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Call for Evidence

Call for evidence

Aim of the inquiry

The House of Lords Select Committee on Risk Assessment and Risk Planning was appointed on 15 October 2020 to: “consider risk assessment and risk planning in the context of disruptive national hazards”. It has to report by the end of November 2021.

A central question for this Committee is how to ensure that the UK is as resilient to extreme risks and emergencies as possible.

In this paper, ‘hazard’ refers to a civil emergency without malicious intent, and ‘threat’ refers to those that arise from malicious intent. ‘Risk’ is used to describe the probability and consequence of classes of hazard or threat classes.

Background

The UK is at risk from a variety of events which could cause significant human, economic, environmental and infrastructure damage. The coronavirus pandemic has led to renewed focus on risk planning and preparedness, and the importance of international co-operation. This inquiry provides a key opportunity to scrutinise how well we assess, categorise and plan for extreme risks, and how to ensure the country and the systems we rely on are as resilient as possible.

Lord Arbuthnot of Edrom, Chair of the Committee said:

“Covid-19 has been a wake-up call and a reminder that events on a mega scale can happen with minimal warning. We cannot be complacent and need to do all we can to prevent these threats and enhance our resilience if the worst happens.”

The UK was one of the first countries in the world to institute a National Risk Assessment in 2005 and is widely recognised as a policy leader in this area. It remains one of the few countries in the world with a strong and deeply embedded civil contingencies secretariat and well-rehearsed disaster prevention and management protocols and procedures.

However, several limitations have been identified with the Government’s approach, principally associated with identifying risk owners, balancing scientific advice and political decision making, dealing with unknown, longer-term or emerging risks, and how decisions are made about investment in preventing future emergencies. The Committee hopes to hear from as many individuals and organisations as possible with an interest, experience or expertise in this area of policy and practice.

 

Questions

Diversity comes in many forms and hearing a range of different perspectives means that Committees are better informed and can more effectively scrutinise public policy and legislation. Committees can undertake their role most effectively when they hear from a wide range of individuals, sectors or groups in society. We encourage anyone with experience of, or expertise in an issue we are investigating to share their views with the Committee, with the full knowledge that their views have value and are welcome. If you think someone you know would have views to contribute, please do pass this on to them.

This is a public call for written evidence to be submitted to the Committee. The Committee is happy to receive submissions on any issues related to the subject of the inquiry, but would particularly welcome submissions on the questions listed below. You need not address every question.

Instructions on how to submit evidence are set out at the end of this document. If you have any queries please email the staff of the Committee at hlriskcmttee@parliament.uk

The target date for submissions is 28 January 2021.

 

  1. What are the most significant extreme risks that the UK faces? Are these kinds of risks discrete, linked or systemic? What do you understand the term ‘extreme risk’ to mean?  
  2. Are there types of risks to which the UK is particularly vulnerable or for which it is poorly prepared? What are the reasons for this?
  3. How could the Government’s approach to risk assessment be strengthened to ensure that it is rigorous, wide-ranging and consistent? Your answer could refer to any aspect of the risk assessment process including, for example, its governance, the evidence base, or the degree to which it is open to scrutiny and the input of experts.
  4. Given the range of possible national risks, and the need to achieve a balance between efficiency and resilience, what level of assurance should the Government be seeking on the UK’s resilience to hazards? What would effective national risk management achieve, and how could its success be measured?[1]
  5. How can the Government ensure that it identifies and considers as wide a range of risks as possible? What risks does the inclusion criteria for the National Security Risk Assessment exclude and what effect does this have on long-term resilience?
  6. How effectively do current ways of characterising risks (for example, the use of a five-point scoring system of a ‘reasonable worst case scenario’) support evidence-based policy decisions? What other information would be useful?
  7. How effectively do Departments mitigate risks? Does the Risk Assessment process and the Civil Contingencies Secretariat adequately support Government departments to address risks within their remits? Is further oversight or accountability required, and if so, what form should that take?
  8. How well are national contingency plans communicated to and understood by those at a local level, including emergency responders? What could be changed to increase the capability of local responders to effectively plan for and respond to emergencies?
  9. What is the role of the individual in relation to national crises? Are there potential benefits in increasing public involvement and transparency in emergency planning? What limitations are there to this? What lessons have been learnt or should have been learnt about the approach taken to risk assessment and risk planning in this country from the COVID-19 pandemic?
  10. What challenges are there in developing resilience capability? Your answer could refer to critical infrastructure, but also to systems and networks beyond those elements. What is the role of exercising to test risk preparedness, and are these methods utilised effectively in risk assessment and risk planning in this country?
  11. What can be learnt from local or corporate risk management processes, or those of other countries? Are there any specific examples of practices, processes or considerations which could improve the UK’s national risk resilience? How could businesses and civil society more effectively support national resilience preparation?
  12. What individual or economic behaviours would strengthen national resilience against hazards, and what mechanisms are open to the Government or society to incentivise these behaviours? How should we prioritise any changes required in approach, process or policy needed to improve risk mitigation and strengthen the UK’s resilience to extreme risks and emergencies?

