A plague on both your houses: a super powered Secretary of State, fishy regional agenda and the blur between central and local accountability are just a few of the issues touched upon as Fire speaks to Conservative Fire Spokesperson Philip Hammond MP. It seems a long time since the parties united behind the principles of modernisation outlined in Bain ...(Interview)

Fears over the Secretary of State's in creased powers of intervention have been the headline assault from the Opposition, but it is not the reserve powers--which would only be used in the most extreme and rare circumstances--which worries Mr Hammond, it is the underlining menace that it brings.

He suggests that Mr Raynsford would boast that they have not had to use reserve powers, but the real power is in the leverage it gives them in dictating to local authorities. "That's the theme that pervades: that the Secretary of State will be able to use his re serve powers to dictate the way nominally, independently accountable bodies discharge their functions."

Much of the issue of the Secretary of State's increased powers of intervention concern resilience, which could have been addressed through the powers in the Civil Contingencies Bill, Mr Hammond argues, "which gives ministers huge powers to direct emergency responders," The image of John Prescott pushing fire engines around a map of Britain from his basement in Whitehall is one he raises. "But we believe that the arrangements put in place for the management of fire services by professionals should be resilient enough to deal with any emergency without the need for ministerial intervention directly in the middle of the night. …

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