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

Co-ordination of contingency plans to protect London's infrastructure 'was

not generally regarded as a classic text book example', said former Labour

transport minister and now crossbench peer, Lord Marsh.

He was commenting on a reply by home office minister Lord Rooker, explaining

who was responsible for co-ordinated civil defence in London.

The minister said: 'A range of contingency plans to protect London's

infrastructure are being co-ordinated through a sub-committee of the civil

contingencies committee. The civil contingencies committee is chaired by the

home secretary and the London resilience committee is chaired by the minister

for London.

'Operationally, the co-ordination of any response to a major incident in

London is the responsibility of the Metropolitan Police'.

He added later that the civil contingencies committee now had a separate

sub-committee for UK resilence. A third sub-committee dealt with chemical,

biological, radiological and nuclear incidents.

Liberal Democrat Lord Watson of Richmond saidin the past London had faced

high danger and high risk without panic, but the price of calm was clear

evidence of co-ordination in advance of anything happening. He asked if the

minister saw it as a high priority to communicate simply to Londoners the

chain of command and areas of responsibility, and in particular to clarify

the role of the elected mayor.

Lord Rooker said: 'The mayor of London has a full role to play in that aspect

of the [resilience] committee's deliberations. There is a key role for the

mayor in communicating the issue to Londoners. He is already doing that with

some distinction'.

The minister added there was a high state of co-ordination among emergency

planning officers in all the large cities around the country. Things had

changed since 11 September, but plans were well prepared before then because

of the situation the country had faced for the past 30 years.

Lord Marsh asked who was the most senior person. The mayor was obviously a

powerful person; was he subordinate to somebody else, he wondered.

The minister repeated that, operationally, the police were in charge,

adding: 'The mayor has a key role in communicating and speaking for the people

of London. He plays a central part in the London resilience sub-committee and

communicate the issues to londoners.

'There are 32 London boroughs, as well as the City of London, making 33

authorities. There are separate emergency services, with a London emergency

services liaison panel. The plans of all the emergency planning offices are

being reviewed at the moment. That work is ongoing.

'There is the issue of the utility undertakings as well. There is a lot of

co-ordination going on. exercises take place, although they are not always

advertised. In June last year there was a major exercise in London called

Operation Trump Card, based on a chemical incident. Many lessons learny from

that have been put into the existing plans'.

Conservative Lord Dixon-Smith asked the minister to explain the relationship

between the civil contingencies committee and the London Fire and Emergency

Planning Authority, whose powers went back to the Civil defence Act 1948.

that authority would certainly consider that it had a significant role to


Lord Rooker replied: 'The civil contingencies committee is a committee of the

cabinet. There are other liaison arrangements, but they are all co-ordinated

from the centre. No one is going off doing any freelance work. Otherwise we

could not ensure co-ordination among 33 local authorities, plus the emergency

services - the police, ambulance service, the British Transport Police, the

fire brigade and others.

'There is good co-ordination between all the relevant authorities and the

emergency services, as well as the utility providers. They had been broken up

over recent years but are now brought within the loop. There are no turf

wars. I have tried to explain the situation as clearly as I can'.

Hansard 5 Nov: Column 4-6

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