Examination of Witnesses (Questions 320
WEDNESDAY 13 FEBRUARY 2002
320. Who provides the secretariat?
(Mr Bowen) I provide the secretariat. In the case
of home land defence the Head of the Home Secretariat would be
involved. If it was an overseas matter it would be the Overseas
Commitment Secretariat. So again that is according to the case.
Chairman: Thank you. We have some questions
now on military assistance to civil authorities, and firstly key
321. Gentlemen, the Committee have been told
earlier of the number of key points designated both inward and
on MoD sites. To what extent are the MoD and the service commands
involved in the system of security at those sites? Is that assistance
given on an ad hoc, when it is needed, basis?
(Brigadier Houghton) Perhaps I ought take this one
again. I might give quite a lengthy answer to this, because perhapsit
sounds cheeky to say sobut there is a process of education
and a requirement to explain some of the terminology involved.
MACA and key point defence are quite unrelated things. You will
recall that, as a result of the SDR, the armed forces have eight
defence missions. One of those defence missionsdefence
mission sevenis to do with aggression against NATO's flanks.
That is, as it were, deemed to the mission which gives a threat
level at which certain of the actions relating to military home
defence will start to be implemented. It does not have to mean
that it is an aggression against NATO's flank. We last looked
at implementing some of the measures of military home defence
during the Gulf War, but key point defence relates to military
home defence as a result of a build-up of tensional crisis in
the world by which the domestic front could be threatened by some
form of what we would view as conventional forms of attack. MACA
is a quite different thing which is provided under defence mission
one, which is peace-time security, and no doubt some of your questions
will go into specific MACA areas. Within the key point set-up
there are two forms of key points. There are what is known as
economic key points which relate to critical national infrastructure,
which are the sole responsibility of the security services, to
survey and recommend the nature of the security that is given
to them, and that is not anything which is laid on the military
to do. There are then at the moment just in excess of 160 military
MoD key points. Now, it does not mean that those 160-plus are
all military sites; far from it. They are deemed to be sites some
of which, if their security was to be prejudiced, would have an
effect on the ability of the country and the armed forces to conduct
military operations, and therefore such things as the BT Tower,
the Foreign Office, 10 Downing Street are military key points
even though they are not themselves military sites. The responsibility
for the surveying and the protecting of those sites is a military
one but that would only be enacted, not within the security mission
for peace-time security, when there is a wide range of peace-time
security systems and alert systems and threat systems at which
other forms of security, short of those forms of attack which
might be against those places in a time of war or tension
322. Just so I understand. You are saying,
for example, the BT Tower would be regarded as a military key
(Brigadier Houghton) It is an MoD Key Point.
323. Do you differentiate at all then between
the military and the non-military? You are saying there are these
160, that is the total?
(Brigadier Houghton) That is the total number of MoD
KPs we have at the moment.
324. Which would include the BT Tower? Are there
any other ones outwith that 160? Is that them all?
(Brigadier Houghton) That is all of the MoD ones.
We could furnish you with the full list of the 160 if you wanted
to see everything which may or may not be included.
325. Yes, we would, please.
(Brigadier Houghton) There are criteria which would
go into that. But then there are, as it were, a separate lot of
key points which are to do with other bits of critical national
infrastructure which are not the responsibility of the Ministry
of Defence but are the responsibility of the security services.
326. On those non-MoD sites, what exercises,
if any, have been conducted since 11 September?
(Brigadier Houghton) On the non-MoD sites?
(Brigadier Houghton) To be honest, I am not in a position
to say. That is really a question for the security services and
the Home Office.
328. So has the policy changed since 11 September
in relation to what we have been talking about?
(Brigadier Houghton) The policy has not physically
changed. The policy is under review and the policy of both sets
of KPs is set by the Cabinet Office. So the security service conducts
surveys of economic KPs; the Ministry of Defence with its assets
conducts the security surveys of MoD KPs. The policy within which
those surveys are conducted is a policy set by the Cabinet Office.
329. Will this be considered by Mr Hoon in the
home land security extra chapter? Will this form part of that
(Brigadier Houghton) Yes, it will.
330. You say it is under review. It is now,
what, six months since 11 September, when is it likely to be completed?
