Examination of Witnesses (Questions 340
WEDNESDAY 13 FEBRUARY 2002
340. Are you aware of any plans to make better
use of the Territorial Army by bringing in legislation which would
enable their calling up to be done far quicker than it can be
at the present time? Are there any plans to ask the various territorial
detachments around the country to set in chain an emergency response
plan so that they themselves would be prepared to be called up
and deployed? It is not always about specialist equipment or tasks,
it is sometimes just about having people.
(Brigadier Houghton) You are starting to venture now
into what is the SDR work, but I can reassure you there has been
a specific concentration on ways by which we could involve the
TA and reservists from across the three services more widely and
with a far more speedy response. One of the specific ones is through
a mechanism called "voluntary planned", and there is
"compulsory planned", and there are a number of these,
but I think it would be quite wrong, until we have conducted the
consultation process with employers, with the TA, with the chain
of command and other interested bodies, to go firm on what the
eventual findings might be.
341. How long do you expect that process to
(Brigadier Houghton) It is hoped that the consultation
process leading to the costed options will all be complete by
342. Will that include an audit of the available
units and the personnel involved?
(Brigadier Houghton) Correct, in determining what
the numbers might be and the framework of the footprint or distribution.
343. That will be available?
(Brigadier Houghton) That is part of it.
344. Will that be made available to the civil
(Brigadier Houghton) You are now taking me down something
which is speculation.
345. No, I do not think it is speculation, I
think it is very important. You told us the Ministry of Defence
had a plan to respond to requests from civil authorities, in some
areas there is no full-time military presence but there are territorial
units. It is no good the civil authority going to the Ministry
of Defence if the only people available are territorials or reservists,
there must be a proposition for them to be able to make contact
with those sources.
(Brigadier Houghton) That exists already.
346. With territorial units?
(Brigadier Houghton) With territorials and regulars.
There exists already within the country in each military regional
area a mechanism by which the three services grouped together
in a joint co-ordinating group meet with local planning authorities
and emergency planners.
347. So you are happy there is currently in
the possession of emergency planning officers the ability for
them to call on territorial units?
(Brigadier Houghton) Not necessarily to call on territorial
units. I take you back to the framework, which is MACA. There
is no standing remit placed on the resources of the armed forces
to meet civil contingencies. They are allowed to call on them
on an "as available" basis, and the blue and green books
go into how this is done.
Within a large part of Great Britain, this is the brigadier commanding
the local army regional area, and he has an aggregation of the
capability which is at his disposal on any given date. It is part
of his responsibility to do that. So he will know on a rolling
basis if there happens to be a civil contingency in his area;
the sort of military capability which he would be able to put
at the disposal of the local authority wherever the crisis might
348. I live in hope that, that actually is the
case, but I somehow doubt it. We have been sent a copy of the
ministerial responsibilities but there is no mention on this at
all about what minister responds to the civilian authorities.
Who is the minister responsible for civilian responses on the
part of the military? There is no minister identified on the latest
ministerial responsibilities list, it does not feature at all.
(Mr Bowen) As I recall, Mr Hancock, the list lists
the three ministers, subordinate ministers, to the Secretary of
State. I think the Secretary of State would be the normal point
349. So if the local authority had a problem,
they would try to get the Secretary of State, would they? Come
(Mr Davenport) It would normally fall within the duties
of the Minister for the Armed Forces, Mr Ingram.
Mr Hancock: It needs to be clearly identified,
does it not? We are talking about a changed world now where a
civil authority might have to call for political guidance to get
the release of substantial military resources fairly quickly.
Can I draw your attention to this document, The Military Aid
to the Civil Community .
Chairman: Which edition is that?
350. This is the latest edition, 1989. It was
first written in 1968, last up-dated in 1989. I have looked at
this and this is a very, very confusing document. It concentrates
mostly on obligations after the event to pay, to insure and to
make sure you have filled in all the required forms. Have we come
up with a formula which cuts through most of this red tape now
and which is available, asking people to write in quite detailed
form what they are expecting, a brief description of the work
expected of the military, the financial liability, who has got
the third party insurance cover to cover service personnel, who
has agreed to meet the cost? This is all very interesting but
when you have a flood and you have people injured after an explosion,
somebody having to sift through this and wondering whether or
not their head is going to roll because they have not filled in
the required form is not a very satisfactory state of affairs,
is it? If we are working on the basis of the 1989 format I think
we are in some sort of trouble. Have we updated this and made
(Mr Bowen) No, Mr Hancock, that is the
latest version that is extant.
351. It is a nightmare, is it not?
(Mr Davenport) But it is currently being updated.
352. Good. Will that take some time? Is somebody
planning that at the moment, several lawyers and others?
(Mr Davenport) No, I do not think the lawyers
353. What is the timescale for that then?
(Mr Bowen) I do not know.
