new clause, there is a danger that we will achieve confusion instead of co-ordination. As soon as we start to interpose new organisations between existing ones, unless we are extremely clever—frankly, I am not confident of our skills as bureaucrats—we risk causing more confusion because we are causing bodies to proliferate, even though we are giving them a comforting title and responsibilities for co-ordination and so on. The case for such organisations must therefore be made more fully before I am convinced that there is added value in my hon. Friend's new clause.

Helen Jackson

I have some sympathy with the drift of the right hon. Gentleman's argument. I should have thought that when an emergency occurred, very few people got up in the morning thinking, "Today is the day I will volunteer and do some extra work." The nature of emergencies is that volunteers come from wherever, whenever and in whatever form that particular emergency requires. It is crucial to keep that openness and flexibility in the arrangements for which local authorities or other bodies are responsible.

Mr. Forth

The hon. Lady makes a good point, which raises the question of whether the creation of the EVR would attract people more than St. John Ambulance, the Red Cross or any of the other organisations mentioned in the debate already do. I am not convinced that they would flock to the EVR, without having offered themselves to one of the other bodies.

The other consideration—I make no apology for returning to the issue—is the cost element, which again has been rather glossed over. Inevitably, if we set up a new body, it will involve some sort of cost. We already have the statutory organizations—the firefighters and so on—and the excellent voluntary organisations working as they do. The EVR is to be created and interposed somewhere between them. It is not clear to me how that would be funded or whether we are in danger of diverting resources that might otherwise be focused on those other organisations. Those resources might be siphoned off to deal with the bureaucracy that would accompany the setting up of a new body.

All in all, I am somewhat sceptical about the approach. I can see what my hon. Friend the Member for Newark was trying to do, but I am far from being convinced that the new clause would deliver what is intended. I would rather look to an enhancement of the statutory bodies or to the volunteers to do more.

I was slightly disappointed by the letter that was read out by my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Djanogly). Voluntary bodies seem to think that they are unloved and neglected unless they are mentioned in a Bill or an Act. That strikes me as odd. I should have thought that the Red Cross, of all bodies, had sufficient history, standing, respect and pride that the contribution it made was reward enough. If we have reached the stage where such bodies do not feel that they are sufficiently valued unless they are mentioned in an Act, that is somewhat disappointing. I find that the least convincing argument for writing additional words into the Bill.

Mr. Brazier

My right hon. Friend has been generous in giving way. There may be a misunderstanding. The voluntary organisations are not seeking a mention of their own names in the Bill. They are concerned that there should be a statutory duty written into the Bill to consult them when the plans are drawn up. If they are to react effectively and be a full part of the process, it is essential that they should be consulted when the plans are being devised.

Mr. Forth

That may well be an argument to support some of the amendments, but it is no part of the argument that I have been making so far. We in this place reach rather readily for mandatory consultation, and I believe that the word "consultation" has been more than a little devalued over the past few years, the more examples of it I see. The Post Office is currently consulting on the simultaneous closure of five post offices in my constituency. I do not have any great faith in that process and I doubt very much whether it will alter the outcome one bit.

Mr. Swayne

My right hon. Friend evidently has little faith in the ability of the state to deliver on many of its functions. Would it therefore not be agreeable to him to include the voluntary sector much more in deliberations such as we are discussing, precisely because it is rather better at many of those roles than the state turns out to be?

Mr. Forth

What my hon. Friend says is true. The chemistry, so to speak, is extremely important. How far we are able to reflect that or enhance it in a Bill is another matter. I fear that setting up an EVR, which is the purpose of new clause 1, would not go very far in that direction, to put it mildly.

Mr. Bercow

My right hon. Friend is demonstrating once again that, by comparison with him, Victor Meldrew is the epitome of optimism at all times. My right hon. Friend was generally clear in the thrust of his argument, but I am a little perplexed, as was my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne), I think, by my right hon. Friend's reference to the desirability of an enhancement of the existing statutory bodies. If that is his position, does it not clash somewhat with his general scepticism about the ability of the state to organise anything?

Mr. Forth

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind words. I was reflecting what I understand to be in the provisions of schedule 1. We have already had this debate and I would not want to return to it—at least, not at this stage. I will return to it at the slightest provocation on some other occasion. In that little aside I was trying to reflect the fact that we are already laying additional responsibilities upon the local authorities and other bodies, so we could look in that direction rather than setting up yet another new organisation, which could cloud the relationships and the responsibilities of both the statutory and voluntary sectors.

In short, we must hear quite a bit more from my hon. Friend the Member for Newark about exactly how the EVR would add value to the exercise that we are contemplating before I would be prepared to give it my support.

Mr. Mike Hancock (Portsmouth, South) (LD)

If they were honest, many hon. Member would have more than a little sympathy with the views of the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth). Somebody had to put the other side of the argument and to challenge us to define what we want to happen.

The hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Djanogly) described the situation in Spain after the Madrid bombings. The difference is that in a country the size of Spain, the Red Cross is but one of three organisations that would claim to have such expertise. The authorities in Spain learned more than 20 years ago that they had to break down the plethora of organisations into designated, co-ordinated groups that could respond to certain dilemmas faced by the civil community.

The right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst is right to say that if we accept the proposition tonight, which I hope we do, we have a responsibility to resource it properly, to ensure co-ordination and to ensure that we can cope with the disappointment factor. We have so many groups in this country that are actively engaged in responding to emergencies that some will be disappointed, because they cannot all be at the table as consultees. They will not all be part of the new system. We need expertise—groups that can come to the table already trained, with the knowledge of how to deliver what is required. Sometimes they will be told, "Sorry, your expertise is not needed on this occasion."

The hon. Member for Newark (Patrick Mercer) will remember the early days on the Defence Committee when we discussed the matter. One of the issues that was raised time and again was the dilemma that the voluntary sector faced: when such organisations should come in, when they would be invited in and who would make that decision. Who would ensure that the communications were in place and co-ordinate the register not only of the well intentioned, but of the well informed and well trained who had the expertise that was needed?

I have been involved in two major disaster areas in the past 25 years. On both occasions, I was amazed by the number of different United Kingdom groups that turned up. In one instance, they came a third of the way around the world. Some of them arrived when the operation to save the living was past all reasonable possibility of success—yet they still came, and no one in this country was prepared to tell them not to do so; it was really sad.

6.30 pm
Mr. Djanogly

The hon. Gentleman seems to be making a good case for better co-ordination of the voluntary groups. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), he seemed to imply that including the groups in the Bill would add to the confusion. The groups are asking not for personal aggrandisement or to have their names included in the Bill, but for a more co-ordinated approach. That is what the amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Patrick Mercer) will provide.

Mr. Hancock

I agree entirely, and that is what I was trying to say. The right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst was challenging the House to recognise that if we accept the amendments, as I hope we will, we must ensure that the arrangements are properly resourced. It is not a question only of including the bodies as consultees; if we are to make use of them, we must give them the right equipment to allow proper communication and to ensure that they are properly protected. We must ensure that training is renewed and that people's expertise is not based on knowledge gained a decade or more ago. It is necessary to be a bit more sophisticated, and I had hoped that that was what we were trying to achieve.

The challenge to the House and to the Government is clear: if the Government choose not to accept the amendments, what are they going to do about managing the obvious expertise that is out there in the wider community? How will we marshal that expertise? I believe that, at the end of the day, the Government's reluctance to agree to the proposals is more about the resources that would be needed than about the merit of the case for bringing in the organisations in the first place.

Mr. Swayne

I wish to use an analogy that might ring true for many hon. Members who are present: we are all members of voluntary organisations in that we are members of political parties. I am sure that many hon. Members will share my experience of the anger and frustration that can arise on our part and that of volunteers when the latter have indicated that they were willing and eager to carry out functions such as knocking people up on election day or delivering leaflets—such jobs might be highly relevant at the moment with local elections in the offing—but, because of the nature of the voluntary organisations in which we operate, no one co-ordinated them when there was a desperate need for the service that they offered. In such circumstances, there can be anger on both sides.

Although the activities that we are discussing might involve voluntary action, they must be performed thoroughly professionally. We cannot possibly have a standard of delivery that falls short of that level or approaches anything like the functioning of a political party as hon. Members have experienced it—hence the strength of the amendments and the new clause, which take the huge contribution and professional services of the voluntary sector and seek to include them in the consultation and planning phase.

I pointed out in an intervention that we take such an approach as a matter of course in relation to the delivery of international aid. The NGOs and organisations such as the Red Cross are included in the planning of the delivery of aid in all sorts of disaster situations. That is part of the basic consultation and planning process. While we are prepared to take that approach in the delivery of international aid for disasters, I suggest that, given the expertise that is available to us, we should do the same as a matter of course with regard to the delivery of relief for contingencies. That seems perfectly sensible, and I look to the Minister to come up with a plausible argument as to why we should not take such an approach, given that we do so in international affairs.

The House will recall that, when the additional chapter was delivered to the defence review—it was published before 11 September and did not, by the Government's own estimate, deal adequately with the question of asymmetric threats—its big idea was the civil contingencies reaction force, but the reality is that it exists on paper only. It simply is not adequate for the task. Even if it had been established as was proposed, the amendments of my hon. Friend the Member for Newark would have been necessary but, in its absence, they are even more so.

Ms Blears

We have had a wide—ranging, interesting, constructive and challenging debate about very important issues concerning the role of the voluntary sector and about whether it should have a statutory presence in the Bill in terms of consultation, and about the slightly separate but related issue of creating an emergency volunteer force. The matters are interrelated, but each has distinct issues around it.

