The London Fire Commissioner

Part of Policing and Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 4:15 pm ar 22 Mawrth 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lyn Brown Lyn Brown Shadow Minister (Home Office) 4:15, 22 Mawrth 2016

Amendment 186 would expand the remit of the fire and emergency planning committee, which is the body that the Bill will create to scrutinise the performance of the London Mayor, the deputy mayor for fire and the London fire commissioner on fire matters. Amendment 187 would slightly expand the role of the London fire commissioner by giving him or her equivalent delegated powers over economic development and the environment to those held by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime.

I tabled amendment 186 because the Bill envisages a very narrow remit for the fire and emergency planning committee. Under the Government’s proposals, the committee will be able to look only at fire matters. That does not acknowledge the changing nature of the fire service in London, which, like brigades up and down the country, is increasingly playing a role in resilience and flooding issues as part of its day-to-day role. For example, we recently saw the London fire brigade take a lead on Exercise Unified Response, which brought together key stakeholders in the capital to test their ability to deal with a large-scale building collapse.

In the last month, the London fire brigade has launched a co-responding trial in four boroughs in the capital—Merton, Lambeth, Wandsworth and, happily, the amazing borough of Newham—as part of the national joint council’s workstream on the 21st-century firefighter. If the trial is a success, the new committee will want to scrutinise closer working with the ambulance service in London to promote accountability and good-quality service delivery.

Given the changing role of the fire service and the greater collaboration we are likely to see in the capital, we propose that the committee should be able to investigate and consider all matters relevant to the London fire commissioner. That would ensure that the London Assembly’s scrutiny was as robust as it could be and allow members of the committee to cover everything from prevention and community safety to closer working with the other emergency services and local authority partners.

The Government and the Opposition support greater collaboration between the emergency services. We need to ensure that where that collaboration takes place, there is not a gap in the scrutiny of our public services, with the various scrutiny bodies staring at each other and wondering whether the projects fall under their remit. I hope that the Minister will take this opportunity to clarify his plans on how we will deal with those situations, both in London and elsewhere in the country.

Amendment 187 would ensure that the London fire commissioner had the delegated powers he needs to use the fire service to help Londoners. Section 30 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 gives a general power to the GLA to do anything it considers will further any one or more of its principal purposes—namely,

“promoting economic development and wealth creation in Greater London; promoting social development in Greater London; and promoting the improvement of the environment in Greater London.”

The Mayor has the ability to delegate those powers to MOPAC, which is the equivalent office to the London fire commissioner, but for policing. That enables the police to engage in any work that they think is for the good of London.

Allowing the Mayor to delegate those powers to the London fire commissioner would mean that the London fire brigade could do the same. It is really important that we accept the amendment for two reasons, and I reckon that the Minister can find it in his heart to give Londoners what they want. First, all of us want to see all of our emergency services working together to serve their communities. That is the spirit behind the duty to collaborate, and it is the spirit behind this amendment. Secondly, it is important that we accept the amendment so as to formally recognise the parity of esteem that fire has with the police service, which is something I have tried to talk about this afternoon—I think I have managed to get Government Members to understand that that is what I am attempting to do.

There is no reason to think that the London fire brigade is not just as capable of finding innovative ways to serve and aid Londoners as the Metropolitan police. To do that, its commissioners require equivalent powers. I look forward with interest to what the Minister has to say, with great hope that he will accept our amendments.