HC Deb 25 March 2003 vol 402 cc176-7W
Mr. Drew

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) if he will make a statement on the impact of the partial repeal of section 19 of the Fire Services Act 1947 in relation to the Government's policy on decentralisation; [104904]

(2) if he will publish the results of the consultation on the repeal of section 19 of the Fire Services Act 1947; [104902]

(3) what recent discussions he has had with the Fire Brigades Union on section 19 of the Fire Services Act 1947. [104903]

Mr. Raynsford

The proposed partial repeal of section 19 of the Fire Services Act 1947 is a key element in the replacement of the existing over-centralised framework for fire cover and the early introduction of the new risk-based approach recommended by the Independent Review of the Fire Service chaired by Professor Sir George Bain. The Government believe that decisions on fire cover should be taken by democratically accountable fire authorities, acting on the professional advice of chief fire officers, and after taking account of the views of local communities. The proposed repeals are also consistent with the principles, set out in the White Paper "Strong Local Leadership—Quality Public Services", of giving local authorities greater freedoms and flexibilities by cutting back on consent regimes and red tape. The Bain Review, which recommended urgent repeal or amendment of section 19, invited evidence from all major stakeholders in the fire service. Since publication of the Review the Local Government Association and the Chief and Assistant Chief Fire Officers Association have repeated their support for repeal. Draft guidance on the implementation of the new fire cover arrangements and on the consultation of local communities on significant changes in fire cover were placed in the Libraries of both Houses on 5 March, and are being circulated to a wide range of stakeholders for comment.

My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister has met the Fire Brigades Union a number of times in recent weeks. At a meeting with Fire Service Employers and the Fire Brigades Union on 3 February the Deputy Prime Minister said that the Government had announced the proposed repeal of part of section 19 but that the Government would consult fully on the new draft guidance on the implementation of integrated risk management planning.