Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40
WEDNESDAY 16 JANUARY 2002
40. Local authorities are not involved in that.
(Mr Granatt) Yes, they are.
41. You are saying if the telephone system was
down I was the leader of the largest local authority in
the country and we never had a system where the fire brigade could
speak to the police let alone the local authority could speak
to the police, fire and ambulance, without going through the phone
system. I am interested that you are now saying that there is
a system that local authorities can communicate by radio or another
method to on the spot police facilities.
(Mr Granatt) The Emergency Communication Network has
been in place for some time and I am surprised, I think, that
you are not aware of it. It provides extensions through a system
which is outside the public switched network into local authorities.
42. I am talking about a fire engine on the
road, the control is out of contact, the police control is out
of action and you have to communicate to those fire engines and
to those police officers and to those ambulances out in the field
and try and co-ordinate from one centre. Is there a system which
allows that to happen in any single local authority in Britain?
The answer is no.
(Mr Granatt) To be frank, I think
43. You can drop us a note on that.
(Mr Granatt) Okay.
Chairman: I think that would be really
helpful. We are certainly coming to more on local authorities
in a moment. We are now coming on to the United States. James
44. We will indeed come on to the United States
but before I do that I wonder if you would comment on something
that one of our advisers has said to us. You do not have it in
front of you so let me just quote it. It is a general statement
which says that "Civil contingency planning in the UK leaves
much to be desired. It is a reactive problem solving process and
this is reflected in its loose organisational structure. There
is no co-ordination or standardisation of procedures or adequate
measures and mechanisms for sharing good practice". Is that
something which resonates with you?
(Mr Granatt) I think what resonates with me, certainly,
is the fact that it has been essentially a reactive system. As
I indicated at the beginning what we are trying to do is put into
place systems which are there for the prevention and pre-emption
of crisis. That means pulling people together. I think it means
in the longer term that we would like to look at developing standards
for resilience firstly among Government departments and then spreading
it more widely, perhaps with an open standard which was capable
of being tested with an audit system; not an audit system which
is simply a tick in the box audit system but an iterative process
which allows an organisation with others to look at what they
have in place and to examine how it meets the needs of that particular
moment. We are looking at a world which is evolving into greater
complexity as time passes and there is a need to keep reviewing
preparations that one has in place and, of course, a need to make
sure that you meet a standard that meets other people's. I would
agree, one of the reasons we were set up was to encourage greater
commonality, greater co-operation and to look for standards.
Mr Cran: Without being sensational and
censorious, you have a man sized job in front of you in order
45. Will you rephrase that please and make it
politically correct. A major task in front of you.
(Mr Granatt) I think one has to recognise we start
with a good base. I think it is easy just to look at the criticisms.
(Mr Granatt) A great deal of work goes on out there
among all the partners concerned to make sure that things are
as good as they could be. I think September 11 changed the overall
assumption and gave a stress to the need for commonality and greater
co-operation than was there, perhaps, in the past. Yes, it is
a large job. It is a job with which we want to engage a lot of
partners, it is not just us. It is a matter, I think, in some
ways of culture.
47. What surprises me is simply this. If I am
correct you said earlier on that in fact you would have a staff
of around 100. Now I am quite well aware there are staff elsewhere
who will be roped into the exercise but in order to correct the
culture and all the rest of the things that you say are deficient,
it just seems to me a hundred staff is pretty minimal, is that
(Mr Granatt) I have people who walk around and say
to me "What do all these people do", it depends where
you are sitting. If we need more staff to do this job then I will
look for more resources. I think the major way in which we do
this job and approach this task is to engage other people in partnership
because if we sat there and did it all ourselves or pretended
to be the fount of all knowledge, and the basis of all best practice,
we would fail. We need to engage lots of other organisations and
to get them working with us. We have had some forced and considerable
experience of this on the work that has come after September 11.