(Brigadier Houghton) To be honest, from the respect
of the MoD KPs the last review point and the promulgation of the
policy affecting the MoD KPs was last issued in February of last
year. In effect, given the nature of those KPs and regardless
of 11 September, the policy guidance covering them is pretty relevant
to the current security situation. The nature of the review is
more the principles under which particular sites should be in
or out of the key point list, rather than the nature of the specific
331. Who can influence that, the in and out?
Where are the influences for that decision being made coming from?
(Brigadier Houghton) That is done within the KP Review
Committee, on which the MoD is represented, along with the intelligence
services, Cabinet Office, Home Office. It is within a Cabinet
Committee on which my directorate is represented.
332. Has anything been taken out since 11 September
to make way for others that have been brought in?
(Brigadier Houghton) Not that I am aware of.
333. So it is not dictated to by the resources
available to protect these key points?
(Brigadier Houghton) No.
Chairman: Thank you. We have a group
of questions now relating to assisting local authorities and emergency
334. Other than the events of 11 September and
before that, we saw the troops deployed for things like flood
defence and clearly the highly publicised assistance with foot
and mouth disease. I have a series of questions relating to that.
Could you outline the administrative routes for seeking approval
for military assistance in each of these cases? How long does
it take from an emergency like that being declared to actually
seeing troops on the ground?
(Mr Bowen) Let me start. I should say as I start that
Brigadier Houghton has particular responsibility in his job description
and within the Ministry of Defence for the delivery of military
aid to the civil authorities and has been heavily involved in
the last two years, so you will find him speaking rather a lot,
probably, in answering these questions. But in terms of what the
channel is for approvals, in general terms there are two routes.
One, a crisis disaster emergency appearing on your doorstepmaybe
a disaster, a threat to life, it maybe floodingsomething
that actually involves the local authorities and their immediate
response, and that can actually trigger an immediate action by
the local authorities to the local service unit, and that service
unit, if life is under threat, will respond immediately to that.
That is, as it were, the emergency route. There is a more deliberate
route which comes through from the top and where other government
departments which have the lead indicate in government, in Whitehall,
that they need assistance. That is a top-down approach which will
involve Cabinet Office co-ordination and probably the involvement
of COBR, the Cabinet Office Briefing Room, to decide what the
policy should be and what other departments need to be brought
in to solve the problem. In that case the decision-making process
can be very quick. The Ministry of Defence will be represented,
maybe ministers, will be present round the table and decisions
can be made very quickly. The time it takes between the decision
being made and troops being deployed rather depends on the specialism,
the location and all that, but it can be a matter of hours. That
would be my general approach.
(Brigadier Houghton) I think it is important to note
that other than a couple of niche capability areas, where only
the armed forces have that capability, the armed forces do not
keep any manpower or resources contingent upon or dedicated to
what we call generically the MACA tasks. MACA covers three different
areastell me if you already know thisMACP, military
aid to the civil power; MAGD, military assistance to other government
departments; and MACC, military aid to the civil community. In
terms of MACC, military aid to the civil community, of which the
most obvious example would be something like military aid to support
counter-flood relief activity or the aftermath of the Lockerbie
air disaster and those sorts of things, it is very much bottom-up;
there is no bureaucracy involved in it, there is no legal overarching
decisions, no defence council orders or anything like that needing
to be signed. That is bottom-up and we would just report up through
the military chain of command and inform the ministers that this
was ongoing. So long as there is a risk to life there is no question
of any charges being made or anything like that. Within MAGD,
military assistance to other government departments, examples
are wide ranging. Some of this, going back in time, was more to
do with calling on military assistance in industrial disputes
in order to maintain essential servicesdustbin men strikes,
firemen strikes, those sorts of things; more recently, as you
pointed out, the foot and mouth business. Here there is a requirement
to give legality to the orders we issue to our service people.
Because it would not normally be a lawful order to order a serviceman
to drive a Green Goddess, carry a bag of coal, slaughter certain
livestock, a defence council order has to be signed. That can
be done in a matter of hours, depending on the nature of the specific
situation; it can be done very quickly. Similarly, with MACP,
where there is a requirement within the civil authority to call
on the capability that only the military possessyou might
be talking about a specialist search of a venue where there is
going to be a high profile event and there could be a security
problem with itMACP again has to be ministerially authorised
but this can be done by a duty minister within a matter of hours
at any time of the day or night or at weekends. So there is no
reason why there should be any delay at all in bringing the appropriate
military capability to a situation on the ground so long as that
military capability is available because, as I said at the outset,
we do not keep other than in certain specific niche areas, military
capability contingent to the MACA task.
