Select Committee on Defence Second Report


    (a)  In the longer term the re-orientations in the terms of the relationships between some of the major countries and blocs of the world since 11 September may well have more far-reaching consequences than any military or other actions taken directly against terrorists and terrorist organisations. Already the developments in relations between the United States and Russia appear to have fundamentally altered the terms of the debates on ballistic missile defence and on the future of NATO (paragraph 14).

    (b)  This is not to say that the battle against global terrorism cannot be won; it can be and it must be. But it will not be won quickly, and it is likely that whatever success is achieved against al Qaeda itself, a number of groups associated with it or sympathetic to its causes will continue to pose a threat (paragraph 42).

    (c)  We fully endorse the actions that the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have taken both to declare and to demonstrate our strong support for the United States. If that support risks making the UK more of a target for the sorts of people who attacked New York and Washington, it is a risk which we must accept. We must take the necessary steps to counter it; but we must not be dissuaded by it from doing the right thing (paragraph 47).

    (d)  We cannot assume that where conflicts in far away places involve British forces, for whatever reasons, they will necessarily be fought out only where they arise (paragraph 49).

    (e)  In conclusion, we can see no reason to dissent from the general view of our witnesses, and others with whom we have discussed these issues, that there is a continuing threat to UK interests posed by the existence of organisations or groups whose aim is to inflict mass casualties (paragraph 50).

    (f)  Although, under the Chemical Weapons Convention, declared stockpiles do not have to be destroyed until 2007, while Russia retains its large holdings other countries may feel let off the hook of destroying their own stockpiles. We are concerned also that expertise may proliferate, but our more immediate concern, is that the weapons themselves may find their way into the hands of terrorist groups (paragraph 56).

    (g)  Although we have seen no evidence that either al Qaeda or other terrorist groups are actively planning to use chemical, biological and radiological weapons, we can see no reason to believe that people, who are prepared to fly passenger planes into tower blocks, would balk at using such weapons. The risk that they will do so cannot be ignored (paragraph 79).

    (h)  We support the measured response taken by the United States to the attacks of 11 September and we applaud the British government's action in standing shoulder to shoulder with them politically and militarily (paragraph 84).

    (i)  Taken with the terms of reference set out in the MoD's memorandum and the list of questions raised by the Secretary of State, the widening of the SDR's geographical and regional assumptions strike us as requiring a more fundamental reappraisal of the SDR than is implied by the phrase 'a new chapter' (paragraph 101).

    (j)  We recommend that the MoD makes every effort to keep to the timetable of Spring 2002 for the publication of the new chapter for the SDR (paragraph 105).

    (k)  From the evidence which we have received so far we conclude, on a provisional basis, that we in the UK will have to do more to focus our capabilities on defending our own weak points. We shall return to this issue in our inquiry into Defence and Security in the UK (paragraph 110).

    (l)  We do not believe that concerns over creating public fear or encouraging hoaxers are sufficient to justify failing to provide balanced and accurate information to the public on this issue. We shall consider how this should best be done in our forthcoming inquiry (paragraph 112).

    (m)  We agree that the Armed Forces have demonstrated their capabilities in providing command and control assistance in civil emergencies. But we are concerned that the present arrangements for involving them were devised with civil emergencies in mind. We remain to be convinced that they would prove adequate in the event of a large scale terrorist attack. In particular we are concerned to see clear, accountable and co-ordinated leadership across government departments (paragraph 124).

    (n)  We believe that a review of the arrangements for the provision of military assistance to the civil power should be included in the further work on the SDR (paragraph 125).

    (o)  We welcome the Government's openness to reassessing the role of the Reserves. We have no doubt that they are an under-used resource. We particularly draw attention to the decision under the SDR to transfer the anti-nuclear biological chemical weapons (NBC) capability from the Royal Yeomanry to a regular unit. Because of the assessment of the threat for such weapons at the time the principal task of this unit is the protection of Armed Forces deployed overseas. Despite the Policy Director's reservations about exposing the TA to such threats, we believe that there are strong arguments for a NBC capability whose focus would be attacks on and incidents in the UK (paragraph 128).

    (p)  If the new chapter of the SDR is to propose a capability for pre-emptive military action it must also ensure that such action does not lead our forces to operate outside international law (paragraph 131).

    (q)  We may need more specialist and highly-trained agile forces which can be made available at short notice. If interdiction forces are to be an important component of the MoD's response to the threat from terrorism, this issue needs to be tackled with some urgency by the Department; as is highlighted by readiness capability gaps already evident. (Paragraph 134).

    (r)  A greater focus on 'interdiction' against terrorist threats could place special forces at the very heart of future operations. In such circumstances, a sensible debate on our military response to terrorism will have to deal more openly and frankly with the size, role and utility on our special forces (paragraph 135).

    (s)  Taken together with the conclusion which we have drawn that the role and capabilities of the special forces will be another central element in the work on the SDR, the inclusion of work on the question of 'specific intelligence against general vulnerability' leads us to have serious doubts over the extent to which the contents of the 'new chapter' can be openly discussed. We await with interest to see how the MoD resolves this issue in the consultation/discussion paper which it plans to publish early next year (paragraph 136).

    (t)  We believe that, if it is to be our policy to maintain a wide range of capabilities, it follows that we must be prepared to pay for them. If we are to add a chapter to the SDR, we must add the money to pay for it. The government should therefore make an early commitment that it will find the necessary extra money to fund those additional capabilities which may be identified as necessary in the light of the attacks of 11 September (paragraph 141).

    (u)  Our conclusion is that the threat from terrorism has become more pressing and more dangerous. A threshold has been crossed in terms of scale and level of casualties (paragraph 143).

    (v)  The campaign against terrorism has been described as three-pronged in that it includes military, diplomatic and humanitarian initiatives. This three-pronged campaign must be pursued both legitimately and relentlessly. We must not lose our sense of the urgency and importance of this task in the months ahead. We must not hesitate to take the necessary steps to protect the UK and our interests overseas (paragraph 144).

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