 

[1] “Risk management”, while more usually a financial term, is used here to express the identification, forecasting, and evaluation of risks together with the identification of procedures to avoid or minimise impacts.

 

The committee encourages interested parties to follow the progress of the inquiry on Twitter @LordsRiskCom

 

ANNEX: GUIDANCE FOR SUBMISSIONS

Submissions should be made through the form online at: https://committees.parliament.uk/submission/#/evidence/339/preamble

 

If you do not have access to a computer, you may submit a paper copy to: 

Clerk to the Select Committee on Risk Assessment and Risk Planning, Committee Office, House of Lords, London SW1A 0PW.

 

The Committee invites interested individuals and organisations to submit written evidence by 28 January 2020. Short, concise submissions are preferred. Submissions longer than 6 pages should include a one-page summary. Paragraphs should be numbered. Please ensure the submission is free of logos and signatures. Submissions should be dated, with a note of the author’s name, and of whether the author is acting in an individual or corporate capacity. Submissions with a university or college address should make clear whether they are submitted in an individual capacity or on behalf of the university or college. All submissions made through the written submission form will be acknowledged automatically by email.

Submissions become the property of the Committee which will decide whether to accept them as evidence. Evidence may be published by the Committee at any stage. It will normally appear on the Committee’s website and will be deposited in the Parliamentary Archives. Once you have received acknowledgement that your submission has been accepted as evidence, you may publicise or publish it yourself, but in doing so you must indicate that it was prepared for the Committee. If you publish your evidence separately, you should be aware that you will be legally responsible for its content. 

In certain circumstances the Committee may be prepared to accept submissions but not to publish them, in whole or in part. If you would like to submit evidence on this basis you should first discuss this with the Clerk to the Committee.

You should be careful not to comment on individual cases currently before a court of law or matters in respect of which court proceedings are imminent. If you anticipate such issues arising, you should discuss with the Clerk to the Committee how this might affect your submission. 

Personal contact details supplied to the Committee will be removed from submissions before publication but will be retained by the Committee staff for specific purposes relating to the Committee’s work, such as seeking additional information. 

Certain individuals and organisations may be invited to appear in person before the Committee to give oral evidence. Oral evidence is usually given in public at Westminster and broadcast in video and online. Due to COVID-19, evidence sessions are being held virtually, but continue to be broadcast in video and online.  Persons invited to give oral evidence will be notified separately of the procedure to be followed and the topics likely to be discussed. 

This is a public call for evidence. Please bring it to the attention of other groups and individuals who may not have received a copy direct. Substantive communications to the Committee about the inquiry should be addressed through the Clerk, whether or not they are intended to constitute formal evidence to the Committee. You can follow the progress of the inquiry at: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/483/risk-assessment-and-risk-planning-committee/

This call for written evidence has now closed.

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