Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 440 - 459)



  440. So you have to have a message for those people who are trying to recruit.
  (Mr Mann) Yes. May I go on to the consultation process? This goes through in two stages, which also gets to the size of the reserve forces and their footprint within the UK. The first issue is one of consultation about the point of principle. Is this a role, in terms of the reserve forces, for which you would join the reserve forces? In terms of employers, is this a role which you would regard as being a legitimate role of the reserve forces for which you would release people in times of emergency? It is consultation on that point of principle. We plan to go down the chain of command, to consult units down the chain of command as well as consulting associations and employers through the National Employers Liaison Council. That would be consultation about the point of principle. On the practicalities, which gets us into issues of size and footprint, we would have to look separately at the distribution of reserve forces in the UK, including and against areas where incidents might arise. That is the conversation we had right at the beginning of this session. The existing distribution of reserve forces in this country, the degree to which we were turning people away already from the reserve forces and if we increased the size of the reserve forces there was the potential to go out and recruit. We also have other issues of practicality about training, about equipment and so on, which we need to work through in developing the package of proposals which we would announce later this year.

  441. Are you actually saying that you do not believe you would have a problem recruiting because currently you are turning more people away?
  (Mr Mann) I am not saying we would not have a problem recruiting. First of all we would have to be clear why reserve force people join the reserve forces. This may be unattractive to them. At the moment the reserves are reasonably well recruited, as you will probably know.

  442. Let us assume you have made the decision that this is going to be an expanded role of the reserve forces. You then have to seek to recruit them. Do you suspect that you would have no problem in recruiting people for these expanded tasks, or do you think that might create some difficulty?
  (Mr Mann) It will vary from area to area of the country. We are very well recruited in some areas of the country and as long as this was a role which people agreed in principle was a legitimate role of the reserve forces and for which they joined, I would not see a difficulty there. There are other areas less well recruited and it may therefore be difficult even to get the recruits in through the door.
  (Brigadier Houghton) You are asking a question which it is probably impossible to give an answer to in advance. There is no doubt that there is a division of opinion and certainly we have managed so far to do a certain amount of consultation as to whether or not the motivating ethos of a chap or lady who wants to join the Territorial Army is to go to Heathrow Airport or Sellafield, or something like that, or is their motivating ethos that they want to be a part of deployed forces going away on overseas operations. Depending on the individual and their circumstances, some would see the potential within their Territorial service to be called up for guarding tasks would put them off doing it. Others will not have a difficulty with that.

  443. There is a problem, is there not? Once you have made that decision, if you do not get the recruits, an awful lot of time will have gone by before you can establish this expanded force. So your other option is to go down a new force altogether. Is any serious consideration being given to an establishment of a similar corps to the National Guard in the United States, that these people could be used for these guarding roles and for civil emergency roles? Is any serious consideration being given to that as another option?
  (Mr Mann) We have looked very closely at the National Guard. There is a range of issues in respect of the National Guard which covers more than just their role. So you have to be careful about drawing absolute conclusions from that. A lot will depend on what we are told when we finish the consultation process. If there is no appetite for this out there, then we will draw one set of conclusions. If there is a very large appetite for this out there, we will draw a separate set of conclusions. I am afraid I simply cannot predict where we will come out until we know what motivates people.

  444. I am slightly unclear, and I am sure the rest of the Committee are, where this appetite out there is being sought. You said if there is an appetite out there for this particular solution. I am interested to know where you would go to canvass the alternative to the reserve force as a solution.
  (Mr Mann) That is what we would intend to do through the consultation process.

  445. With the same people.
  (Mr Mann) With the groups of people I mentioned before, that is the reserve forces, employers and anybody else who has an opinion to offer.

  446. In a remarkable statement to us in response to our report on terrorism the Government have suggested that they share our Committee's sense of urgency and priority on these issues. Seven months has already gone by and in answer to nearly every question so far you are suggesting that even more time will need to be taken because the thinking process is still not clear. Do you not have a problem with that?
  (Mr Mann) I think that although there is a potential role for the reserve forces here, what I would not want to downplay is the capabilities that we have already to execute these tasks, capabilities which we have already enhanced in ways which have been described to the Committee. We have put one package of enhancements in, so have the civil police and other authorities. What we are discussing here is a second package of potential enhancements.

  447. My final question relates to what has happened already in Scotland with regard to the responsibility for law and order being devolved down to that administration and similar responsibility for some of the new tasks to do with home defence have also been delegated to them. Where do you feel the roles of the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales fit in with what you are trying to do and how are you going to link the reserve forces, the police and other bodies in that area?
  (Mr Mann) This moves us into issues about the control and co-ordination arrangements which would apply. In terms of the consultation process, clearly they will need to be involved, if I might just clear that issue out of the way. The broader issue about co-ordination and control of the response to an incident is an issue which we are exploring in conjunction with the Civil Contingencies Secretariat because powers do vary across the United Kingdom. We have to be conscious of that in the arrangements we put in place so that we can fit within those-co-ordination arrangements. In particular, in respect of the enhancements we are making to liaison arrangements at the regional brigade level, we are making specific enhancements which will allow us to undertake that with national assemblies and national executives in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

  Chairman: I am sorry, but we have to throw people out now. We have some questions now on chemical, biological and nuclear incidents.

