Civil Defence today

Civil Contingencies Bill 2004

All previous writing about Civil Defence has focused on a number of important legal Acts, such as the Civil Defence Act 1948. Even after the millennium over 50 years on, this Act had never been amended. With the introduction of the new Civil Contingencies Act (CCA) 2004, many of the war type Acts have been repealed. These include:

  • The Emergency Powers Act 1920
  • The Civil Defence Act 1939
  • The Civil Defence Act 1948
  • The Civil Protection in Peacetime Act 1986
  • The Civil Defence (Grant) Act 2002

This Act is of crucial importance therefore to the protection of the United Kingdom. It is understandable, that our readers may not want to read the new Act, and we have therefore sought to pick out the key themes that may be of interest.

The act is split into main parts - that of Civil protection and Emergency Powers.

Civil Protection

An emergency is designated as one of a number of possible things, including national security (war or terrorism), damage to its environment (includes chemical/biological attack) or damage to society (disruption to communications, food, water (and interestingly), fuel).

The government decides who should make emergency plans, but there are 2 key types - called either 'category 1' or 'category 2' responders. Category 1 planners have a number of key duties. These include:

  • Risk assessment
  • Make continuity plans
  • Make plans to prevent, reduce or take action with an emergency
  • Make plans available if 'necessary or desirable for the purpose' of preventing, reducing or enabling others to take action.
  • Maintain warning arrangements to inform the public if an emergency is about to, or has already occurred

These plans are only to be made if an emergency would cause serious problems for the organisation. Ministers may make regulations regarding extent of duties that category 1 responders have, such as situations when they (cat 1) should/should not perform certain duties. These plans are different to those later on, in that they related to planning duties, and what the responders must do. These regulations must be approved by government. If there is a sense of urgency, and this order must be passed written or orally, then the order will expire after 21 days. The plans could also force local councils to carry out duties.

Category 1 planners (listed below) can be forced to act to prevent an emergency or to reduce its effects, through issued legislation or orders.

Category 1 responders

  • County or district councils
  • Chief officer of the Police
  • A fire authority
  • Hospitals
  • Health Protection Agency
  • Port health authority
  • Environment Agency
  • Maritime and Coastal issues

Category 2 responders

  • Electricity, Gas, Water suppliers
  • Telephone suppliers
  • Railway operators
  • Airport operators
  • Harbour authority
  • Health and safety Executive
  • Secretaries covering highways

These orders would have exactly the same impact as an officially released piece of legislation. Examples of this, could well include the grounding of the BA223 flights to the US. However airlines are listed as a category 2 planner - unless emergency law issued, moved them to category 1. This could be done under section 13,1,a to enable him to add an entry to the Act.

Emergency Powers

The law is interesting here, as it now includes 'region' in its definition of emergency. Part A was,

  • human welfare in a place in the United Kingdom (whereas Part 2)
  • human welfare in the United Kingdom or in a Part or region

There are only 3 types of people who can make emergency regulations. These are, the PM, the cabinet, or the commissioners of her Majesties treasury. Regulations have to include,

  1. Nature of the emergency the act refers to
  2. That the law maker is happy specific criteria are met
  3. That the regulations are only in relation to that emergency
    (must also specify which part(s) of the UK they are in relation to)

Conditions for emergency laws:

  1. An emergency is about to occur, is occurring or has occurred
  2. It is necessary to deal with the emergency
  3. That any response is urgent
  4. To investigate current legislation would cause serious problems

The laws made can cover ANYTHING to deal with the emergency at hand. There is a very long list of these, so I am only including a few interesting points. To protect or restore:

  1. A supply of money, food, water, energy or fuel
  2. An electronic or communication system
  3. Activities of HM Government (including Welsh or Scottish)

The regulations may make provision for:

  • Delegation of a function to an MP, Scottish ministers, Welsh or NI ministers.
  • Provide/Enable the requisition or destruction of property (with or without compensation), animal life or plant life
  • Prohibit movement
  • Require movement
  • Prohibit assemblies of any kinds, or at places
  • Creating an offence if other parts of the emergency legislation are not complied with
  • Confer jurisdiction to a court or tribunal which can have been established in the regulations

Emergency regulations cannot however:

  • Force military service
  • Prohibit strike action
  • Make unrelated offences to the emergency
  • Create offences with prison beyond 3 months
  • Alter procedure in criminal proceedings

In each emergency regulation, a person must be appointed called an emergency co-ordinator in the UK parts, or a 'regional nominated co-ordinator' for the regions where the regulations have effect. The regulations will include the co-ordinators terms of appointment, conditions of service and their functions. Their key role is to facilitate the emergency response. They will comply with the directions of a Senior minister and have regard for guidance issued by them. However interestingly, they are not regarded as servants of the crown.

Emergency tribunals can be established through emergency regulations but the minister must have consulted the council. This however does not need to be done, if there is a sense of urgency. The key issue with this law, is that urgency means much can be passed quickly without much consultation.

Emergency regulations can only last for 30 days, but new regulations could be made afterwards to cover this.

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