Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120
WEDNESDAY 16 JANUARY 2002
120. Was this pre or or post 11 September?
(Mr Granatt) This is post 11 September. We had assumptions
and we decided to validate them through research. What the public
clearly had a requirement for, and said so, was that if there
was an attack or a credible threat of an attack they would want
good information very quickly, and that is the arrangement we
have put into place.
Chairman: We have to move on quickly
now. Rachel Squire?
121. We have touched already on the issue of
training key people and key groups and I understand that there
is an Emergency Planning College near York which has been there
since 1939, but I am confident it has substantially changed the
programme of training that it offers since then. How do you intend
to enhance the facilities offered by the Emergency Planning College
to meet the increased need for emergency planning and civil contingencies
training? In particular, there is the issue, if that is going
to be boosted, of are you going to lobby or are you lobbying for
additional resources to be made available to the College to meet
what you seem to have identified as the increased demand for that
kind of facility?
(Mr Granatt) There are resources which have been provided
and a substantial sum has been made available to improve the accommodation
at the college which is sadly lacking. I think this will help
them to accommodate the large number of people that do flow through
the door and we do expect to flow through the door, particularly
in the light of events of 11 September. We want to enhance the
role of the College, not simply to do what it does now; which
is largely to bring people in for courses that take place for
a half week or a week on various aspects of emergency planning,
but to look at their role, because they have expert staff, in
helping to assess circumstances and do reviews of the way incidents
were handled, distance learning, and for co-operation with other
public sector partners like the Civil Service College and perhaps
partners beyond that inside the private and public sector to improve
the way in which the need for resilience and training for it is
promulgated and developed. We think the Emergency Planning College
is a vital part of the operation that we have. We think it has
got great potential for improving the spread of knowledge and
best practice, and I think the resources that we have been provided
with to improve the accommodation is a mark of the commitment
that the Government has put into it.
122. I have a question which I shall not ask
you now because it will take too long to answer. It was raised
by the question that Mr Roy asked and perhaps you could drop us
a note on it4. There is a dilemma over how far you inform the
public of what is going on, how you inform them in as much detail
as you can about the threat, without making everyone totally paranoid.
I am sure there has been thought given to this and if you have
a few minutes in the next two or three weeks perhaps you could
drop us a note to give us some indication of what you think the
parameters should be and how far you can go in reassuring people.
(Mr Granatt) We will give you an idea of what we have
put into place and who we have been working with.
Rachel Squire: Chairman, can I add on
to that the measures in place to try and better inform and educate
the media in how it deals with these issues. Speaking, I admit,
as somebody who has had a minor incident at a dockyard reported
on the front page of a tabloid newspaper as a "near Chernobyl-type
incident", I have paid some attention to the difficulties
of balancing information to the public without causing undue alarm.
Chairman: This is the very last question,
I promise you. Mr Jones?
4 See Supplementary Memorandum appendix 1.
123. We have talked about the role of local
authorities in emergency planning, but what is their role in terms
of informing the public? First of all, has any guidance been issued
to them and has that changed since September 11? As Mr Howarth
just reminded me, do they still use church bells to warn of impending
disaster or is there some other new method which they are using
or a standard that they are using?
(Mr Granatt) I come back to the organisation I mentioned
before, which is the National Steering Committee for Warning and
Informing the Public, which includes local authorities and has
been looking at a whole range of ways in which this might be done.
Do you want to add to that, Kevin?
(Mr Wallace) That is the way that it has been taken
forward. I do not think that they use church bells.
124. Can I have the first question answered,
what is their role at the moment?
(Mr Granatt) It depends on the circumstance. If it
was a matter of immediate urgency normally the police would take
a role in informing the public and they would do that in a range
of ways. They would go round door to door, they would go round
with loudspeaker vans, they would take the appropriate action
to do that. Whether local authorities get involved would depend
on the circumstance.
125. I think we should know if the police have
(Mr Granatt) The ability to
126. Whether they have loudspeaker vans.
(Mr Granatt) My understanding is that a lot of them
Mr Hancock: I think you would be very surprised
to see how many have.
Chairman: On that cynical note from Mr
Hancock we will terminate. May I say thank you all very much,
it was very, very interesting, very relevant, and we will be in
touch further. Thank you very much.