Mr Roy

  448. The CCS guidance to local authorities on chemical and biological incidents assumes military involvement in dealing with such incidents. What would be the procedures for co-ordination between the military and civil authorities during such an incident? Would the operational command of such incidents be with ***?
  (Brigadier Houghton) May I say as a general point that the nature of the command very definitely is incident specific. I therefore have to give you a couple of examples of the way in which it might be played. I go back to the point that the policy framework within which we provide military support to the civil authority in resolving these is the MACA framework and it is under MACP, military aid to civil power, that we do this. The armed forces have a number of specialist capabilities. In relation to CBRN, it is worth commenting specifically on two. The first is that nationwide at any time of the day, we have elements of 11 Regiment EOD, who are the bomb disposal experts of the armed forces. They have responsibility, other than within the Metropolitan Police who have their own capability, for being the first line to go to any improvised explosive device. ***. There will be other ways in which a device might be CBRN related in the way that is reported back to the civil police. It might come as a result of intelligence, it might come as a result of a terrorist incident when the nature of the device is reported to the civil authority. If there were no terrorist involvement with the device that involves ***, then there would be no time at which dealing with that device is passed over ***. If it were such that, for example, terrorists were holding hostages and a CBRN device might be in the proximity, then it could be that the *** until the time when it can be handed back to the civil authority or the police.

  449. He would have command and he would hand it over.
  (Brigadier Houghton) Hand it over and then under police authority the actual rendering safe of that device would proceed. If there is no terrorist involvement, and therefore ***, then at no stage would the command of the incident pass out of the responsibility of the police commander. The last time I gave evidence I talked about the various levels of police commander, the bronze, the silver and the gold. The commander for the incident is the gold level of command within the police.

  450. Are the armed forces widely spread around the country for any such incidents?
  (Brigadier Houghton) Two things. I mentioned the EOD because our ***. The render-safe procedures are done by another ***. This is under an operation called ***. This has the capability of ***. The nature of the of the device if it is a chemical or biological device, ***. If it is nuclear or radiological device , ***. The core military elements of it involve to two specialist units, ***

  451. Where are they?
  (Brigadier Houghton) ***. The military commander of the***


  452. I suppose one of the problems is that if there were an incident involving something locals have not come across before, you could not hang around until somebody ***. What method is available for very swift movement from *** so that the emergency services have the ability to move and do their job?
  (Brigadier Houghton) Much depends on the nature of the way the initial device is made known, whether or not it is a response to an IED. There is a nationwide coverage of EOD capability which has the ability to *** They can call off hoaxes, dummies, *** there will probably be no render-safe procedures and they can just advise on the way it can be handled before it is sent away for analysis. We would stand to the *** if there were any thought that it could be a nuclear, radiological or chemical device. ***. There are different ways of getting the capability there. Clearly it would deploy in a fashion which allows us to get the most important people there first, *** That entails a certain element of the technical response force and therefore ***.

  453. Has this been exercised?
  (Brigadier Houghton) Indeed; yes.

  454. Is it swift? Where is the nearest airfield *** ?
  (Brigadier Houghton) It would probably go from ***.

  455. How far is that?
  (Brigadier Houghton) Twenty miles up the road, perhaps even fewer.

  456. Could you give us some indication on transit times? That would be really helpful because ***.. Would you give us some indication in a note please?
  (Brigadier Houghton) Yes.
  (Mr Davenport) The *** is a very large outfit of several hundred people, depending on the *** . It is on a staged process of standby notice to deploy with the ***.

Syd Rapson

  457. I was wondering about saturation. If there were more than one device and they were assessed to be dodgy and further action needed to be taken, what number of devices could we get to before we run out of people to deal with them? There has to be equipment and specialists at the front end and I just wondered, if there were a multiple raid of some sort, how many we would have to face before we ran out of sufficient bodies or equipment to deal with them. That is obviously a risk you have to work out and balance. Is there an estimate?
  (Mr Davenport) Together with the Home Office we beefed up that capability for dealing with CBRN incidents and we are satisfied we have a capability for dealing with *** incidents at once. ***, but we have nevertheless beefed up the capability.


  458. What if some disaster occurs whilst these forces are deployed abroad? Would these guys be deployed abroad?
  (Mr Davenport) No.
  (Brigadier Houghton) The *** capability *** is specifically for domestic contingency in this respect. *** The fact is that this is a quite manpower intensive ***, it draws on expertise which is ***. That is why since 11 September a lot of early effort has gone into *** so the correct level of prioritisation can be done and all the hoaxes and false alarms ruled out, so we apply the capability to a system of priorities in the most ordered fashion. It is not the sort of capability ***.

Mr Roy

  459. Are you telling us that team is spread evenly throughout the United Kingdom?
  (Brigadier Houghton) Correct. Yes, in terms of the EOD assets, though clearly, depending on the nature of the local infrastructure, there are bits of Scotland it would take some time to get to. Perhaps not everywhere is within the same time frame but in terms of geographic coverage, we do have it.

  Chairman: When you are giving this indication of time frames you might work out which constituencies we represent and tell us how long it would take.

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