Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1145 - 1159)




  1145. Gentlemen, thank you very much for coming. Mr Veness, this is your second appearance; the first was very informal, in your place of work. We appreciate the documentation you have sent to us and for giving us your expertise. Firstly, if I may, could you outline the mechanisms through which ACPO and TAM monitors counter-terrorism policy in the UK?
  (Mr Veness) With pleasure, Chairman, and thank you very much, on behalf of Mr Goldsmith and me, for the opportunity to be present this afternoon. I represent this afternoon terrorism and allied matters, my colleague, Alan Goldsmith, represents emergency procedures, so between us we are before and after the event. The intention of the Association of Chief Police Officers structures is to bridge effectively between the government direction of counter-terrorism and effective operational implementation. This begins with ACPO TAM itself (Terrorism and Allied Matters) which is truly pan-UK. It is an unusual ACPO committee that involves both Scotland and Northern Ireland.

  1146. Where do the Welsh fit in?
  (Mr Veness) England and Wales taken as read within the traditional structures of TAM. The purpose of TAM is to be effectively the representation of British policing in respect of counter-terrorist matters; to be a forum wherein Government, particularly the Home Office, can relate on these issues. It provides us with the opportunity to formulate and present advice on counter-terrorism and, indeed, to fit into the representational machinery of the various government structures. It is cross-disciplinary. We invite in the Security Service, Home Office, all of the non-Home Office Police Services which very clearly have an interest in counter-terrorism, so it is an inclusive body. It deals primarily with policy issues. If I can give an example, in the autumn period, when there was a great deal of discussion around the Counter-Terrorism Crime and Security Act, it was ACPO TAM which was acting as the interface with the government discussions on the development of the Act. Immediately below that tier is the ACPO Advisory Group which is a smaller unit, which is traditionally chaired by the occupant of my office, but has with it the Chairman of ACPO TAM, the Chairman of Crime and an ACPO Scotland representative. The objective of that smaller grouping, which is supported by other agencies, is in order that we can take rather more immediate and flexible operational decisions if there is an initiative required, for example, around ports policing or around the response to issues in other forms of transport like the motorways. It also disburses an advisory grant that funds cross-border policing activity, and it drives certain projects which are enabling the development of counter-terrorism in a policing sense within the UK. So that delivers the policy and the operational cohesion. There are then bodies in place which achieve that at the regional level. If I could use the example of London, there is an operation known as Operation Guardian which links together all of the policing agencies of London in order that we address that as a united operation, rather than being driven by cap badge or individual concerns. For example, within the London area that is driven at least weekly by a review of security which focusses in on the tactical, so by that means we seek to achieve a mechanism which is always capable of development, but we describe it as moving from PM to PC in the way that it bridges political direction to operational reality.

  1147. I should have said earlier, if there was anything you would prefer to reserve to a private session, please indicate to us. You mentioned ACPO TAM structures co-ordinated with other agencies, and you mentioned London. Can you give us an indication of other agencies, and at what point would you the structures of ACPO TAM be linked to the other agencies?
  (Mr Veness) As a matter of routine we are integrated with all of the government departments that have a key interest in counter-terrorism, so primarily the Home Office, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Ministry of Defence, increasingly with the Civil Contingencies Secretariat and indeed others, and also all of the agencies—the Security Service, the Secret Intelligence Service and others. The connections are routine. The method by which that is achieved hour by hour is by linkage through the Special Branches. They act effectively as the bridge or gateway between agency material and the endeavours of law enforcement. We describe that, Chairman, being that what we seek to achieve is a golden thread by which we can move intelligence into an operation and an operation then ideally into a prosecution, and clearly there are considerations one needs to address at each stage of the thread development.

  1148. Has it changed in structure or intensity post September 11?
  (Mr Veness) There has been a significant development in relation to the government structures. I think they can broadly be described as offensive and defensive. On the offensive side are development of the initiatives and supporting committees which deliver counter-terrorism, if I can describe those as the attack, and then the defence or the post-event is the consequence management which is the Civil Contingencies Committee and its three supporting committees of London Resilience, UK Resilience and CBRN Activity. Mr Goldsmith and his committee play a key role on the emergency procedures support of the civil contingencies dimension.

  1149. Would you like to comment at this stage, Mr Goldsmith?
  (Mr Goldsmith) There has been a significant increase in intensity. That goes without doubt. What we are doing is building on what was there before, ensuring that the relationships we have had between ACPO and other emergency services, with CCS as it now is rather than the Home Office, other police forces, are such that we are in a position to respond. I think that is probably sufficient at the moment, Chairman.