I am sorry to say to hon. Members that the Government cannot accept the amendments. None the less, they raise some interesting questions about the role of the voluntary sector in contingency planning and its position in the Bill. It is worth setting out the Government's position in some detail, as hon. Members have asked me to do, and trying to provide some reassurance about how the central role of the voluntary sector can be encapsulated in the Bill as it stands, taken with the guidance that we propose to develop over coming months—something that, as we have already indicated, we will do in full consultation with all the parties involved, including the range of voluntary organisations that have been mentioned, as well as those that have not been mentioned. It is clear that there are many more voluntary organisations than have been named in the debate.

The Government particularly encourage membership of voluntary organisations and their engagement with key responding organisations. I think that it was my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Helen Jackson) who said that this Government have a proud record of involving the voluntary sector not only in this area, but in a range of public service delivery contexts. I think that that is one of the significant differences about this Administration: we have not been afraid to say that the voluntary sector—the third sector or not-for—profit sector—should have an increasingly important role in the delivery of mainstream services. That position has not always been popular across all organisations, but it is a key issue for the Government, whose support for the voluntary sector is certainly acknowledged.

Mr. Helen Jackson

That was indeed the point that I made. Given those views, how will my hon. Friend mitigate the considerable disappointment and puzzlement felt by parts of the voluntary sector about the idea that they might not be brought into the planning as fully as they want? Is she prepared to have further meetings with them to mitigate that disappointment?

Ms Blears

I hope that my hon. Friend, as well as the voluntary organisations, will not be disappointed when they have heard all that I have to say today. I do not think that not naming those organisations in the Bill for one moment works against their importance and centrality in terms of planning or the delivery and support mechanisms that they provide. I have no doubt that there will be further meetings, discussions and negotiations as we develop the guidance that will supplement and underpin the Bill.

The work that is undertaken by voluntary agencies is crucial. It may, for example, include supporting the local ambulance service by providing first aid at casualty clearing stations and first aid posts. Voluntary aid societies also give valuable support to local authorities and the police by befriending and offering information to people in rest and reception centres following an incident. I pay tribute to the well-known and long-standing contribution that voluntary organisations have made to the effective response to civil emergencies. One need only think back to the response to the Potter's Bar and Ladbroke Grove rail crashes to appreciate what a valuable contribution volunteers can make to emergency response. The hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Djanogly) mentioned the recent accident in Glasgow and the incident in Morecambe bay and highlighted the contribution that volunteers were able to make in those very distressing circumstances.

I am surprised that no hon. Member has mentioned this document that I have laid my hands on, which is entitled "Dealing with Disaster". It is in its revised third edition and is the seminal work on the relationship between the authorities and local responders, including civil protection, at a local level. I refer hon. Members to chapter 6, which, as I was heartened, although not surprised, to see, covers in great depth the role of the voluntary sector in relation to a whole range of issues—not simply acting in a supportive, befriending role once an event has happened, but planning at the outset and being involved in all the aspects that the statutory agencies will consider. As the document acknowledges right at the beginning, Major emergencies can overstretch the resources of the emergency services and local authorities. The value of additional support from the voluntary sector has been demonstrated on many occasions, and chapter 6 deals with the planning principles involved.

Mr. Brazier

Will the Minister explain why she objects to amendments suggesting that there should be a statutory duty to consult them? Will she also say from where, within the existing set-up, the Government expect to get, in a hurry, expertise in the nuclear, biological and chemical spheres if the incident does not happen to occur close to a regular Army base?

Ms Blears

If the hon. Gentleman will have a little patience, I will come to why the duty to consult should not be in the Bill. The voluntary sector is so diverse that it would be invidious to try to single out particular organisations for involvement, and there are practicalities involved in where to find the people who are able to help us in the dreadful circumstances that the hon. Gentleman describes.

I am genuinely surprised that no other hon. Member referred to "Dealing with Disaster", which provides pretty extensive guidance.

Mr. Djanogly


Mr. Hancock


Ms Blears

I shall give way in a moment.

I have already given our commitment to build on that guidance to ensure that we continue to embed the voluntary sector in the heart of our civil contingency planning.

Mr. Hancock

As the Minister says, that document spells it all out. She did not say, however, that it also acknowledges that despite the existence of all these different groups and responsibilities, there are two problems: first, the lack of anyone with sufficient knowledge of the co-ordinated approach; and, secondly, how one readily brings all those people together when they are needed. That is the failure that we are trying to address and which is expressed in the document.

Ms Blears

I do not accept that there is a failure of co-ordination, but I do accept that we need to improve our response in this changing world in which we live, where the threat is becoming much more serious than ever before. I certainly would not want to caricature as a failure the response of many good and able voluntary organisations, together with the statutory services. It would be wrong to talk down our services in that way, and I pay tribute to them for the contribution that they make.

Mr. Djanogly

The Minister has referred extensively to a document that no hon. Members appear to have seen or heard about, and which none of the voluntary organisations referred to in their written submissions. Perhaps it should be disseminated a bit more widely.

6.45 pm
Ms Blears

I was made aware of "Dealing with Disaster", although I did not have the advantage of serving on the Committee. I am sure that other hon. Members have a much deeper and wider knowledge than I do of the seminal nature of that document, which is, I am sure, available from the Library. Indeed, it is a Cabinet Office publication, so I am sure that the hon. Gentleman could get access to it.