I think the work which Ian alluded to, for instance in London
particularly where there has been a great coming together of organisations
involved in London's resilienceboth the local government
arrangements, central government arrangements, private organisations,
utilitieshas shown that people have an appetite now in
particular to be engaged in this. Our job is to stimulate that
appetite, to make sure that the work is productive, it does not
need a huge staff. You are quite right, if we needed more resources
I would look for it.
48. You are not going to be resource constrained?
(Mr Granatt) I will always be resource constrained
because it is public money and I will have to justify it. I hope
that my case for it would be well made and I would get what I
need, but beyond that what can I say?
49. Against all that background, it is the responsibility
of this Committee to decide whether the structure which has been
set up, as you set out in the memorandum that you gave to us,
is the correct one or not. What we would be quite interested to
know is is there anybody, perhaps you, looking at what is going
on in other countries, how they have solved this? For instance,
we have been advised that the United States is way ahead of us
in its ability to react to disasters we are talking about. Are
you looking at this?
(Mr Granatt) We are looking at lessons from everywhere.
One of my colleagues has already been to the United States on
a visit with Mr Leslie, to look at the arrangements they have.
I think one has to consider very carefully in these comparisons
the differences in geography, the differences in constitutional
arrangements, the differences in national standards. We are perhaps
fortunate in having compact geography, in having organisations
like the police, fire service, ambulance service who train to
national standards, who are equipped to national standards and
for whom mutual co-operation and mutual aid is a way of life.
One can compare that with the thousands of different jurisdictions
in a country geographically the size of the United States and
with its federated structure. I come back to the point which I
made before. I think it is the outcome that we look for here and
I think the outcome that we get from our current arrangements
is a very good base on which to build. I think looking at, for
example, a comparison with the Federal Emergency Management Agency,
given the differences in the scale of the countries, given the
differences in constitutional arrangements, is not a simple one.
50. I am with you if you are saying that to
me because of the differences in the political systems in the
two countries. For instance, I would not take the view that a
home front director could be transferred to the United Kingdom
but I have an open mind on the proposition which says that we
should look at structures which are in place in other countries.
Indeed, you mentioned the Federal Emergency Management Agency,
now are you positively telling us that ministers or yourself are
not looking at that structure and saying "This is something
we could import into the United Kingdom"?
(Mr Granatt) No. I would not say that at all. I would
say we are looking at what lessons can be seen and learnt from
what other countries do and relating it to what we have. There
is a great deal of difference between having a Federal Agency
which parachutes in on to local arrangements and having a system
which we have employed well in the past where central government's
role is to make sure that the local arrangements are well supported
and government is ready to row in behind them. Because the people
on the ground here know what the problems are and across the nation
they have a good common understanding of what they are likely
to be, whereas in a country the size of the United States the
need for the centre to provide more resources with central knowledge
of what might be happening and of national impact is rather different.
I would never rule out learning from other people and certainly
we are not going not to listen and I am not ruling out that there
are lessons to learn from there and elsewhere.
51. What is the time frame for this gathering
of best practice throughout the international community and where
are you going? Are you going everywhere? Are you just concentrating
on the United States, Western Europe?
(Mr Granatt) We have not put a fixed programme in
place yet. We have been concentrating on post September 11th work.
I hope over the next year to put a programme in place, to arrange
visits and we have seen, indeed, people from other countries come
to us because they admire some of our system, so we use that opportunity
as well. I think over the next 12 months we will put that programme
in place and get it working. I do not have an end time for that
but I would hope we would learn lessons as we go through and not
wait for some particular moment to do it.
52. If you are not in favour of the kind of
system they have in the United States, the Federal Emergency Management
Agency, would you describe yourselves as a central disaster management
agency, Mr Granatt?
(Mr Granatt) We are not a disaster management agency
because we are not staffed to that level. We are there to co-ordinate
and to make sure that the agencies which do manage disasters have
the best chance of doing it. If I was setting up a central agency
to manage disasters we would be a rather different organisation.
