Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 420 - 439)



  420. Are you involved in running the courses and the content?
  (Mr Davenport) Yes, we are.

  421. Post foot-and-mouth and 11 September the focus towards the military to help us in these emergencies seems to be greater. That might just be a perception, but it does seem we can rely upon the military. Are the courses going to be moulded to change to the new environment that I perceive, or are they just going to carry on as they did before?
  (Mr Davenport) There is a distinct possibility that the military or MOD involvement in the work of the college will be strengthened. That has been the subject of a number of internal discussions and seminars within government in the light of both the fuel protests the year before last and particularly foot-and-mouth last year. The details of that greater involvement remain to be settled, but that is the way it is moving.

  422. I take it from you that the Emergency Planning College has established effective links with both the Joint Services Command and the Staff College. There is a good relationship there and a very close one.
  (Mr Davenport) There is indeed.

  423. That has cheered me up somewhat from the beginning.
  (Mr Mann) As you may know, the Joint Services Command and Staff College and a range of other colleges are moving into the new Defence Academy. As part of the arrangements for picking up the linkages of the sort we were discussing, we are thinking of formally twinning the two organisations: the new Defence Academy and the Emergency Planning College.


  424. A few years ago there was a military/civil exercise named Brave Millennium. Is there a successor to that? Do you have any idea when it is going to be and what form it will take?
  (Brigadier Houghton) Brave Millennium is the principal Integrated Contingency Planning exercise conducted by what we call the Chairman of UKCICC, the United Kingdom Commanders in Chief Committee. The permanent chairman of that committee is the Commander in Chief of Land Forces, currently General Sir Michael Jackson, a well-known figure from television, Kosovo, foot-and-mouth and those sorts of things. Some standing remits are placed on that committee and a whole range of activities which are collectively known as Integrated Contingency Planning, which broadly on one hand are things relating to Military Home Defence, that is the military home defence aspects of a conventional attack against the United Kingdom. On the other hand, there is a broad range of activities, which I introduced at the last oral session on what we call MACA, Military Aid to the Civil Authority. The next exercise Brave Millennium is a two-day study period with some desktop planning exercises and scenario work. It is happening in March, 19-20 March. The aim in that is very much to take the focus off some of the old cold-war-type of responsibilities within Integrated Contingency Planning and to ensure that the main focus of that committee and its work, with all the agencies with which it works, is more on the consequence management side of Military Aid to the Civil Authority.

Mr Howarth

  425. Could we turn to the question of reserve forces? Can you tell us whether there are obstacles such as statutory or indeed military regulations which currently prevent the reserves from being used more widely in the homeland defence role? Are there any?
  (Mr Mann) No, I do not think so. We would need to look at that a little more carefully than that rather straight answer, in terms of the roles those reserve forces would be undertaking and the way in which they would be asked to undertake their duty. Would this be compulsory mobilisation, would this be voluntary activity, reporting for duty and being placed at the disposal of the civil authorities? In the work that we have done we have found no legal impediment to using them in the ways in which we are thinking of doing.
  (Brigadier Houghton) There is no statutory impediment to the employment of reservists, TA particularly, on this, but as a matter of current policy, Territorial Army and reservists are not employed on what we call MACP tasks, that is military aid to the civil power. Also there are some aspects of MAGD, that is Military Aid to other Government Departments, on which, again by policy, we do not employ them. We are very happy to use the TA on something such as foot-and-mouth and assisting the civil authority with managing that sort of crisis. On those things which are to do with the maintenance of essential services, such as fire service, ambulance service, as a matter of policy we would not involve the Territorial Army or have not done because of the potential allegations of strike breaking and the invidious position this could leave some members of the TA in.

  426. In a situation we have at the moment, the Ministry of Defence is concerned that by assigning our reserve forces to assisting in present circumstances there might be accusations of taking away the jobs of people engaged in other public services?
  (Brigadier Houghton) Correct. As a matter of policy, we have not employed them when there is an industrial problem.

  427. If there is a strike.
  (Brigadier Houghton) Correct, an industrial problem.

  428. You were suggesting that there were already plans for the reservist to be called upon for additional roles. Can you expand upon that?
  (Mr Mann) Certainly. Plans would be too strong a word. There is a number of ideas on which we propose shortly to go to consultation with the reserves, employers and so on. If perhaps I were to break them down into three categories and outline those categories, I should be happy to go into more detail if that would be helpful.

