Britain’s system for risk management has been called “deficient and too inflexible” in a new report which was published on Friday.
An investigation into the British state’s risk management system, carried out by the House of Lords Select Committee on Risk Assessment and Risk Planning, has found the government’s ability to deal with extreme risks to be below par.
A report published by the committee on Friday described the current system for dealing with risks as being far too secretive, as well as “top-heavy”, without good information flow between the national and local levels.
“The Government had been advised that in the event of a Coronavirus pandemic, the country would suffer up to 100 deaths. Given that more than 140,000 people have now died in the UK, it is clear that we needed to re-examine our system of assessing and planning for extreme risks,” committee chairman Lord Arbuthnot said.
“The Government’s risk management system defaults to a secretive and centralised approach that withholds safety critical information from those who need it — shielding it from full scrutiny and challenge,” he continued. “The Government must open up the risk management system and welcome expert consultation from a wider variety of sources, as well as see our people as an essential building block.”
“Our inquiry has concluded that the UK must adopt a whole of society approach to resilience, one which emphasises the important role played by all sections of society in preparing for, adapting to and recovering from the effects of risk,” Lord Arbuthnot added.
The 129-page document also discusses a variety of scenarios and events relevant to British emergency risk assessment — past, present, and possible future, such as the current effects of the Chinese coronavirus, space weather, bioterrorism, climate change, and the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, which resulted in serious air travel disruption in 2010.
Recommendations from the report include that the Government should set up a new Office for Preparedness and Resilience responsible for risk management. A brochure on what to do in a variety of emergency scenarios should also be published by the government for public consumption every other year.
The report also warns that spending is being focused far too much on short term issues that are more likely to come up during a government’s tenure, leaving the implementation of long term preventative measures for dealing with emergencies neglected.
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This report is not the first time Britain’s emergency response capability has been criticized.
A report by the National Audit Office published last month found that the United Kingdom did not have the structures in place to effectively deal with the pandemic, lacking any “detailed plans” to deal with the situation.
The report also found that 82 per cent of pandemic plans that had been drawn up before February 2020 were “unable to meet the demands of any actual incident”, and criticised the government for not establishing a consistent national level of risk they were willing to accept.
Another report found that the government’s initial response to the pandemic was almost completely off the cuff, with some of the most significant economic interventions ever undertaken by a British government found to have been created on the hoof, without any war-gaming or pre-planning.
Dominic Cummings, the former Chief Advisor to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, had also told a parliamentary committee investigating the pandemic response of the serious inadequacies of British emergency planning.
Cummings described for the committee how he was told by government advisors that the plan in place to deal with a possible solar flare, for example, was “completely hopeless”, and that should one occur “we’ll all be in a worse situation than COVID”.
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