Our job is to co-ordinate, our job is to facilitate. Our job is
to make sure that what we have in placethe UK has a very
great number of resources in placeis employed to its very
53. It does seem to me this kind of co-ordination
you talk about is in itself in a sense a management role. Do you
not think the public might be more reassured if they felt you
were sitting there, admittedly calling on the resources and devolving
power to individual local authorities, making sure that those
authorities were working to common standards, that they were achieving
the level of preparedness which the public expects? Perhaps that
is your role.
(Mr Granatt) I think the outcome of the Emergency
Planning Review points in that direction where a legislative framework
would ensure that those things happened and that Government was
in a position to make sure they were happening. Kevin, would you
like to comment?
(Mr Wallace) I think that is absolutely right. There
is a danger with a national organisation that parachutes in, in
other than federal circumstances, because you have a problem with
triggers. When does an incident become big enough? I think the
way the UK operates where central government starts to run alongside
a local problem has much to benefit the outcome because there
is never a dilemma: "Well, this incident is not big enough
for you to come in centrally and this one is too big for me to
handle locally". You do not have that where you have central
and local resources running alongside one another.
54. In the case of foot and mouth, the crisis
proceeded at a fairly slow pace and then we realised at a point
in time that the structures were inadequate and changes were made.
Fine. A few million animals died in the meantime but I suppose
we got it right eventually. Now if something happens really swiftly
there is not going to be a great deal of time to reflect, I know
we would be satisfied in being informed that the centre would
have the capacity to supplement existing resources if, perhaps,
that local authority or regional authority really has not reached
the point of where there is a certification system. We need to
be satisfied there is the expertise in the same way as there is
in other Government departments where local authorities fail and
people can go in to help. In your case it could happen at 12 o'clock
today and you would need the structures set up for 12.30. You
do not have much time to try people out to see if they are up
to the job.
(Mr Granatt) That is a very fair point. What I would
say is this. We are building our relationships, picking up our
relationships with local authorities and working to make sure
that we can understand what their needs might be in a range of
contingencies and letting them know what we can offer them. If
something happened at 12 o'clock today and it had that sort of
impact, we would immediately start to put our arrangements together,
we would immediately take steps to make sure we knew what was
happening and I think if it was an impact of a national nature
we would be gathering departments together first officially and
perhaps ministerially to take a view and make decisions on how
that could be reinforced. The first response would be at local
level and we would be working to get information from the local
level via the organisations concerned, and perhaps via, for instance,
the Government Regional Offices, to make sure that we are in a
position to help as effectively as we can. That I suppose is one
way of parachuting in help. The alternative, dropping an agency
on top of it, may not be the most effective way of doing it. You
would still have to go through the process of finding out what
was going on, ensuring that you understood the local conditions
and marshalling the resources. It is the outcome we are seeking
to deliver. If there are lessons to learn about a national agency
then we are open minded, we are not fixing ourselves into a particular
response to these problems. We are looking for the best practice
that we can put in place given the circumstances and the resources
of the United Kingdom.
55. Listening very carefully, certainly accepting
your comments about the substantial differences between this country
and a country like the United States, concerns about how parachuting
in might not provide the best assistance available, I am nevertheless
interested in whether you think it would be useful to set up an
available pool of people who do have real experience in dealing
with major incidents on a reserve or standby basis so that if
a major incident happens and the call comes from the local level
of "we need this, that or the other assistance", you
have immediate access to some kind of pool of people, resources,
to deal with that. What is your view on that kind of reserve standby
(Mr Granatt) I think that capability is an important
one and it is one that we are attempting in the first instance
to put into place for central government, which is one of my first
priorities, but it has application at local level. Let me explain,
for central government we are lookingand perhaps Ian Abbott
would like to comment further, it is his areato put together
knowledge bases which tell us where people are, where resources
might be gained, where experience can be drawn upon. I think certainly
that has application at local level as well. How do we arrange
that I think is perhaps the subsidiary question. Who should arrange
that and where should it be done? The Government Regional Offices
may have a role here. They have been used in the last few major
emergencies to help resolve some problems. I think, and so do
my colleagues who work there, that they have a particularly interesting
location. They are out there with staff, they are in close contact,
and their ability to perhaps become a focus for the sort of planning
that would allow for the resources to be identified locally and
for the support to be deployed in support of a lead authority
or a lead emergency service is something that I think has great
merit to it. Do you want to comment further, Ian?
