Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 260 - 279)



  260. What particular economic targets are you charged with protecting at the present time?
  (Mr Clarke) No others.

  261. No other economic targets?
  (Mr Clarke) No. All others are connected and have some relationship with the Ministry of Defence.

  262. On Monday I went to the new Air Traffic Control Centre at Swanwick, which I have had an interest in for some time - I was invited to the original opening about six years when I ago was leader of the County Council and it was put off. It has been a long time coming—I went there at the invitation of a journalist who was trying to assure me that I could get within literally spitting distance of the nerve centre of this place before anyone would approach me, and how right he was. I would be very interested to know whether or not you have been asked or are you there in some physical presence and if not why not?
  (Ms Craig) We have not been asked. To go back to your question you asked before, we would not get involved in risk assessment.

  263. For the record, you have not been asked to do anything to protect the Air Traffic Control Centre which covers most of western Europe, 200 odd planes an hour, and you have not been asked.
  (Ms Craig) As far as I am aware. I know the MDP have not been asked. Whether the MoD have been asked I would not know, it is not our responsibility.

  264. If they had and the MoD responded in a positive way you would know about it?
  (Ms Craig) I would probably know about it through the news, it is not part of my responsibility to get involved in aid to the civil power.

  265. There is no military presence at all at the Air Traffic Control Centre?
  (Mr Clarke) Not that I am aware of. I am totally unsighted on the security for this establishment.
  (Mr Cochrane) There was a presence at West Drayton, but it is important to recognise that was there for the security of RAF personnel on the site, it was not for the security of the site per se.

  266. I am a little disturbed by that.
  (Mr Cochrane) As far as the general question goes I can confirm that the MoD has not been asked.

  267. I am absolutely staggered. Going back to the very first thing you were talking about, your words were, "If anyone predicted people taking over planes and crashing them into buildings a year ago they would have been laughed at". Surely the obvious consequence of that now being an alert is to look for something else which could equally have a very damaging effect. Taking out the air traffic control system not only for this country, or a sizeable part of this country, but the majority of the approaches to western Europe would be seen as a fairly significant target?
  (Mr Clarke) I do not disagree with anything you are saying but it just does not fall to our responsibilities to be aware of it.

  268. Think of the risk assessment, part of that process, you should be thinking about that now so that a year from now when, touch wood, nothing happens you can be laughed at. Surely someone in your organisation is now looking at the vulnerability of places like that?
  (Ms Craig) Not in our organisation. It is a Security Service issue and a local police issue.

  269. Only a Security Service issue?
  (Mr Clarke) The Ministry of Defence would help if asked, but it is not a Ministry of Defence responsibility.


  270. What our Committee will do, in light of Mr Hancock's question, is to pass on transcript, if we can—it is your transcript as much as ours—we will pass these views on to see what the response is?

Mr Howarth

  271. Can I come back to that. As I understand it the Royal Air Force maintains a military service at Swanwick, which they previously provided at LATCC—the air commodore is nodding—there are, therefore, military personnel at Swanwick?
  (Mr Cochrane) They do move there.

  272. The point that Mr Hancock made is, in my view, quite right, the criteria by which you judge the need to provide an armed guard is whether there are service personnel there.
  (Ms Craig) That is the way we judge it.

  273. This facility falls fairly and squarely within that category.
  (Mr Cochrane) Yes.

  274. Furthermore, it seems to me if you are looking for a key point defence the entire air traffic control nerve centre of western Europe is a key point. It ought to be defended and I hope it will be on the list of 160 plus that we are going to receive.
  (Mr Cochrane) It probably will not be on as an MoD key point. To answer the specific question about the RAF presence, yes there will be an RAF presence at Swanwick, as there was at West Drayton, and, yes, our concern in considering the MDP presence will be the security of the lives of those RAF personnel that are currently employed there. They do not wear a uniform, so they are not identifiable. The question of a possible MDP presence to provide armed guarding for that RAF presence is under consideration. The larger question of whether that facility requires armed guarding and whether that should be considered nationally as a key point—I hear what you are saying—it is not our issue.


  275. Who is responsible?
  (Mr Cochrane) The Security Service would assess the threat. It would be a Cabinet Office decision on determining the status of the facility.

Mr Hancock

  276. Can I move on to seaborne defences? I would be interested to know what you have done to protect areas like Rosyth, Portsmouth and Devonport to guard them from attack from the sea side and also where you have civilians? In Portsmouth's case you have the civilian operator, you have the civilian staff, you have the heritage area encouraging several million people a year to enter parts of the dockyard and then you have the wide expanses of the harbour and then you have the same situation virtually in Devonport, not quite so similar in Rosyth, what have you done?
  (Mr Clarke) If I may pick that up particularly in respect of MDP resources and maritime resources, our own officers working out on the water, as it were, will respond accordingly to the security state, so as opposed to additional resources, if that is the question, there are no additional resources on the water. However, and it is interesting, we have used the recent anti-terrorist legislation under mutual aid when the MV Nisha incident broke, that was commanded by the Metropolitan Police anti-terrorist group and they came to MDP in terms of mutual aid and we were able to respond in terms of armed officers that were put on to the MV Nisha, and in terms of the exclusion area round that vessel which was provided by MDP resources. It is responding specifically and only if there is a heightened security state in terms of Amber to Black Special, etc, do we put additional resources.

  277. The Nisha was in Sandown Bay and there was a Royal Naval frigate alongside it most of the time and it would have been an extremely difficult target to get to because physically the sea was not that helpful to the terrorists. I regularly go along in a cruiser in Portsmouth harbour and I can go virtually alongside any one of the Royal Naval ships tied up, and for that matter visiting ships. The only time that has been made in any way difficult was last year when the Winston Churchill was alongside during the Festival of the Sea celebrations and the Americans themselves had boats in the water alongside. There was no presence at all. The maritime service from your side has not been increased, resources have not been given to you to have another boat in the water even. On most weekends or most days I could drive alongside a British warship tied up with little or no hindrance whatsoever. I could ram any one of a number of warships, including aircraft carriers, including those moored on the North Forward Jetty, which is the maximum security area. I could ram the side with a boat full of explosives if I chose to do so. I am amazed that you have not been given greater resources to beef-up the seaward side of that operation. Why have you not?
  (Mr Clarke) The reality is you are quite right, there is a 24 hour presence on the water and I think that the reality is that we have to go back to operating on specific intelligence. That is how we have responded. The simple answer to your question is, no, there have not been additional resources and there are not additional waterborne resources but there is a presence 24 hours a day.

  278. Do you think the Ministry of Defence should have put greater resources into water guarding their ships? Do they have a responsibility? The Americans seem to think they have, and they have been a target, of course we have not?
  (Mr Cochrane) The answer is that of course we do. In this instance we are talking about Royal Navy ships, that is a CINC FLEET responsibility[12]. I can say that in the light of the USS Cole incident measures for close security of Royal Navy ships, principally when deployed overseas, but it also applies when in home waters, have been looked at with just this sort of threat in mind.

  279. They cannot have been. I could have painted on the side of a ship in the dockyard last week, "you have been blown up, you are now all dead". I could have moored alongside it and painted it on the side of the damn ship.

12   Note from Witness: While the Defence Logistics Organisation is responsible for the security of the naval bases. Back

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