354. Goodness me. The world has changed considerably,
has it not? We are facing all sorts of threats and we are asking
you to work to this sort of document. I would think most people,
picking this up, would say, "Goodness me, the last thing
we want to do is get the Army involved. We might not be able to
pay for it." Come on. Can you let us know when you intend
to update that to make it simpler and to take some of the obligations
because it is a two-way thing? It is the person requesting who
has to do it and the receiving military officer who has to be
sure that he is covered there. I am somewhat confused that there
could be the possibility that people would not ask and people
would not respond because they did not really understand what
they could or could not do. It should be crystal clear, should
it not, Mr Bowen?
(Mr Bowen) I think that is a reasonable point, Mr
Hancock, and I think the updating of it is urgent, but I would
also say that I do not think that the processes and the contacts
rely exclusively upon this handbook, this document. I think that
the contacts are actually a good deal better than that. For example,
we have the Joint Services Co-ordinating Group which is run by
the regional Army brigadiers who bring in not only the Services
but the local authorities and the emergency services. There is
a contact and a network that is in existence. It is not just a
question of people saying, "I must look at my book and see
how this works".
355. Do you then expose to the local authorities,
and in that I take the police and the fire service and the civil
authority, the key national points that you are suggesting, both
military and non-military, which could be vulnerable? Are they
brought into your confidence on that? I am looking to you, Brigadier,
on that one.
(Brigadier Houghton) I am not certain that it has
ever been requested of them. If they wanted to they could get
access to it, but I am not really certain where the question is
356. If, for example, you are responsible for
the civil community who live around a potential target, is the
chief executive of that local authority told, "You are now
living amongst a key national target which we are protecting?
You yourself should be ready to make available resources if the
immediate community have to be evacuated, if there is a chemical
threat or if there is a nuclear threat, or if there is a terrorist
(Brigadier Houghton) With due respect, I think you
misunderstand the role of the military in this. The military are
not the conduit for letting local authorities become aware of
this sort of thing. It is the Home Office.
357. What, for military sites that you are asked
(Brigadier Houghton) All key point sites flow from
the Cabinet Office.
358. Who is it then? You make this decision.
This is a fundamental point to the way in which resources are
used. My constituency was substantially flooded in September 2000.
There was no assistance from the military on the ground. There
was subsequently naval assistance through pumps that were supplied,
being brought from Wales, but if there had been another emergency
in one of the many key national defence places in Portsmouth there
would have been a significant problem.
I want to know whether or not the local authorities are given
the sort of information which enables them to prepare themselves
for the potential of the things that you think are serious enough
for you to have them on your list of key points and which the
military are charged with guarding.
(Brigadier Houghton) Yes, but there seems
to be some confusion between action in the event of flooding and
what needs guarding.
359. If there is a flood and then a problem
in one of your key sites in the same location, like the City of
Portsmouth, where there could be a civil emergency and a military
emergency, in such a close-knit geographical area anything that
happens has a knock-on effect into the civilian population. That
is the same in most military garrison towns and the same in most
(Brigadier Houghton) What I would say is that the
process of integrated contingency planning which is carried forward
by the aggregation of the local authorities, the blue light services
and the military, continues on a month by month basis at a local
level where they exchange problems of this nature and identify
what the military capability can be brought to bear in a specific
situation. A degree of desk-top planning and crisis management
preparation goes on in that respect. I would hark back to the
fact that those things which are to do with the guarding of military
KPs is something that relates to urgent tension and crisis in
the build up to war. It is not the thing that affects day to day
guarding in an enhanced terrorist situation. Those things that
relate to flood relief and pumping activity and all that are something
for which the military are simply not responsible. If there is
a statutory requirement to produce solutions to the overflow of
sanitation points, that is something that is vested in the local
Mr Hancock: I understand entirely that,
but the civilian authorities are responsible in both situations.
If there were people living next to a military base which was
under terrorist threat and people had to be re-housed in an emergency
and they had to be evacuated, old people had to be shifted, local
authorities need time to get into place those preparations. It
is no good if they do not know that you yourselves are considering
these locations as potential threats. They will not have planned
to do that, and to move 50-odd people from an old people's home
is an extraordinarily difficult logistic operation. To move them
out could kill some of them and that has to be planned for. I
want an assurance from you that local authorities are taken into
your confidence. One of the things we have been told is that cost
is the biggest obstacle of involvement by the military. I want
to make sure that local authorities can minimise their costs by
planning properly for the eventualities that you foresee on your
Chairman: When you see the transcript,
Brigadier, if there is anything in addition you would like to
pass on to the Committee to help clarify these things for us,
please send it in.
1 The blue book is "Military Aid to the Civil
Community in the UK - A pamphlet for the guidance of Civil Authorities
and Organisations" and is available fom HMSO. The green book
is an internal MoD reference book entitled "MACA in UK in
The list detailing the division of responsibilities between MoD
Ministers identifies the Minister (Armed Forces) as having responsibility
for MACA operations. Back
The Home Office / CCS publication "Dealing with Disaster"
provides the framework within which the more detailed plans of
the emergency services, local authorities mas other organisations
are normally prepared. It places MACA support in context. Back
Ev 81. Back
Ev 81. Back