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By LGCnet political correspondent Robert Hedley...
By LGCnet political correspondent Robert Hedley

There was 'incredible disquiet' among emergency planning officers up and down the country, Baroness Blatch, deputy leader of the opposition in the lords, declared.

And she told Home Office minister Lord Falconer, 'The government's lack of focus, co-ordination and direction is shameful in the light of what happened on 11 September and since'.

The minister said that was an unfair way of looking at things. The National Audit Office said there had been a great improvement since 11 September.

'Obviously, one can never get to a point where everything that has to be done is done. One has constantly to keep the issue under review. That is what we are doing. In a sense it is an unpolitical issue where we must work together to identify what are the best arrangements', he added.

Conservative Baroness Gardner said every local member of the former Greater London Council had 'a very detailed emergency plan which they were asked to guard with their lives and which was highly confidential'.

She asked what the present position was. She wanted to know if regional government in any part of the country had similar responsibilities to that of the GLC, and whether there was liaison between national, local and regional departments in co-ordinating any kind of emergency.

Lord Falconer replied that the relationship between central government, local government and the Scottish, Welsh and London governances was a vital aspect of emergency planning. It was incredibly important, he said, there was proper liaision between the three levels of government.

Former Conservative home secretary Lord Waddington asked which voluntary bodies were assumed to play a major role in disaster situations. A few decades ago the WRVS was a very strong organisation with vehicles, cooking implements and so on at its disposal, and played a key role in disasters such as the east coast floods. He asked whether there was any voluntary body today with anything like that capability, and suggested the country was desperately short of volunteers and voluntary bodies that were well trained to deal with emergencies.

Lord Falconer said that the response to a civil contingency will, depending on the specific emergency, would involve a whole range of public, private and voluntary sector bodies. The planning aimed to ensure that all those bodies could be mobilised at the appropriate moment.

Hansard 2 Dec 2002: Column 965 - 968

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