Patrick Mercer

Chapter 6 is familiar to me, as is the whole document. I am intrigued, though, by what the Minister is saying about the integration between the voluntary sector and, for want of a better phrase, the blue light services. I am heartened by her remarks. As she, more than anyone, will be familiar with the new threats that are evolving, will she be kind enough to outline the Government's plans to equip the voluntary organisations with personal protection equipment?

Ms Blears

If the hon. Gentleman will have a little patience, I will deal with the practical measures that we intend to take, as well as the legislative measures.

I should emphasise that voluntary sector liaison groups will be involved at the local level through the local resilience forums that are envisaged in the Bill. Local authorities already do a significant amount of work in training volunteers for their roles in emergencies and involving them in multi-agency exercises. The document highlights the need for joint training, joint exercises and joint involvement at every stage. Certainly, the voluntary sector is being involved to a very great extent in areas that have been visited by officials in recent months.

There is nothing in the Bill that prevents voluntary organisations from remaining fully engaged, and we will continue to encourage local responders to engage the voluntary sector wholeheartedly in local multi-agency planning and response through the guidance that supports the Bill. We will use that guidance to turn that vision into a reality.

Amendment No. 11 would impose a duty on category 1 responders such as emergency services and local authorities to consult voluntary organisations in the performance of their duties under the Bill, while leaving the manner and extent to which they are consulted as a matter for their own judgment. Under amendment No. 20, the identification of voluntary sector organisations would be a matter for the individual responder. Of course, I agree that, where appropriate, statutory responders should consult and involve voluntary sector partners to the fullest extent in the planning phase. Statutory responders accept that and are already so engaged. It is difficult to see what the amendment would add to this approach. It is of doubtful merit to impose a legal obligation on responders to consult the voluntary sector if the responder itself decides who must be consulted, the extent of the consultation, and the manner in which the consultation takes place. Moreover, I wonder how such a duty would be monitored and enforced. A legal duty that says to the person upon whom it is imposed that it is for them to choose whom to consult, when, how and to what extent is very fragile, and I cannot see what it adds to our current position.

Helen Jackson

I suppose that what hon. Members want to hear is that the proposals that may come out of the guidance, together with the Bill, will recognise in a new and more significant way the role of voluntary organisations across the board. Does my hon. Friend think that including the voluntary organisations in the guidance notes will strengthen their role? They have yet to be convinced of that.

Ms Blears

I hope that I can convince them. I accept the spirit of my hon. Friend's amendments and I believe that it is shared. Although I am loth to praise the hon. Member for Huntingdon, he said that he wanted the nation's full contribution, not only that of the state, to be brought to bear, and that sums up our attitude in general. For civil contingencies, we are considering not simply statutory organisations but civil society. Renewal of civil society is the passion of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, and the golden thread that runs through many Government policies. I emphasise to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough that a legal duty is currently unnecessary because the guidance will help to put the voluntary sector much more at the heart of our planning proposals. I hope that she will realise that.

Amendments Nos. 12 to 15 and 17 would enable regulations made under the Bill to require category 1 responders to collaborate with the voluntary sector, delegate functions for which the measure provides to the sector, or have regard to or adopt the work carried out by it. Clause 2(5)(d) already permits such regulations to be made and the amendments would therefore have no practical effect. Amendments could be tabled—I do not want to mislead the House—because we do not yet propose to use the regulation-making powers in that way, but they exist, should their use become necessary. The amendments that we are considering are unnecessary to grant us that legal power.

Amendment No. 16 would enable a Minister of the Crown to require a category 1 responder to share information with a voluntary or humanitarian organisation. The Bill currently enables a Minister to require provision of information only between responders, not to voluntary organisations. Although I acknowledge the need for category 1 responders to share information with voluntary organisations when they are engaged in the planning process, it is not necessary to make provisions that require them to do that.

The voluntary sector plays a supporting role in emergency planning and response. It is inconceivable that, when a statutory responder chooses to make use of the resources and expertise of a voluntary organisation in its planning work, the information required to fulfil its role would not be provided. I cannot imagine for one moment that, if a local authority asked the WRVS to take care of people at an emergency reception centre, for example, the local authority would not give the organisation details of the location of the centre. Providing such details would involve the voluntary organisation in the planning at an early stage.

Mr. Brazier

I wonder whether the Minister has thought about her comments. Does she genuinely believe that, throughout the country, bureaucracies will get it right every time? Will they always anticipate whom they may need in crises, consult each of them and include them in their plans? Surely it is a good idea to tell authorities that they must release the information, not least because many organisations may be able to contribute in ways about which local authorities do not know.

Ms Blears

We could hold an interesting debate on bureaucracy, especially in the light of the comments of the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth). I am trying to find the best way in which to achieve the result that we all want: good, well prepared, effective plans that can be implemented quickly without necessarily tying up organisations in a plethora of regulations that militate against our being able to act promptly and to a high and professional standard.

