HC Deb 04 November 2002 vol 392 cc46-7W
Mr. Heath

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what information he has received from the Chief Fire Officer of Somerset on his assessment of the adequacy of fire cover in areas of the Somerton and Frome constituency during a firefighters' strike. [77111]

Mr. Raynsford

The Chief Fire Officer of Somerset Fire Brigade sent a short e-mail to officials at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister on 20 September, in which he expressed the view that strike action at two retained stations in Somerset would potentially leave a significant number of road traffic accidents uncovered.

Emergency cover in Somerset, as for the rest of the country, will consist of a number of elements including Green Goddesses, breathing apparatus teams (BARTs), a rescue team equipped with specialist equipment (REST) and the police. The BARTs and RESTs carry basic cutting and other rescue equipment, and have been trained to respond to road traffic accidents.

The provision of MOD emergency cover has been planned in consultation with Chief Fire Officers to maximise the effectiveness of call-outs and the availability of a range of firefighting capabilities. The MOD's emergency cover will not replicate the firefighting capabilities of the Fire Service, but will aim to minimise the danger to human life.

Retained firefighters provide a very valuable service to their communities. We expect that during industrial action many retained firefighters would continue to protect the communities in which they live and work.

Mr. Nigel Evans

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many(a) full-time and (b) full-time equivalent firefighters there were in Lancashire in each of the last five years. [78626]

Mr. Leslie

The following table shows the latest available information on the number of wholetime firefighters and strength (in 24 hour units of cover) of retained firefighters in Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service.

Year Wholetime Retained
1997–98 987 339
1998–99 1,007 321
1999–2000 1,008 304
2001–01 1,010 285
2001–021 1,002 268
1 Provisional

Bob Spink

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether(a) professional firemen, (b) retained firefighters and (c) other publicly employed persons are insured, including the death in service provision, when dealing with a fire or other incident during a firefighters' strike. [77607]

Mr. Leslie

Professional and retained firefighters who are on duty during any FBU industrial action will be fully covered by the standard insurance, death and pension benefits as normal. Members of the armed forces will benefit from the same cover and support as is provided for any operational duty. Police officers are afforded protection in the event of injury while on duty by the provisions of the Police Pension Regulations in the case of death or permanent disablement. In the event of temporary disablement the arrangements for contractual sick pay would safeguard the officer from immediate financial loss.