§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal)
My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has, in advance of debate in another place later today, laid before Parliament, and made publicly available, a discussion paperCounter-Terrorism Powers.. Reconciling Security and Liberty in an Open Society. This paper also contains the Government's response to the report of Lord Newton and his committee into the operation of the Antiterrorism, Crime and Security Act and in particular Part IV of that Act, which concerns the detention 30WS pending deportation of foreign nationals suspected of terrorism. Alongside that as further background for the debate, we are also publishing the following update on resilience and civil contingency matters.
Update on resilience and civil contingencies matters
In March last year the Home Secretary placed in another place a Written Statement setting out improvements in contingency planning that had taken place and announcing the next steps in improving our resilience, including progress in delivering civil contingencies legislation. Almost 12 months on, we have made considerable progress and have in place plans to cover a wide range of both civil emergencies and terrorist attacks. Such plans include the purchase of equipment, the identification and training of personnel, the preparation of policy guidance and crisis management arrangements, liaison with other nations, and exercises. There has been excellent co-operation across government and the wider public service and we would like to place on record my thanks, in particular to local authorities and the emergency services for their continuing hard work.
Review of progress at time of last update
Since the outbreak of the foot and mouth disease and the September 11 atrocity, we have been planning for larger-scale challenges and substantial progress had already been made. A horizon scanning capability had been established within the Cabinet Office to anticipate and prepare for the potential impact of any large-scale incident, and this complemented the work of the Joint Intelligence Committee in providing assessments on domestic and overseas terrorist threats. Guidance had been published on decontamination of people following a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) incident for use by the emergency services and other responders, and a UK national stockpile of countermeasures had been established before the end of 2001 including antibiotics, antidotes, and respiratory support equipment in strategic locations around the UK.
In London, the London Resilience Forum had been established to drive forward the resilience agenda, bringing together representatives from the emergency services, local government, military, transport, utilities, health sector and business. Substantial progress had been made, and plans for a range of contingencies now exist including new pan-London command and control arrangements and a well-developed programme of exercises.
Update of progress in the last 12 months to the present Organisation
The programme of work to enhance the key generic resilience capabilities, co-ordinated within the Civil Contingencies Secretariat in the Cabinet Office, remains the core framework through which the Government are seeking to build resilience across all parts of the United Kingdom. This centrally led programme constitutes an efficient and effective way of harnessing the expertise and resources that already 31WS exist within government without duplicating or creating new structures. The programme has expanded in the past 12 months and now comprises 17 separate workstreams.
- Central response
- Regional response
- Local response
- Essential services—DoH
- Essential services—Defra
- Essential services—HMT
- Essential services—DfT
- Essential services—DTI
- CBRN Resilience
- Assessment of risk and consequence
- Mass casualties
- Treatment of infectious diseases (human)
- Treatment of infectious diseases (animal and plant)
- Mass evacuation
- Warning and informing
- Mass fatalities
- Site clearance
Work is progressing well on all fronts although inevitably some areas are more advanced than others, not least because of the necessity to keep our plans under constant review to enable us to respond effectively to new threats and challenges. The Home Secretary and ministerial colleagues receive regular updates and reports on the progress of these workstreams and ensure that attention is focused where most required. We have also worked closely with the devolved administrations and clear responsibilities have been established so that the devolved administrations are able to undertake their own resilience preparations whilst ensuring that UK-wide resilience can be ensured.
Preparedness of the Emergency Services
Under the New Dimension programme, 4,400 personal protective suits have been delivered, enabling firefighters to decontaminate safely and effect rescues. Purpose-built decontamination vehicles are now coming into operation around the country and firefighters are being trained in their use. The rolling training programme for police has seen over 5,000 officers trained and equipped in CBRN response and we are on target to have increased this to 5 per cent of the police service by June.
Every acute hospital and ambulance service now has a stock of personal protective suits, and is equipped with mobile decontamination units, to allow safe working and decontamination of patients. Some 3,200 protective suits were provided for hospitals and 4,300 for the ambulance service. Of the 360 mobile decontamination units procured, 200 have gone to hospitals and 160 to the ambulance service. These units offer shelter, power and water management systems to NHS personnel who are decontaminating patients. In addition, a central stockpile of protective suits has been established and agreement reached with 32WS the Fire Service for support in the event of a need for mass decontamination.
Since late 2002, senior ambulance staff have been participating in joint emergency service CBRN incident commander courses. All ambulance services in the UK will have received this training by April 2004. A cadre of instructors has also been trained to enable the local training of decontamination teams. Courses are being held regionally and about 180 trainers have successfully completed it to date. By early summer this figure will have increased to around 300.
Considerable investment has been made across government in providing equipment for the emergency services and will continue to be made in areas such as developing the urban search and rescue capability within the Fire Service, and improving first responders' ability to detect and monitor CBRN substances. The Office of Government Commerce now has a dedicated CBRN procurement team in place to ensure economies of scale, assist with equipment interoperability issues, and streamline procedures for our partners and contractors.
Strengthening Regional Resilience
One of the capabilities added to the programme since last March focuses on developing new regional resilience arrangements to co-ordinate both planning for and responding to disruptive events. Since April 2003, regional resilience teams have been operational in each of the Government Offices in the nine English regions. These teams have taken the lead in managing key relationships with local responders, communications between regional partners, and between the regions and government. Regional resilience forums, comprising representatives from key partners and agencies, now meet regularly in all the English regions.
