Examination of Witnesses (Questions 480
WEDNESDAY 6 MARCH 2002
HOUGHTON, CBE AND
480. ***. Are you satisfied that they have the
manpower and resources to respond to incidents, particularly if
they are in more than one location?
(Brigadier Houghton) Within the element of the technical
response force of the *** team we are aware that a number of ***
and therefore they would have to be ***.
481. Who decides on the priorities of deploying
those resources *** ?
(Brigadier Houghton) If it were multiple incidents
it would have to go back to COBR.
(Mr Bowen) It would be Ministers.
(Brigadier Houghton) There are several levels of decision
that COBR have to make in relation to CBRN-type incidents. ***
would be one of them.
482. The concern over concurrent devices. If
you have a biological attack the character of which is more of
a difficult drip-feed thing where disease might be spreading,
then you have a different sort of attack. Do different attacks
increase the problem, stretch you more, or does it make no difference?
(Brigadier Houghton) You are into specific scenarios.
If you are saying that the biological attack has happened
483. The closest we got to understanding the
way that might work in terms of a biological problem was foot-and-mouth
which had hot spots and everything like that.
(Brigadier Houghton) You are then into the consequence
management of a thing like that and then *** is over. We would
not be dealing with that. The whole idea of *** is that it is
pro-active and ***.
(Mr Bowen) Going back to this business of Ministers,
the Cabinet Office Briefing Room set-up is designed to give strategic
guidance and one element of that is looking at priorities and
saying this must be done first or this must be done second or
later on. For these really very complicated issues and incidents
to be dealt with you need that top level communication and it
is not just co-ordination for the sake of it, you need that strategic
guidance in order for the different services which are deployedand
it is not just the Ministry of Defence; other elements are involved
and the Ministry of Defence is only one part of itto do
their job and to know in what order they are to treat it.
484. Are you doing anything to try to increase
the capacity and capability of *** so you are less likely to give
Ministers that difficult issue of whether to prioritise North
Durham or South Dorset?
(Mr Davenport) It had been done before 11 September
because the threat pre-dates that; we beefed up *** capacity in
particular to deal with ***. Yes, more consideration has been
given to devoting more resources to that. It is a Home Office
485. I warn you we shall get really tired of
Home Office lead answers.
(Mr Davenport) They provide the money; that is the
(Mr Bowen) And the lead.
(Mr Davenport) There are obvious resource limitations
but the capacity has been improved and consideration given to
improving it further.
Mr Knight: Would you use the Yeomanry
Reserve as part of the Joint NBC Regiment in the case of an incident
on the mainland?
(Brigadier Houghton) No, their specific capability
is that of ***. The capacity of the civil authorities for decontamination
massively outstrips what we have. Every fire tender is equipped
for *** . At any one time there are 200 on the streets of London
alone. We have ***, so it is a matter of a completely inappropriate
486. What was the nature of the MOD and armed
forces' involvement in last year's Operation Trump Card?
(Brigadier Houghton) Trump Card is a ***. During the
last session I articulated the three levels of exercise,***. At
that level Trump Card exercises at gold command and we were reasonably
well involved with that, certainly exercising the C2 elements
of *** and some of the ***.
487. Remind me what the C2 element is?
(Brigadier Houghton) Command and control elements.
(Mr Davenport) There has been a much more recent exercise
to test the Government's response to a radiological/nuclear device.
488. What was that called?
(Mr Davenport) That was called ***, located in far-flung
Inverness. That was a ministerial exercise, *** and it involved
Ministers playing in COBR. We are still very much in the process
of learning lessons from that. It was the first full test of ***,
since *** was reconfigured last year.
489. As you just said, lessons are learned from
every exercise. Have you produced a report on the lessons learned
from Trump Card and then from *** ?
(Mr Davenport) We shall be doing so from ***. Trump
Card was not our lead; it was the Metropolitan Police leading.
490. Do you not internally review your own performance
within that and your interaction with the other departments, other
agencies in that sort of exercise?
(Mr Davenport) Yes, we would do to the extent we were
involved in it.