(Brigadier Abbott) If I may. Having parachuted, can
I just clarify one thing. This idea of parachuting into something.
In many ways we may consider that military aid to the civil community
or to authorities in this case is parachuting something in. What
we are saying, and we have certainly seen before and after the
11 September, whether it be foot and mouth or whether it be some
terrorist driven event, is that there are only certain things
that a local authority can actually achieve nowadays before it
runs out of capability and, therefore, it looks left and right
to see whether it can get mutual aid. It needs to work with the
police in terms of the boundaries and I think Mike Granatt's point
about the potential for Government Regional Offices for this was
shown both in recent events and that there is utility in this
approach. Knowing what is available, trying to get rid of any
obfuscation that is there or insight I think is crucial. This
is where I feel that one of the best tools that we can establish
is something like the knowledge network where individuals will
know this is where the main base police station is, this is where
the A&E is, if there is a plume. We have certain models that
have been worked up which are portable on computers which allow
you to react in the field so that you can say "If there is
an incident this is the downward hazard area". Allowing that
to be put on to a web, so consequently local planning authorities
and their emergency planning officers can gain access to this
using a password control mechanism. That is the sort of tool which
we think is useful. That is the insight to data, location and
orientation which I feel would be a useful way forward. Those
are two strands of the work that we are taking forward now.
56. Following up certainly with your mention
of military assistance, can I ask you for your views on the idea
that in this country we should consider establishing some new
force along the lines of the US National Guard which could be
brought in to deal with civil contingencies or, indeed, some kind
of major terrorist incident. Can I ask what your thinking is on
(Brigadier Abbott) Again, one knows that the MoD are
considering this as part of their work on the new chapter in the
Strategic Defence Review. I will not speak for them, I will speak
for myself. I look at the national organisations in this country
and in America and say I think there are different approaches.
You may well say that surely there is a parallel between the Territorial
Army in this respect and the reserve forces which are there and
also the National Guard. Effectively they are national elements
which top up on the in place capability that we have at the moment.
If somebody said to me "Would it not be great to have a bespoke
orientated emergency contingency force in this country" I
would say that sounds like a great idea. We all know that there
are resources and there are limits, I think we know also that
it is about society reacting to crisis. I would say that probably
the people who wrote this manual and assisted them are our bespoke
forces. They are the police, the fire service and the ambulance
service which are out there at the moment. They do a 24 by seven
operation and they are the instant responses. I think once you
have put that and then the structure of delegated authorities
in place, we are left with local authorities dealing with the
incident. From one's own experience, we do not want a chateau
general to start running the incident on the ground. The boys
who are on the ground are the ones who know what ground truth
is. What we think might be useful is for those who are on the
ground to know where to ask for help because my own experience,
having done this work, whether it be emptying dustbins in Glasgow
or running fire stations or serving petrol, has been local authorities
want to know what help can they get and where to go and ask for
it. The police want you to get in there quickly with a command
and control organisation, with its own communication system and
start doing the reason you have gone in there, whether it be driving
this truck, delivering this or emptying that. That is what they
want you for. What we want out of it is to be assisted. I think
we want liaison, I certainly want co-operation, I would want the
keyholder, I would want to know what my legal statute requirements
are. One of the problems that I know the Americans face and we
face is legislation. One of the biggest problems that we have
nowadays, and I have seen this from my own experience, is that
in the 1970s and 1980s I understood where I was in terms of my
responsibility to my soldiers. I now have a duty of care, I now
have to adhere to European laws whilst I am in the Balkans because
it is within that area. Consequently, having someone from the
legal side, someone from the police side, knowing what the rules
of engagement are, are really key fundamental tools which I can
assist, or the MoD can assist, if it was to give this force. I
think we already have a standing force. You may therefore question
whether or not the police, the fire brigade and the ambulance
services are as resourced as they should be or could be in the
light of the 11 September. We have a contingency mechanism which
is military aid to civil authorities which has three priority
systems. It has a payment and refunding system, it has in addition
to military aid to the civil powers and military aid to the Government
departments, it has the opportunity to give logistic and training
resources to the police and a way of capturing and accounting
for that. I think that is the structure that we have at the moment.
