HC Deb 20 May 2004 vol 421 cc1138-9W
Patrick Mercer

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department who would be responsible for meeting the cost of temporary mortuaries in the event of a large-scale terrorist attack. [170067]

Mr. Blunkett

Section 198 of the Public Health Act 1936 states that local authorities may or shall, if directed to do so by the Minister, provide a public mortuary. Additionally, Section 27 of the Coroners Act 1988 sets out that county councils and lead boroughs in metropolitan areas are responsible for providing support to coroners.

However, we recognise that a large-scale terrorist attack could have the potential to overwhelm existing local or regional mortuary capacity.

We are issuing national guidance shortly on dealing with fatalities in emergencies. Following publication, we will be working with the regions, devolved administrations, local responders and specialists to review existing levels of national capacity and to consider a framework for a national response. The guidance will he updated in light of this work.

Patrick Mercer

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make it his policy, in the event of a large-scale terrorist attack that affected several counties, to establish a helpline for concerned family members to gain information about relatives. [170068]

Mr. Blunkett

In the event of a terrorist incident affecting several counties the Metropolitan Police Service would respond to any request from the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Home Office or from other UK Police Forces, to open the Central Casualty Bureau.

Each UK Police Force will have a Casualty Bureau but in the event that several counties were affected by a major terrorist incident, obviously it would be expected that the Central Casualty Bureau would be opened.

The Casualty Bureau provides a central contact point and is set up to deal specifically with missing persons, survivors, evacuees and witnesses involved in the incident. It is designed to receive and collate information relating to the incident.

If approached, the Central Casualty Bureau may also be opened for foreign events involving British subjects, as it has previously.