Amendments Nos. 18, 19, 76 and 77 would extend the duty on local authorities to provide business continuity advice to community organisations. Clause 4 tries to minimise the economic impact of an emergency and its focus is therefore on commercial activities. That does not mean that local authorities could not extend, if they wished, their business continuity advice to the voluntary and not-for-profit sectors. However, the provision is aimed at keeping the economy moving in the event of an emergency. It is therefore inappropriate to accept those amendments.

I want to consider new clause 1, which would establish an emergency volunteer reserve. I have spoken at length about the outstanding contribution that volunteers throughout the country make to contingency planning and response work. We must consider the arguments of the hon. Member for Newark (Patrick Mercer) in favour of some form of voluntary reserve force in that context and try to balance the benefits and the costs. Such a force would not be cost-free, and I share some of the concerns that the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst expressed.

Existing voluntary organisations already employ a permanent cadre of staff and have permanent structures and an infrastructure. For example, I understand that the British Red Cross employs 3,000 permanent staff to facilitate its volunteers' work. Setting up a new emergency volunteer force could prove costly. There could also be other costs. Long-standing, tried and tested voluntary organisations could be undermined. Organisations such as the Red Cross, the WRVS, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, volunteer medical staff or retained firefighters, with proven track records, are already embedded in existing planning frameworks. I was therefore intrigued by the debate between the hon. Members for Newark, for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Allan) and for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath), who was trying to tease out what "overlap" and "integrate" meant. They discussed whether the provision would establish a new force or strengthen existing forces. We did not get to the bottom of that.

Setting up a new force would be burdensome and bureaucratic and could undermine existing voluntary organisations. I agree with all hon. Members who said that people in this country rally round in an emergency and want to make a contribution. Our task as a Government is to make it as easy as we can for people who have the skills and want to volunteer to get involved, use their talents and make their contribution, without necessarily establishing a new organisation in the way that the hon. Member for Newark suggests.

Mr. Hancock

Will the Minister give way?

Ms Blears

Let me first deal with a point that I believe the hon. Gentleman made.

Several hon. Members referred to the role of the Red Cross in the aftermath of the terrible events in Madrid. We should be a little wary; voluntary organisations in other countries sometimes have a different role because of the way in which those countries' public services have developed over many decades. I understand that the Red Cross in Spain is a mainstream organisation with facilities such as blood banks, ambulances and the ability to respond. That is slightly different from some of the voluntary organisations in this country.

We should not for one moment undermine the ability of our statutory services to respond to emergencies. I hope that not one hon. Member—certainly not the hon. Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne)—suggests that the ambulance service, the fire service, the police service or any of our blue-light services are not up to the job. They do a fantastic job in responding to emergencies and they have well established procedures and agreements for mutual aid, for example, to draw in ambulance services and the police service from neighbouring areas. I was worried when the hon. Member for New Forest, West appeared to imply that the statutory services were not in a position to provide an excellent service. I hope that he did not have that in mind.

Mr. Swayne

I am sure that when the Minister consults theOfficial Report tomorrow she will find nothing in my remarks to lead to the inference that she has drawn. Will she outline the capability of the ambulance service and the fire service specifically to deal with nuclear, biological and chemical incidents?

Ms Blears

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows that the fire service has received an extra £56 million for the new dimension project for its new vehicles. I believe that 5 per cent. of the police service have been trained to respond in the circumstances to which the hon. Gentleman referred. We recently doubled the number of gas-tight suits for the emergency services. The hon. Gentleman knows that we continuously increase the preparedness of those organisations.

I want to speak briefly about the civil contingency reaction forces—CCRFs—because much has been made of whether they could assist in an emergency. I know that the hon. Member for Newark has been concerned about that. Allegations have been made that many are deployed overseas and are therefore not in a position to respond. The CCRFs were up and running and fully mobilised by 31 December. I understand that there are 14 reaction forces, with 500 members each—approximately 7,000 people. I am told that 850 members are currently mobilised overseas or on active service in the UK. We are therefore considering a relatively small minority of those forces. I am also told that some of the CCRFs have a pool of reservists bigger than 500 members because they realise that operational and deployment capabilities might reduce them. The 51 (Scottish) Brigade uses an opt-out method. It says that everyone is in the CCRF unless they do not wish to be. Consequently, the pool of reserves is much higher.

It has 670 and 690 personnel available to serve in each unit; the fact that 78 are currently deployed on operations therefore has little impact. am glad to be able to reassure the House that the CCRF will be able to carry out that work for us.

The points raised by hon. Members today have illustrated their real commitment to ensuring that we involve the voluntary sector in our work, and I am happy to give them an assurance that we shall do so. I very much appreciate the spirit in which my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough tabled her amendments, but I really cannot support their inclusion in the Bill.

7 pm

Mr. Hancock

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way; she is being very good humoured. I am sure that all hon. Members will be interested to read her speech tomorrow because, like many others, I am slightly bemused by how the Government are going to co-ordinate the voluntary sector. During the very long reply that she has given this evening, she has not once mentioned how that is to happen. The House is entitled to an explanation if she is going to urge us to vote against the amendments.

