CABINET OFFICE – CIVIL CONTINGENCIES BILL – 19 January 2004

Dr Julian Lewis: Can my hon. Friend [Oliver Heald] throw any light on why, when he intervened to ask about the potential role of volunteer reserve forces, the Minister [Douglas Alexander] was so dismissive? We have volunteer reserve forces for the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, and they do a very good job in the heat of battle. Why should we not have volunteer reserve forces for civil emergencies of the type that we are discussing?

[Mr Heald: My hon. Friend, as always, makes an extremely good point. The Bill makes provision for certain organisations to be enlisted for help ­– the category 1 and the category 2 responders – and we will question the Minister further in Committee on why certain bodies are in certain categories.

Some key personnel, such as paramedics, doctors and environmentalists, will be required to offer their support, and that is a good thing. However, that does not reach down far enough into the pool of people who could usefully be employed in an emergency.]