7/7 proposals 'are being ignored'
The absence of ministerial oversight for emergency services means any recommendations from the 7/7 inquests are likely to be simply "noted and filed until the next major incident occurs", a leading security expert has warned.
Jennifer Cole, head of emergency management at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), said recommendations from the King's Cross Underground fire which killed 31 people in November 1987 had still not been implemented when the suicide bombers struck almost 18 years later.
Her warning comes just weeks before coroner Lady Justice Hallett will announce the verdicts of the inquests into the deaths of the 52 innocent victims of the attacks on London's transport network on July 7, 2005.
Ms Cole said the lack of a minister for the emergency services meant any recommendations made in the wake of major incidents were "difficult to implement".
"Such oversight would bring with it many advantages," she said. "Without a dedicated minister to fight for the cause, the recommendations from the coroner's inquests are likely to go the way of those from previous reviews: noted and filed until the next major incident occurs.
"July 7, 2005 was a tragedy but the unprecedented level of scrutiny at the coroner's inquests can help ensure that the lives lost were not completely in vain. A recognition that change will only come with new political oversight, combined with a genuine desire to act on the coroner's recommendations, would be an invaluable legacy."
Ms Cole called for a central organisation to which the emergency services could report and where practitioners and civil servants could sit side by side to consider the impact of any changes and "make informed recommendations borne out of the deep understanding that can only come from insiders".
"Political understanding of the complexities of major incident response is critical to the future of the emergency services," Ms Cole said, adding that a minister for the emergency services could "fight for increased budgets, ring-fence threatened resources or argue for increased funding once a real need has been identified".
Clifford Tibber, who represents relatives of six of the July 7 victims, said: "It is vital that any recommendations that the coroner may make are fully implemented. Only that way might the families draw some comfort from knowing that the death of their loved one will result in positive action being taken for the benefit of others."
Mr Tibber, of Anthony Gold solicitors, went on: "The families and survivors share the concerns that any recommendations that the coroner may make should be fully implemented. Lessons must be learned from the tragic events of July 7 2005."