  1150. What is the relationship with the Anti-Terrorist National Co-ordinator, and in what ways are his national functions undertaken?
  (Mr Veness) His is a very important role, Chairman. It is an attempt, as it were, to compensate for the fact that we have 43 policing agencies and then add in those in Scotland and Northern Ireland, whereby, if it were not for the provision of national co-ordination, we could be addressing what are series crimes. If I can look back, for example, to the activities of the Provisional IRA, those were a series of offences which, although they produced different impact in different locations, were linked by dint of the organisation that had brought them about, so on an organised crime model, if we were investigating the activities of the Mafia, we would attack the heart of the Mafia and not deal with the individual offences. It is precisely that model that we are applying in terms of series crimes. These, of course, are the most serious of the series crimes. In constitutional terms, the position is that the National Co-ordinator is available to be invited in by a Chief Officer in order to deal with terrorist crime which has occurred within his locality. In practice, that is the almost invariable position, and Chief Constables are very much inclined to make use of these services. The practical benefit of the arrival of the National Co-ordinator is that he brings with him the Anti-Terrorist Branch and therefore the handling of the scene, all that going through rubble in order to recover minute components of explosive devices, all of the way in which that is dealt with through the various forensic support agencies that assist us; all of that can be brought to bear, and we achieve a nationally consistent operation. The National Co-ordinator can also operate in a proactive means, again down the golden thread that I described. If an item of intelligence emerges which gives us an opportunity to interdict terrorist acts before they have occurred, then he has a mechanism known as an Executive Liaison Group whereby he can call together the representatives of the relevant agencies who will be specifically involved in that particular case, in order that we can achieve an effective operation and hopefully a successful prosecution as a result of that.

  1151. Thank you. You mentioned earlier the Civil Contingencies Secretariat. How have things changed since the CCS was set up?
  (Mr Veness) I think that from our perspective—and Alan Goldsmith may wish to comment—by raising these matters to the level of the Cabinet Office it has given these a perspective which is pan-Whitehall and has achieved a focus and direction. Not that a great deal of good work was not achieved by the Emergency Planning Division of the Home 0ffice, but I think on the sheer scale of the challenge that we now potentially confront it is appropriate that we have a mechanism that brings together a range of skills and talents across the various ministries and also, I think, has usefully brought in some people who otherwise might not have been engaged in consequence management. I think the difficulty they have clearly confronted is that it was envisaged there would be a slightly longer warm-up period than proved to be available, so they have gone into action at a very much earlier stage. We welcome the involvement with CCS. We have tried to play a key and supportive role in helping them develop, and I think it will prove to be an extremely beneficial development.
  (Mr Goldsmith) Yes, Chairman, it has been a very positive start, as Mr Veness says. It has enabled a pan-Whitehall view and indeed widening out beyond that. From the emergency services point of view and certainly from the Police Service point of view, there has been more energy into issues. Whether the same energy would have existed pre-September 11, of course, is difficult to say, and we are comparing CCS essentially since that date with Home Office EPD before that date. Having said that, by police and others seconding staff into CCS it has brought a direction and an energy to it which is still gathering momentum.

  1152. You have anticipated my next question about the interface widening. You have discussed that. What people do you have on the inside, then?
  (Mr Goldsmith) There is a Chief Superintendent seconded from the Metropolitan Police, and the Fire Service have also seconded a fire officer into there. That does mean that we have someone within the department who has a good awareness of issues from a policing perspective, and that has certainly aided the liaison, so the Chief Superintendent, Roger Kember, who fulfils that role, and I are in regular contact. That has been, from my point of view chairing ACPO emergency procedures, a very valuable link that we did not have before.

  1153. When we questioned the Ministry of Defence they put up a brave front when we asked them why were they not included in any reference to the military in the consultative paper that was issued. Are you satisfied that your views have been well taken into account? Did you have to submit evidence?
  (Mr Goldsmith) This is the review into emergency planning?

  1154. Yes, that is right.
  (Mr Goldsmith) Yes, ACPO submitted a response which I co-ordinated. It has certainly been listened to. Having said that, we are, of course, but one voice amongst a number. Most of the issues which we are supportive of are included . There are some issues where perhaps we would have a different perspective and so forth, but overall the review has been open to our response, and I have had correspondence subsequent to the draft, which I hope will enable our voice to be heard. That is the important issue.

  1155. I do not know the protocol of your submission, but could you have a look to see whether we could receive a copy?
  (Mr Goldsmith) Certainly.

  1156. We do have facilities for keeping our copies safe, with immunity from outside prying, if necessary.
  (Mr Goldsmith) Certainly. I will ensure a copy is forwarded, Chairman.

Jim Knight

  1157. Are you content with the local authority lead on emergency planning?
  (Mr Goldsmith) Perhaps you could clarify "local authority lead".

  1158. Local authority or local council emergency planning. Do you think the police should take the lead on such matters?
  (Mr Goldsmith) My view is that there are two different aspects. First of all, there is the planning and preparation for emergency. The second is the response to it. The local authority have a clear responsibility in the planning in co-ordinating, making sure that the various plans work together. That is effective. In terms of the response, then it is the Police Service which co-ordinates. The phrase used in general disasters in the Home Office is "ensuring the harmonious integration and co-operation". It is not always harmonious, but we do try to get integration so that we work together. My view of that is that the procedures work at the moment. One of the issues—and that will be clear when you see a copy of our response—is that there needs to be clarity as to which tier of local authority we are talking about. Where there are unitary authorities, then it is clear and a number of unitaries now combine together. For example, in Cleveland four unitary authorities have one joint emergency planning unit, which is fine. Where there are shire districts and a county, then there needs to be clarity as to which of those has that role, and that is one recommendation that is included in our response.


  1159. So where does Hartlepool fit in?
  (Mr Goldsmith) Hartlepool is, it is my understanding, one of the former areas of Cleveland. It contributes to the joint arrangements, which works very well.

  Chairman: That is surely an interesting experience in your first exercise!

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