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Fire and Rescue Service: Thomas Review

Volume 768: debated on Monday 11 January 2016


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when the Thomas review into conditions of service for operational staff in the fire and rescue service in England will be published; and whether they will provide an update on the progress of that report.

My Lords, the Government are looking at the detail of the review’s findings and will publish it in due course in the light of the proposed governance changes for the fire and rescue services resulting from our consultation, Enabling Closer Working Between the Emergency Services.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her response. I hope that the transfer of fire and rescue services to the Home Office may bring about some urgency in the publication of this important document and that the new Minister will set out a timetable for publication of the review before the anniversary of the original deadline for the submission of the report to government, which was in February 2015. The delay in publication is causing unnecessary problems in forward planning. Will the Minister agree to meet me and the chairman of the LGA’s fire services management committee as soon as possible to discuss this important matter?

I am certainly very happy to meet the noble Baroness, but she may like to meet my noble friend Lord Bates—or perhaps she can meet both of us.

My Lords, first, I pay tribute to our brave men and women in the fire service. We have all seen their bravery during the recent floods, along with that of our other emergency services and the Armed Forces. The Government have had this report since February 2015 and the Fire Minister made reference to it in a speech to the LGA in March. Can the Minister give more of an answer to the House—her response was not very satisfactory—and explain why the Government have sat on this report for 11 months?

My Lords, as I said, the Government will be deliberating on the report. The themes of the review are already in the public domain and we will respond in due course. I echo the noble Lord’s words about the bravery of our fire and rescue services, and in fact all the emergency services, over the Christmas period. Certainly in the areas that I visited following the flooding, their services have been absolutely exemplary.

I am surprised that no Conservative Members are standing up to say what a wonderful job the fire and rescue services did. While we were all sitting at home eating our Christmas dinner or drinking our new-year drink, they were out in the flooded areas in the north of England. I am afraid that most of the Members opposite who come from the south-east of England do not realise the problems that the north of England and Scotland faced. What discussions has the Minister had with her counterpart in Scotland to find out the ways in which the Scottish fire and rescue services have also been doing a very good job?

My Lords, I have visited Bury, Salford and Rochdale over the Christmas period so it is unfair to say that noble Lords on these Benches have not shown an interest— and I am from Trafford. In addition—by sheer good fortune I was in the west of Scotland last week and missed the east coast flooding—I know that communities, local authorities and faith ministries have all pulled together just as they have in England. The community response has been humbling and I commend everyone who has played their part in the clean-up operation.

Will my noble friend remind the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, that care and concern is not the monopoly of any group within this House?

My Lords, can the Minister confirm that educational services have been cut drastically recently and that firemen are not going out to give enough fire safety training?

My Lords, fire safety training has been more focused on areas of high need—for example, the elderly and the disabled. There has certainly been a big push for smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, as this House has debated on a couple of occasions. The fire and rescue services are focusing their efforts much more. I was going to say something else, which I have forgotten, but it is a more focused effort.