491. Do you produce a report out of that internal
review of how you performed?
(Brigadier Houghton) Yes. Out of Trump Card specific
lessons were learned about ***. Because Trump Card tested a number
of chemical and biological devices being placed around London,
some of them with a terrorist involvement, we had some lessons
learned specifically relating to the counter-terrorist operations
***. Those lessons have been taken up and acted upon.
492. Have all those lessons been implemented?
(Brigadier Houghton) Correct and many of them reflected
within the revisions to ***.
Jim Knight: Is there any documentation
on that which we could see, please?
Chairman: We decided that if it is ministerial
level we will write a letter.
493. I am interested in the de-contamination
side of things and Porton Down's role and who leads an operation.
My thinking is that if an incident comes it will come with a substance
we do not know, it will not be readily identified and presumably
the best way of making that effective is to put it in the air.
I am interested to know what the process is for organising the
response to an airborne contaminant which is extremely toxic and
how that is being managed.
(Brigadier Houghton) Are we talking radiological?
494. I do not know. I am talking about a chemical,
biological, whatever. A terrorist somewhere is thinking that he
has to create something which cannot be dealt with easily. They
come up with something which goes in the air in some form, is
sprayed into the air and it causes massive panic and problems
and is not easily identified because we are breathing it in or
touching our skin or whatever. How do we respond to that?
(Brigadier Houghton) Depending on the nature of the
device there is any number of routes by which it can be reported
in. None of these happen to be Ministry of Defence lead, which
is just the way it happens to be.
495. In the papers we have received the suggestion
is that the police will lead on this.
(Brigadier Houghton) No, not on all of them. For instance
the *** within the country to see whether things happen. There
is a *** which is under DTI sponsorship. There is *** going on.
A range of government agencies appropriate to particular scenarios
have statutory responsibilities to be on the lookout for these
496. In normal circumstances we understand the
air surveillance control systems (ASACS) for normal every day
activities are under the control of NATO and they call in interceptors,
etcetera. How are command and control of air defence assets organised?
Are these routinely under NATO or are they under RAF Strike Command?
(Air Commodore Cook) The answer is that they are routinely
under NATO. The UK forms part of what we call the NATO Integrated
Air Defence System. Within NATO airspace is divided into two regions.
Forgive me for giving you the background but it is important to
understand how the systems works if we are going down this route.
It is divided into two areas: north and south. The UK air space
falls within the northern part of the NATO system. Within that
there are five Combined Air Operation Centres which are responsible
for specific areas. The UK region is controlled by and responsibility
lies with the Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) No. 9 which
is co-located with Strike Command. The commander of CAOC, as we
call it, is the Deputy Commander in Chief of Strike Command who
is a three star. The Royal Air Force's or the UK's contribution
to policing the UK air space is two-fold. One is through the provision
of fighter interceptors and secondly through what we call the
airspace surveillance and control system, the military radars
and the control and reporting centres which are responsible for
monitoring the radar. The latter is responsible for providing
what we call the recognised air picture, a complicated picture
which draws in the military radar, draws in a selection of national
air traffic radars, it can draw in the radar picture from airborne
platforms like the AWACS and it can draw in the air defence picture
from the Royal Navy. The ASACS people within the UK provide that
recognised air picture. Exercising that whole procedure of perhaps
detecting unusual activity, deciding whether we need to intercept
that activity, will all be done through that NATO command but
with close liaison between the military control reporting centres
and the CAOC. The final decision to launch and to intercept is
for the commander of CAOC.
497. Seamless as such.
(Air Commodore Cook) Yes, it is.
498. It is a combined operation and they are
(Air Commodore Cook) Yes, but within the UK it is
UK assets which police that air space.
499. If we had a situation in the UK where the
attack on the twin towers was repeated, decisions would have to
be taken very quickly including decisions as to whether to shoot
down a civilian airliner or not.
(Air Commodore Cook) Yes.
1 Note from Witness: In practice it is routinely
delegated to the Duty controller in CAOC. Back