335. Relating particularly to foot and mouth
and flooding, those types of things, and indeed the preparations
which I believe were going on during the fuel strikesa
longish question but a short answer would be much appreciatedwhat
main lessons have come out of that? How would you improve things
(Brigadier Houghton) From foot and mouth?
336. Yes, particularly.
(Brigadier Houghton) Clearly the main responsibility
for drawing up the lessons learnt within this is the appropriate
lead departmentMAFF, now DEFRA, in respect of foot and
mouththerefore I will just stick to those within the military.
My primary one within the military would be the process of education
of other government departments and the wider public as to the
degree to which there is relatively little military capability
held contingent to these sorts of tasks. If we take the example
of digging pits for carcase disposal, there were something like
175,000 pieces of engineer plant available in the commercial sector,
there were 20 plant teams in the Royal Engineers in the country.
We simply do not now have, given the SDR armed forces optimised
for deployed operations, that degree of capability available stood-by
within the UK. I think the second major lesson would be relating
to the command and control arrangements by which the military
interfaced with the civil authority at all levels. That is not
to say they were necessarily bad but I think within command and
control you can always make improvements.
337. Leading on from that, my constituency was
flooded 18 months or so ago, and the cry went up, "Where's
the Army?" and then, "Where's the Navy?" Clearly
neither was available. In fact, it is difficult to get ships that
far up the Trent anyway, even when it is flooding, but eventually
we got some Fusiliers, who were quite excellent, I may say. The
cry went up, "Where are our Territorials?" The answer
was, there are none in Nottinghamshire. What proportion of troops
that have been involved in these various operations have been
regulars or territorials?
(Brigadier Houghton) I would have to follow up with
a written answer to give a detailed statistical break-down
338. You have learnt all the tricks from your
political masters on how to avoid answering questions!
(Brigadier Houghton) I was not briefed on any of this!
By far and away the first port of call for MACA type operations
is the regular manpower that is available at any given moment
within the UK mainland, and a rough estimate is that at any given
time without disrupting the current or next roulement of worldwide
operations, Land Command could call on 15,000-ish soldiers. Therefore
in terms of a ready available reserve of manpower, the first recourse
will naturally be to the regulars, but clearly within the volunteer
ethos a lot of volunteers wish to come and take a part, particularly
in MACC activities. With foot and mouth, we were talking about
tens and twenties; at no time during foot and mouth did the number
of military from all three services exceed 2,100, and therefore
that from the military perspective was eminently sustainable but
it would eventually have had some impact on operations, but we
were talking about tens and twenties. This, you will be aware,
but I cannot remember the detail, is one of the things which undoubtedly
we will look at in the New Chapter.
(Mr Bowen) On the lessons learnt, inevitably our ideas
are being fed into the wider lessons learnt and to the Anderson
Inquiry, so these are preliminary views but there will be a wider
stock-taking of what those lessons are which will come out of
the inquiry. On the question of reserves, this is very much a
live issue, and certainly the Secretary of State has spoken on
a number of occasions about addressing the issue of reserves and
the use of reserves in the post-11 September world. I think it
is just worth noting that the readiness state of reserves is quite
often low in relation to regulars. In terms of the availability
or their involvement, sometimes they are involved in their civil
capacities, certainly when you think of the medical side and maybe
even on the engineering side, and sometimes the reserves are actually
double-hatted in their civil and military manifestations.
339. In this post-11 September environment,
the arrival of military forces in a matters of hours could be
hours too late. If there is a major crisis, not a gentle build-up
to a crisis, the absence of armed forces, be they regular or territorial,
can be really crucial. Our Committee banged on at length, without
much effect I must say, about the SDR and lamented the lack of
footprint not just for calculation purposes for the armed forces
but because they might well be required. So I very much hope,
Mr Bowen, as a result of this additional Chapter it will allow
the civilian authorities and the Ministry of Defence to have access
to military personnel, be they regular or otherwise, rather more
swiftly than might at this stage be available. Because of the
cut-back in both regulars and territorials, our armed forces are
too dispersed. The threat is not simply from an external adversary
but from an external adversary who might be operating locally,
in which case I hope we are going to see a re-addressing of this
lack of personnel. One can look to what is happening in the United
States, a much larger country, which seems to have dealt more
successfully with the use of military personnel, be they federally-directed
or at the disposal of the Government. We will come back to the
MoD tomorrow and certainly in a couple of weeks on this.
(Mr Bowen) It is on the agenda.