The Department of Health, together with the NHS and other key stakeholders, has developed a national strategy for major incident planning at an operational level, with a supporting framework for the NHS. The document Handling Major Incidents—An Operational Doctrine was published on 7 January 2004 and builds on current guidance by setting out general principles to help the NHS to develop its existing emergency plans to respond to new potential threats. Revised smallpox guidelines were published in December 2003 and can be found on the Department of Health website: www.doh.gsi.gov.uk/smallpox/keydocs.htm
Civil Contingencies Legislation
In January this year we introduced the Civil Contingencies Bill into Parliament. The Bill, and the accompanying non-legislative measures. will deliver a single framework for civil protection in the U K to meet the disruptive challenges of the 21st century. The Bill is separated into two substantive parts: local arrangements for civil protection (Part 1) and emergency powers (Part 2). Both parts of the Bill replace existing outdated legislation, notably the 33WS Emergency Powers Act 1920 and the Civil Defence Act 1948. The Bill has now completed its Report stage.
Key stakeholders have been involved in the policy development process, including the Local Government Association, the Emergency Planning Society, the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Chief and Assistant Chief Fire Officers' Association and the Ambulance Service Association. They have played an important role in helping to shape the legislative proposals.
A major public consultation of the Bill's proposals was carried out last summer. Around one half of local authorities and emergency services responded. The consultation exercise was supported by events held in each of the English regions and the devolved administrations, attended by over 1,000 civil protection practitioners. This was supplemented by attendance at national conferences and local events. The Government continue to consult widely as the Bill passes through Parliament. Regular bulletins on progress are sent to all civil protection professionals and a programme of outreach visits is eliciting views directly from individual local areas. The feedback has been very positive.
Civil Contingencies Reaction Forces
Civil contingency reaction forces (CCRFs) achieved full operating capability on target by 31 December. Fourteen CCRFs are now available to support the civil authorities as required providing both general and specialist support. Possible ways in which CCRFs might be used include assistance with evacuation, providing temporary accommodation and feeding facilities, and general logistical support. A programme of exercises between local CCRFs and the emergency services began in 2003 to test working together in an emergency.
Co-ordinated Exercise Programme
Central to our work to develop resilience capabilities is a co-ordinated approach to exercises designed to test our responses to a range of major incidents including natural disasters and accidents. Over the last year we have brought together government departments, regional and local authorities, the devolved administrations, and agencies, to create a focused cross-government exercise programme. This exercise programme tests the emerging capabilities and highlights areas for further development. Training exercises are also an important part of counter-terrorism, as they ensure we are prepared to respond to any kind of terrorist attack. Three large-scale live counter-terrorist exercises are held each year, involving participants from central government, police, agencies and the military. In addition, 12 table-top or workshop exercises are held annually, carried out across the UK and involving the police, lead government departments, and emergency recovery agencies. The live exercise held at Bank Tube station in September last year was a good example of a multi-agency exercise designed to ensure that plans and procedures we have developed will be effective on the day. The UK also took part in an international 34WS table-top exercise called Global Mercury last autumn to test international communications between health agencies in the event of a smallpox outbreak.
The current exercise programme includes the joint UK/US exercise in the Metropolitan Police service area. We will continue to carry out a range of exercises throughout the country, in particular, to validate emerging regional plans, and ensure civil emergency and counter-terrorist exercises are utilised to test our capability both to respond to and to manage the consequences of a CBRN incident.
Exercise Counter Balance
Under the CBRN resilience programme, the Home Office, in conjunction with the Emergency Planning Society, regional resilience teams and devolved administrations has continued Exercise Counter Balance, a programme of CBRN training seminars originally run in 2002. The seminars continue to be delivered throughout the UK at local level and feature a combination of presentations, discussion groups and table-top exercises based around the response lo a range of CBRN scenarios. The seminars provide the opportunity for local authorities, in particular, to give feedback on the revised CBRN guidance to local authorities published in August 2003. Eight of the 12 planned seminars have been delivered to date with the remainder due by May 2004. Participants have included representatives from fire and rescue services, government agencies, health services, local authorities, the Armed Forces, police services, the utilities and the voluntary sector.
Communication is a vital element in ensuring that we have the ability to respond to a crisis effectively and rapidly. Over the last year we have made considerable efforts to engage with those upon whom we will rely in the event of an incident. This has enabled us to make the best use of expertise not only from within central government but also from other organisations and sectors such as the business community and the voluntary sector. Examples of communication include working with the emergency services to develop the first responder role; engaging with health workers so staff are aware of what is required and trained to respond appropriately; and liaising with key contractors to ensure the necessary capacity and flexibility is available to deliver essential services. During a crisis, the media's ability to deliver factual information and advice will be essential. Thus news coordination centre facilities have been set up and there is close liaison with the media and press officers over emergency media arrangements both nationally and around the country.
In London, the London Resilience Team holds regular meetings with the business community, including senior representatives from umbrella organisations such as the Oxford Street Traders' Association, the British Bankers Association, and London Chamber of Commerce. Last summer, the National Association of Counter Terrorist Security Officers (NACSO), together with London First and 35WS the British Continuity Institute, published a booklet and CD-Rom entitled Expect the Unexpected providing continuity planning advice for business. This has been distributed to 44,000 London businesses.
The British public, regrettably, are used to living with the threat of terrorism and have in the past demonstrated commendable resilience and common sense in dealing with it. We are, however, conscious that the new scale of potential attacks on our society poses new challenges. While it is necessary for us to limit the flow of information on our resilience planning for understandable reasons of security, we have made large amounts of information available on our government websites www.ukresilience.info/ and www.homeoffice.gov.uk/terrorism. We plan over the next few months to be issuing further advice and guidance for the public.