Has that structure been found wanting post 11 September, I do
not think so.
Mr Hancock: It has not been tested.
57. It has not been tested.
(Brigadier Abbott) You may well say that we were not
attacked, that we have not been attacked.
Chairman: We could have been. Who was
there standing outside Sellafield or, indeed, standing outside
all sorts of nuclear establishments or Government departments?
The fact there was no attack was good fortune but that is no reason
why we should not have adequate forces, it could be an element
of our key infrastructure site. It might have been a role during
the Cold War but a lot was jettisoned during the Cold War because,
as the Ministry of Defence said in their SDR, for the first time
in a generation: "There is no threat to the UK homeland".
We will give the MoD good notice of this. This will be quite an
interesting area for us to explore. Our resident ex soldier, Colonel
Mercer, would like to come in now.
58. Former colonel. That is the point, surely,
we are not talking about serving petrol or getting rid of dustbins,
my constituents came to me as a former soldier and said "Who
is going to reassure, we have a series of power stations here
in the Trent Valley which are vulnerable . . ." in their
eyes only, but that is beside the point. We have got the National
Guard flying combat air patrol over the centre of cities in America.
The few territorial units which remain in my constituency after
the last round of butchering said "Why are we not being involved?
Why are we not being used? Why are we not deterring? Why are we
not reassuring?" Surely we have moved into a different scale
of emergency here and I do not want to tread into counter-terrorism
but there is a deterrence role.
(Brigadier Abbott) I think there is. May I just make
three points very quickly. You will be pleased to know that in
terms of military expression, the campaign plan was constructed
at the beginning of all the work post 11 September. The campaign
plan is effectively what strands of work we do What is it? What
is the outcome, not the output, the outcome? The centre of gravity
for me is public confidence and if we do not do anything that
changes or affects that, then we are not doing the right thing.
It has to be public confidence that is the point that we wish
to reinforce. Secondly, the aspect of explaining where I was before
in making the statement, was I think we need to differentiate
between the processes that we have at the moment and the decision.
Now I would argue that the processes were not found wanting. You
may well say they were not tested but the processes are there
and I did not see a great differential between the processes that
we had in place before we stood down the structures effectively
by 1993 and what we have now. The elements are still there. Therefore,
it comes to the third area which is one over the perception of
threat. That to me is outside of the CCS's responsibility. Whether
or not the Government should or should not have done something
relies on the threat estimate, the reaction of the Government
to that and then for us to articulate that in terms of action.
Given that the CCS is about civil contingency matters. It is about
pump priming, about getting the fly wheel up to speed, then stripping
off power from the fly wheel. It is a decision which would want
to be taken in this case, but it is a decision that is outside
of the CCS's remit. I do not know whether Mike would like to give
a better position from that in terms of Central Government's role
but I think it is fundamentally threat driven.
(Mr Granatt) I think Ian is right, it is outside our
remit. We are looking at the mitigation or management of consequences.
The issues you have raised are not ones that we address, although
a number of organisations we deal with do address them so I do
not really feel able to add to what Ian says. I think he is right
about our position on that. I would say that a very great deal
of thought has gone into this, I am aware of that, on all the
issues that you have raised.