  429. Yes, please.
  (Mr Mann) The first category is something which has the rather unsexy title currently of Voluntary Planned Service, which we mentioned at the last oral evidence session here, where we would ask reservists to come forward to undertake a range of duties in support of the civil authorities. This would not be compulsory mobilisation. We would not expect every last man or woman to come forward but we believe that the ethos of the reserve forces is such that we could expect a reasonable turnout, even if it could only be for a reasonably short duration, given that these people will have other employment. There is a number of roles they could undertake, in that, most likely in consequence management tasks but there are other potential roles which they could fulfill. The second category is mobilisation within their current roles. If we take, let us say, an engineer unit, we might mobilise it as an engineer unit and ask it to do engineering chores. The third category is really a group of other slightly smaller tasks, subsidiary roles, where the reserve forces and their facilities might be of value, first of all in terms of augmenting whatever crisis management machinery is put in place. These people do have skills, including organisational ones.

  430. Like in foot-and-mouth?
  (Mr Mann) Not in those specific cases; those were the regular forces. It is the same analogy in these circumstances. Secondly, it may just be that they have facilities, for instance accommodation or their infrastructure, which is of value in its own right, which we ought to be able to draw on, if that is useful for the civil authorities.

  431. The Secretary of State said in an interview at the beginning of last month that we have to protect key installations in the UK, we have to develop a force that could do that over and above the people who are in the regular armed forces because clearly we cannot spare highly trained professional people for these sorts of tasks. Is the Ministry of Defence unwilling to use reserve forces, for example to protect sensitive sites, maybe somewhere like Aldermaston or maybe some of the radar stations or assist emergency services in dealing with major incidents?
  (Mr Mann) We need to draw two or three distinctions here. First of all, we need to draw a distinction between peacetime security and whatever we do in response to a home defence crisis, an explicit threat warning or worse. The second is that we need to fit the reserve forces contribution within the envelope of the total contribution to the defence of those sites that might be provided by first of all the civil police, secondly by our own Ministry of Defence police and other forces. I do not therefore really want to give you a quick and glib answer but within that we are by no means ruling out in response to a particular home defence crisis the use of the reserve forces in guarding tasks, but it would be part of a much broader package which we would have to consider in the light of the circumstances of the time, including the Ministry of Defence police, the civil police and so on.

  432. Forgive me, but these are slightly fuzzy answers. The nation faces a pretty serious threat at the moment. What we are trying to do is to examine here just what the response of the Government is to this set of circumstances in the light of 11 September. The question we are really looking at is whether you are prepared to use reserve forces to supplement the activities of the Ministry of Defence police and Ministry of Defence Guard Service. Do you not think that is necessary? What is the kind of thinking about the possible deployment of the reserve forces, given that the Secretary of State has said we have to develop a force?
  (Mr Mann) I wanted to be very clear about the context, this is not a peacetime context.

  433. It is in the context of this inquiry and what is going on at the moment. We are not talking about an academic essay.
  (Mr Mann) In that context certainly that is one of the potential roles for the reserve forces on which we plan to consult.

Mr Hancock

  434. How long do you expect that to take for goodness sake?
  (Mr Mann) The consultation?

  435. Yes.
  (Mr Mann) We expect to do that very shortly. We have not defined how long we will give.

  436. Is that before or after you complete the report you are working on at the present time?
  (Mr Mann) Oh, no, that is before we complete the report. In other words, we will come forward with ideas and proposals on which, especially for the reserve forces, we have consulted the reserve forces and indeed their employers.

Mr Howarth

  437. What is their view?
  (Mr Mann) We do not have that in a systematic fashion at the moment. We have a range of views, indeed at a seminar last week we heard a range of views expressed. There are some who believe that this is a useful role that the reserve forces should be playing. There are some who do not, to be perfectly honest. There are some who do not believe this is why people join the reserves. That is a very small range of views that we have taken. What we need to do through the formal consultation process is to get that in a much more systematic fashion.

Mr Hancock

  438. I am interested in where you are going to go for this further consultation, with whom? If you are now suggesting that some of the reserve forces currently have expressed views which say this is not their role, then you would come up with an idea that it is their role finally, then you are going to need more of them, so you have to look at how you would recruit more of them and how you would deploy them within the current reserve forces and how they would operate, do you not? What is your thinking on how that could be achieved? Could you recruit them? Could you integrate them? Could you get co-operation between the new recruits who would be recruited for a specialist task presumably with the existing reserve forces?
  (Mr Mann) May I just clear one point out of the way and then answer your question in two heads? The point is that we are not currently proposing that this be a dedicated force, a dedicated guard force. This would be an additional role for the reserve forces and therefore I am not sure the issue of integration in that sense would arise. It is not like the reserve forces we used to have, the home service force and so on. It is not like that. This is part of the current activity of reserve forces.

  439. Except you would not be wanting to recruit engineers and drivers if they were going to be used extensively for the expanded forces for guarding buildings, would you?
  (Mr Mann) No; absolutely not.

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