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Fire Service, Wales

Volume 264: debated on Thursday 19 October 1995

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what further discussions he has had with local authorities concerning proposals for the reorganisation of the fire service in Wales. [36516]

My right hon. and noble Friend met a deputation from the Assembly of Welsh Counties on 22 August. In the light of the recently completed consultation process on the proposed combined fire authorities, the Government have decided, after careful consideration, to introduce a three-brigade structure for the fire service in Wales from next April.

Does the Minister appreciate that the local authorities now consider that the original consultation process was flawed because of inaccurate information? They are now calling for further meetings with Lady B latch to consider a proposal for a voluntary combination of the five new unitary authorities in Gwent to run the Gwent fire brigade which, incidentally, has the best response rate in the whole of the United Kingdom. Could we please now have some help and co-operation from the Government?

An extremely thorough consultation took place. Indeed, the proposals to move to three brigades were first put forward as long ago as March 1993, since when there have been many more contributions to consultation. I do not think that anything substantive has occurred since we concluded the consultation process. Certainly I am always willing to talk to the hon. Gentleman about any matter, including this, but the announcement has been made with good evidence that it will improve the efficiency and good running of the service in Wales for the benefit of the Welsh people.