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Homeland Security

Volume 404: debated on Tuesday 29 April 2003

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To ask the Prime Minister what procedures are in place to ensure co-ordination between the Department of Health, the Home Office and the government agencies for homeland security, with particular reference to the effects of the establishment of the Health Protection Agency. [109301]

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has overall charge in this area. He chairs the Civil Contingencies Committee which meets in times of crisis to manage the response and is attended by representatives of the relevant emergency services and agencies. He also chairs DOP(IT)(T), which oversees the work on protective and preventative security; and DOP(IT)(R) which works to build the UK's resilience and ability to manage the consequences of major emergencies. The Department of Health and the Home Office are represented on all of these committees. There are robust, established mechanisms for co-ordination which are overseen by the Home Secretary, who is supported by a senior official, the Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator. Sir David Omand is the Permanent Secretary who brings together the work of the intelligence agencies and civil departments to ensure a co-ordinated approach to counter-terrorism.The Home Secretary is driving forward a comprehensive programme of work to enhance and improve our capacity to respond to a range of threats. For further details on this, I refer the hon. Member to the written ministerial statement that the Home Secretary made on Civil Contingency Planning and the role of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat on 3 March,

Official Report, columns 72–78WS.

The Health Protection Agency is an important part of these arrangements. It aims to improve health emergency planning and the NHS response by providing a dedicated field service and an integrated approach to protecting the public against infectious diseases and chemical and radiological hazards.