Ms Blears

The amendments before us propose incorporating a duty to consult the voluntary sector. I have explained that that would be invidious, as the voluntary sector is a diverse area of 141,000 different charities, in which 69 per cent. of the activity involves only fundraising. Furthermore, in social services and education, voluntary activity is not necessarily focused on civil protection. It would therefore be inappropriate to include such a requirement in the Bill. New clause 1 proposes the creation of an emergency volunteer force, and I hope that I have explained why that would be a bureaucratic, extra imposition that would lead to a lack of clarity and consistency, rather than building on the capabilities of the voluntary organisations that we have already.

In response to the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock), I have made it clear that, in the preparation of the guidance that will form an essential part of the overarching framework of our civil protection, we will ensure that the voluntary sector takes on a central role, because we recognise that the people of this country want to make a contribution to looking after others and protecting the safety of our nation. I therefore ask hon. Members not to press the new clause to a vote.

Patrick Mercer

I am extremely interested to hear the Minister's summing up of the various arguments that have been put forward, and extremely disappointed to hear the Government's reaction to the amendments, whose provisions are sensible, practical and cheap. On 11 September 2001, one reason why the authorities were able to react so quickly and effectively to those unprecedented incidents was that there were widespread reserves of policemen, ambulance men, firemen and national guardsmen. One of the reasons why things were not worse in Madrid was that Spain had learned the lesson, over the previous couple of years, that additional manpower was necessary to deal with such events. Similarly, following the Bali bomb, Australia has raised a complete new force of people who will help its equivalent of the blue-light services to make headway in such situations.

With one or two exceptions, everyone who has spoken tonight recognises the need for the Government to be able to exercise and physically implement the plans that they are putting forward. The fact remains, however, that not one additional man or woman has been added to the Government's inventory to help in circumstances that will, frankly, be unprecedented.

Mr. Swayne

Does my hon. Friend share my dismay at the Minister's attempt to reassure us about the civil contingencies reaction forces? The example that she gave of 51 (Scottish) Brigade merely reinforced the fact that the numbers involved are purely notional, because anyone who happens to be a member is counted as being available, although in reality that capacity exists only on paper.

Patrick Mercer

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention. I am sure that he will have heard that the motto for the civil contingencies reaction forces is "Overstretched and Overseas". The Minister would do well to ponder that not one extra person has been added to the Government's inventory to fight in such circumstances. I am particularly interested to note that she did not answer my question on why, if the voluntary sector was being further and further integrated in order to work with the blue-light services, as she claimed, no personal protection equipment had been introduced. The fact remains that this is utterly unsatisfactory. I cannot accept what the Government say, and shall seek to divide the House.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 141, Noes 283.