59. Can I press you further on the point which
Rachel Square mentioned about this pool of reserve resources in
terms of expertise. What you have been saying to us is it is more
of the other way process, you are relying on the people on the
ground to have the information and they are going to be in a better
position to judge things than you are at the centre. What is of
concern here is something like a chemical or biological attack.
We are not talking here about an ordinary natural disaster, we
are talking about some kind of terrorist attack. If it happens
in my local authority, if there is a chemical attack there or
in Dorset or in Nottinghamshire or Dunfermline, you have already
admitted to us that the local authorities cannot cover the whole
of the water front. There has to be a system by which those emergency
authorities can go straight to you and you then deploy the team
of people who are going to deal with what we are now faced with
which we were not faced with before, that surely is the issue,
is it not?
(Mr Granatt) I do not know where you are. Clearly
the first responders are the people who have to deal with it first,
stating the blindingly obvious. The police have put into place
a centre of excellence to train a large number of police officers
to handle these sorts of incidents in the first instance. I have
not got the figures precisely but I am sure we can get you some
up to date figures. The fire service are also training their staff
to deal with this and, of course, many chemical hazards that arise
from industrial accidents are similar in nature in terms of precautions
and decontamination as some chemical incidents that might arise
because of deliberate action. Of course they would turn to Central
Government for help and resources instantly. There are mechanisms
in place through us or through the Home Office to make sure that
we can assist them and weigh in with the resources necessary as
soon as possible.
Chairman: That is another area we will
have to look at in more detail. Moving on to the role of local
authorities in slightly more detail, Syd Rapson.
Syd Rapson: Yes. Can I say that I have
a cynical attitude having been in a local authority for 28 years,
I do appreciate the role you are playing, Mr Granatt, in that.
Can I pose three questions. The first main question is since 11
September what has the Civil Contingencies Committee or your Secretariat
done to provide local authorities with extra guidance on threats
and responses? That is the first question, what actually have
you done? I have a feeling very little but hopefully you can change
that view. The second one is that I understand you have instigated
quarterly meetings with the Local Government Association and the
Emergency Planning Society and, for our help, could you provide
a minute of the last meeting to the Committee afterwards of that
body. The final one is about reassurance. The longstanding memory
of the disaster in America is Mayor Guilliani's reassurance to
the public as a local elected official as such, a representative
of the people. Whilst in London we have got Ken Livingston, and
if there was a disaster he would be on the television reassuring
people, probably very well, in the local authorities no elected
person is involved to any great extent at all, if any, apart from,
say, the leader. It is nearly always in the hands of paid officials
and MPs in particular are not in the loop. I am clearly not a
member of Portsmouth City Council now and I am alien to what they
do. They do not tell me. When the feeding frenzy of the press
comes if there is a disaster, the local MP or MPs are drawn in
to give reassurance to the public. Surely in the future planning
should involve the MPs as elected representatives of the people
as well. I do not know if you can answer the three levels of question
in that respect.
Chairman: I must say I would not like
to be the person choosing whether that spokesman should be Syd
Rapson or Mr Hancock, that would be worse than the original threat.
Mr Hancock: We would probably have to
do it together.
1 Note from witness: It is usual for the "blue-light"
services to provide local authority control rooms with the means
to communicate with their control rooms. In addition, there is
also the public telephone network and the Emergency Communications
Network, the use of which is described in paragraph 2.22 of "Dealing
with Disaster". In addition, County Emergency Planning Officers
(CEPOs) and Emergency Planning Officers (EPOs) are able to use
the following two radio systems: 1. Local Authorities are increasingly
purchasing their own local personal radio network for use by park
rangers, parking enforcement staff etc. These can be re-deployed
in an emergency. 2. The local police can provide a police personal
radio on loan for direct contact between Chief Emergency Planning
Officer/Emergency Planning Officer and police station control