Division No. 183] [7:05 pm
Ainsworth, Peter(E Surrey) Bottomley, Peter(Worthing W)
Allan, Richard Brady, Graham
Amess, David Brazier, Julian
Arbuthnot, rh James Breed, Colin
Atkinson, Peter(Hexham) Brooke, Mrs Annette L.
Baldry, Tony Browning, Mrs Angela
Barker, Gregory Bruce, Malcolm
Baron, John(Billericay) Burnside, David
Barrett, John Chapman, Sir Sydney(Chipping Barnet)
Beith, rh A. J.
Bellingham, Henry Chidgey, David
Bercow, John Chope, Christopher
Beresford, Sir Paul Clarke, rh Kenneth(Rushcliffe)
Blunt, Crispin Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Boswell, Tim Collins, Tim
Conway, Derek Moss, Malcolm
Cormack, Sir Patrick Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Cran, James(Beverley) Oaten, Mark(Winchester)
Curry, rh David O'Brien, Stephen(Eddisbury)
Davey, Edward(Kingston) Öpik, Lembit
Djanogly, Jonathan Osborne, George(Tatton)
Evans, Nigel Ottaway, Richard
Ewing, Annabelle Page, Richard
Fabricant, Michael Randall, John
Fallon, Michael Redwood, rh John
Flight, Howard Rendel, David
Flook, Adrian Robathan, Andrew
Foster, Don(Bath) Robertson, Laurence(Tewk'b'ry)
Gale, Roger(N Thanet) Ruffley, David
Garnier, Edward Russell, Bob(Colchester)
Gibb, Nick(Bognor Regis) Sanders, Adrian
Gidley, Sandra Sayeed, Jonathan
Goodman, Paul Shephard, rh Mrs Gillian
Gray, James(N Wilts) Shepherd, Richard
Grayling, Chris Simmonds, Mark
Green, Damian(Ashford) Simpson, Keith(M-Norfolk)
Grieve, Dominic Smyth, Rev. Martin(Belfast S)
Gummer, rh John Soames, Nicholas
Hammond, Philip Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Hancock, Mike Spicer, Sir Michael
Hawkins, Nick Spink, Bob(Castle Point)
Hayes, John(S Holland) Spring, Richard
Heald, Oliver Stanley, rh Sir John
Heath, David Steen, Anthony
Heathcoat-Amory, rh David Streeter, Gary
Hendry, Charles Stunell, Andrew
Hoban, Mark(Fareham) Swayne, Desmond
Hogg, rh Douglas Swire, Hugo(E Devon)
Holmes, Paul Syms, Robert
Howard, rh Michael Taylor, Ian(Esher)
Howarth, Gerald(Aldershot) Taylor, John(Solihull)
Jackson, Robert(Wastage) Taylor, Matthew(Truro)
Johnson, Boris(Henley) Taylor, Sir Teddy
Key, Robert(Salisbury) Tonge, Dr. Jenny
Kirkbride, Miss Julie Tredinnick, David
Kirkwood, Sir Archy Turner, Andrew(Isle of Wight)
Knight, rh Greg(E Yorkshire) Tyrie, Andrew
Leigh, Edward Viggers, Peter
Letwin, rh Oliver Webb, Steve(Northavon)
Lewis, Dr. Julian(New Forest E) Weir, Michael
Liddell-Grainger, Ian Whittingdale, John
Llwyd, Elfyn Wiggin, Bill
Luff, Peter(M-Worcs) Williams, Roger(Brecon)
McIntosh, Miss Anne Willis, Phil
Mackay, rh Andrew Wilshire, David
Maclean, rh David Winterton, Ann(Congleton)
McLoughlin, Patrick Winterton, Sir Nicholas(Macclesfield)
Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John Wishart, Pete
Mawhinney, rh Sir Brian Young, rh Sir George
Mercer, Patrick
Mitchell, Andrew(Sutton Coldfield) Tellers for the Ayes:
Hugh Robertson and
Moore, Michael Mr. Mark Francois
Abbott, Ms Diane Bell, Sir Stuart
Adams, Irene(Paisley N) Bennett, Andrew
Ainsworth, Bob(Cov'try NE) Betts, Clive
Allen, Graham Blackman, Liz
Anderson, rh Donald(Swansea E) Blears, Ms Hazel
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary Bradley, rh Keith(Withington)
Atherton, Ms Candy Bradley, Peter(The Wrekin)
Atkins, Charlotte Brennan, Kevin
Austin, John Brown, rh Nicholas(Newcastle E Wallsend)
Bailey, Adrian
Banks, Tony Brown, Russell(Dumfries)
Barnes, Harry Browne, Desmond
Barron, rh Kevin Buck, Ms Karen
Battle, John Burden, Richard
Beard, Nigel Burgon, Colin
Cairns, David Henderson, Ivan(Harwich)
Campbell, Alan(Tynemouth) Hendrick, Mark
Campbell, Mrs Anne(C'bridge) Hepburn, Stephen
Caplin, Ivor Heppell, John
Casale, Roger Heyes, David
Cawsey, Ian(Brigg) Hill, Keith(Streatham)
Challen, Colin Hodge, Margaret
Chaytor, David Hope, Phil(Corby)
Clapham, Michael Hopkins, Kelvin
Clark, Dr. Lynda(Edinburgh Pentlands) Howarth, rh Alan(Newport E)
Howarth, George(Knowsley N & Sefton E)
Clark, Paul(Gillingham)
Clarke, rh Tom(Coatbridge & Chryston) Howells, Dr. Kim
Hughes, Beverley(Stretford & Urmston)
Clarke, Tony(Northampton S)
Clelland, David Hughes, Kevin(Doncaster N)
Clwyd, Ann(Cynon V) Humble, Mrs Joan
Coaker, Vernon Hurst Alan(Braintree)
Coffey, Ms Ann Hutton, rh John
Connarty, Michael Iddon, Dr. Brian
Cook, rh Robin(Livingston) Illsley, Eric
Corbyn, Jeremy Ingram, rh Adam
Corston, rh Jean Irrance - Davies, Huw
Cruddas, Jon Jackson, Glenda(Hampstead & Highgate)
Cryer, Ann(Keighley)
Cryer, John(Hornchurch) Jackson, Helen(Hillsborough)
Cummings, John Jamieson, David
Cunningham, Jim(Coventry S) Johnson, Alan(Hull W)
Cunningham, Tony(Workington) Johnson, Miss Melanie(Welwyn Hatfield)
Dalyell, Tam
Davey, Valerie(Bristol W) Jones, Helen(Warrington N)
Davidson, Ian Jones, Kevan(N Durham)
Davies, rh Denzil(Llanelli) Jones, Martyn(Clwyd S)
Dawson, Hilton Jowell, rh Tessa
Dean, Mrs Janet Joyce, Eric(Falkirk W)
Denham, rh John Kaufman, rh Gerald
Dhanda, Parmjit Keeble Ms Sally
Dobson, rh Frank Keen, Alan(Feltham)
Donohoe, Brian H. Kemp, Fraser
Doran, Frank Kennedy, Jane(Wavertree)
Dowd, Jim(Lewisham W) Khabra, Piara S.
Drew, David(Stroud) Kidney, David
Eagle, Angela(Wallasey) Kilfoyle, Peter
Eagle, Maria(L'pool Garston) King, Andy(Rugby)
Edwards, Huw Knight, Jim(S Dorset)
Efford, Clive Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ellman, Mrs Louise Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Ennis, Jeff(Barnsley E) Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Etherington, Bill Laxton, Bob(Derby N)
Farrelly, Paul Lepper, David
Field, rh Frank(Birkenhead) Leslie, Christopher
Fisher, Mark Levitt, Tom(High Peak)
Fitzpatrick, Jim Lewis, Terry(Worsley)
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna Liddell, rh Mrs Helen
Flint Caroline Linton, Martin
Flynn, Paul(Newport W) Love, Andrew
Foster, rh Derek Lucas, Ian(Wrexham)
Foster, Michael(Worcester) Luke, lain(Dundee E)
Foster, Michael Jabez(Hastings & Rye) Lyons, John(Strathkelvin)
McAvoy, rh Thomas
Francis, Dr. Hywel McCabe, Stephen
Gapes, Mike(Ilford S) McCafferty, Chris
Gerrard, Neil MacDonald, Calum
Gibson, Dr. Ian McDonnell, John
Griffiths, Jane(Reading E) MacDougall, John
Griffiths, Win(Bridgend) McFall, John
Grogan, John McGuire, Mrs Anne
Hain, rh Peter Mclsaac, Shona
Hall, Mike(Weaver Vale) McKechin, Ann
Hall, Patrick(Bedford) Mackinlay, Andrew
Hamilton, David(Midlothian) McNamara, Kevin
Hamilton, Fabian(Leeds NE) McNulty, Tony
Hanson, David Mactaggart, Fiona
Havard, Dai(Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney) McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Healey, John Mahmood, Khalid
Mahon, Mrs Alice Shipley, Ms Debra
Mann, John(Bassetlaw) Short, rh Clare
Marris, Rob(Wolverh'ton SW) Simon, Siôn(B'ham Erdington)
Marsden, Gordon(Blackpool S) Singh, Marsha
Marshall, David(Glasgow Shettleston) Skinner, Dennis
Smith, rh Chris(Islington S & Finsbury)
Marshall, Jim(Leicester S)
Martlew, Eric Smith, Geraldine(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun Smith, Jacqui(Redditch)
Milburn, rh Alan Smith, John(Glamorgan)
Miliband, David Squire, Rachel
Miller, Andrew Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Moffatt, Laura Steinberg, Gerry
Mole, Chris Stevenson, George
Moonie, Dr. Lewis Stewart, David(Inverness E & Lochaber)
Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Denis(Wansbeck) Stewart, Ian(Eccles)
Murphy, Jim(Eastwood) Stinchcombe, Paul
Naysmith, Dr. Doug Stoate, Dr. Howard
O'Brien, Bill(Normanton) Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
O'Brien, Mike(N Warks) Stringer, Graham
O'Hara, Edward Stuart, Ms Gisela
Olner, Bill Tami, Mark(Alyn)
O'Neill, Martin Taylor, rh Ann(Dewsbury)
Organ, Diana Taylor, Dan(Stockton S)
Owen, Albert Taylor, David(NW Leics)
Palmer, Dr. Nick Thomas, Gareth(Harrow W)
Perham, Linda Timms, Stephen
Pickthall, Colin Tipping, Paddy
Pike, Peter(Burnley) Todd, Mark(S Derbyshire)
Plaskitt, James Trickett, Jon
Pope, Greg(Hyndburn) Turner, Dennis(Wolverh'ton SE)
Pound, Stephen Turner, Dr. Desmond(Brighton Kemptown)
Prentice, Ms Bridget(Lewisham E) Turner, Neil(Wigan)
Twigg, Derek(Halton)
Prentice, Gordon(Pendle) Vaz, Keith(Leicester E)
Prescott, rh John Vis, Dr. Rudi
Primarolo, rh Dawn Walley, Ms Joan
Prosser, Gwyn Ward, Claire
Purchase, Ken Wareing, Robert N.
Purnell, James Watson, Tom(W Bromwich E)
Quin, rh Joyce Watts, David
Quinn, Lawrie White, Brian
Rammell, Bill Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Rapson, Syd(Portsmouth N) Williams, rh Alan(Swansea W)
Raynsford, rh Nick Wills, Michael
Reed, Andy(Loughborough) Winnick, David
Roche, Mrs Barbara Winterton, Ms Rosie(Doncaster C)
Roy, Frank(Motherwell)
Ruane, Chris Woodward, Shaun
Ruddock, Joan Woolas, Phil
Russell, Ms Christine(City of Chester) Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D.(Gt Yarmouth)
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mohammad Wright, David(Telford)
Sawford, Phil Wyatt Derek
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan Tellers for the Noes:
Sheerman, Barry Joan Ryan and
Sheridan, Jim Mr. Nick Ainger

Question accordingly negatived.

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