Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1220
TUESDAY 7 MAY 2002
CBE, AND DEPUTY
1220. I accept that. Your successes might not
be seen. The more successful you are, the less people will realise.
Some time ago now you met with Muslim leaders explaining about
counter-terrorism which I think was a very sensible act to prove
to our Muslim friends that they are not all tarred with the same
brush and if we can treat them with the same sort of maturity
that we do the rest of the population that is great. What emerged
from that meeting? Was there a great coming together? Were they
listening in a way that was just passive? Has anything positive
come from that apart from good relationships?
(Mr Veness) It is a very vibrant and frank discussion,
and all the better for that. It is not a one-off meeting, Sir,
it is something we do very, very regularly, the next is this week.
We met as recently as last week because, as you will appreciate,
there were understandable concerns in relation to planned events,
notably the rally in Trafalgar Square which took place yesterday.
We thought it wise, and in fact it was requested, that we explained
precisely what was intended in order that could be an event which
passed as peaceably as possible. It is not just good sentiments
and aspiring words, it is very real achievements in respect of
a very frank exchange, some modification of police behaviour,
some understanding on our part which we did not have before and,
to give you a practical example, a very effective stewarding of
events which has arisen through those, a great sense of responsibility
and wanting these eventsjustifiable demonstrations of public
expressionto pass off peaceably. If one compares the position
which prevails regrettably in France and in Belgium in terms of
the number of attacks, we have had too many attacks here but,
by comparison, I think that is due to a process of communication.
Certainly we went out of our way to reassure the 99.99 per cent
of utterly law abiding Islamic citizens in the United Kingdom
that Parliament had intended these provisionsthese extraordinary
provisionsto be there for people who kill and maim and
bomb and that was what as a police service we were going to use
them for. We were not going to use them to round up the usual
suspects or engage in fishing expeditions. I think that led to
political balance because on one Saturday morning in saying that,
I was demonstrated against by those who are particularly extreme
on the Islamic front and the next day or the next day after I
was accused of not going on fishing expeditions by The Daily
Telegraph so I regarded that as political balance.
1221. I have a large number of Muslims in my
constituency and the impression I have from consultation is that
the overwhelming majority are very, very law abiding who are profoundly
embarrassed and angered at the implications on the Muslim community
as a whole.
(Mr Veness) Yes.
1222. Certainly I welcome the meetings you are
having. Are you certain you have a very broad group of representatives
of the Muslim population because they do not always speak with
one voice? You are certain you are advised to have a very wide
(Mr Veness) We try and be as inclusive as possible.
It is not only Islam, we seek to have a similar dialogue with
all of the faiths, particularly those that feel fear of any form
of victimisation. It is a regrettable fact that across a wide
range of faiths there are significant instances of people being
attacked, spat on, abused, places of worship, places of education
being attacked as we have dramatically seen, so these are very
real issues. If I had a concern, Chairman, in relation to the
inclusiveness of the group, it would be in terms of the generation
we are not speaking to. We do not have a ready reliable line of
communication, for example, to the young Muslim youth in this
country, on a completely frank and constructive basis for debate.
That is a challenge that we are seeking to address but it is an
1223. I understand the Armed Forces are little
better recruiting amongst ethnic minorities. I know it is not
directly your province but you seem to be able to answer questions
on most everything so I do not feel guilty about asking you this.
How is your recruiting amongst ethnic minorities (a) in the Metropolitan
Police and (b) more broadly?
(Mr Veness) We are making encouraging strides but,
again, it is nothing like where we would wish to be. In particular,
we are not achieving the movement of either divisions in gender
or divisions in background with the totality of diversity and
moving those officers into the more specialised areas of policing
with anything like the representation that we would wish to do.
We are absolutely determined to carry on and to drive this ever
harder because what we want within policing, particularly within
specialised policing but it is true elsewhere, is the very best
of the talent of the public that we seek to serve. Unless we have
got a diverse workforce then we are not going to achieve that.
1224. One way of, I suppose one could say, improving
our response to terrorist attacks is the conduct of exercises.
The Committee has knowledge of one. I wonder if you can just canter
over what exercises have been conducted, if any. If you want to
do this confidentially that is fine.
(Mr Veness) No, I cannot see that is a problem. They
are a very regular feature of the British way of developing counter-terrorism.
In fact, one way or another it seems hardly a weekend passes without
there being some form of exercise occurring, be it table top or
development of particular scenarios, and I welcome that. The Home
Office have the lead and they have put together a very sophisticated
programme which addresses the totality of the United Kingdom which
takes place at various levels that either can involve effectively
Central Government acting in live mode or can involve a tier which
does not require the personal involvement of the most senior players,
and then probably most usefully exercises which can take place
very, very regularly indeed which test the development without
necessarily putting hundreds of people on the ground, valuable
though that is, but takes our thinking forward in relation to
new challenges and new responses, particularly at the present
time. I think this is one area where probably Britain can hold
its head at least highest in respect of the investment that we
make in contingency planning leading to exercising and then taking
that forward either by way of table top or by way of full blown
exercise. On a grand scale they can be very demanding indeed.
In June 2000 here within London we had Exercise Trump Card, which
I think was probably Britain's largest multi-site exercise, which
was geared towards what could be a chem-bio threat to multi-sites
in London which was very significantly supported by a range of
agencies. We are vigorous exercisers.
1225. I am glad to hear it. You anticipated
my next question because that was on Operation Trump Card. The
Committee would like to know what lessons were learned and have
those lessons been actioned?
(Mr Veness) Yes. I think we would not have been able
to respond as effectively, albeit more could have been done, to
the white powder episodes of October and November last year had
there not been Trump Card because particularly it identified the
need for us to be working much more closely with health, both
primary and indeed the various hospital structures of the UK.
A very vigorous debate took place post Trump Card on how we could
develop our interface with medical services at all tiers which
stood us in better stead when we got to the demands that were
made upon health care by the various public concerns around white
powder. There were also the issues as to how we might adjust to
changes in government because clearly London government
1226. Be careful on this. Change in government
is a very sensitive subject.
(Mr Veness) Changes in government arrangements. Clearly
we had just gone through an alteration in the London arrangements
with new features and how we were going to relate not only to
the boroughs but to the Greater London Authority, the role of
the Mayor. All of those were very usefully rehearsed. For example,
the London boroughs decided that they would effectively choose
one of their own representatives to be primus inter pares
in terms of taking it forward because it was not possible to have
33 people around every table. So those sort of mature and helpful
decisions were made as a result of that exercise. We have sought
to build upon the lessons and we will continue to do so. You put
your finger on the art of this. The art is not to spend three
days doing the exercise, the art is to be very cruel to yourselves
in what lessons you have learned and then spend the next six months
applying those as energetically as you can.
1227. My last question is simply this. It would
hardly be surprising that responses in big cities, London particularly,
would be very vigorous and all the manpower would be in position
and so on and forth. Could we be as confident that outside the
South East of England would be as well protected?
(Mr Goldsmith) I think the answer is as well protected
but given geography and locations then the time of response is
the different factor and in terms of getting sufficient officers
to a scene in a given time, that applies to the emergency services.
Whereas I imagine if Mr Veness used his mobile phone here he could
probably have 200 police officers at the front door in five minutes,
in Lincolnshire and in other similar counties there are not 200
officers on duty. I think there is that difference there. In addition
to the large exercise which David has just talked to you about,
every police force in the country, together with their local authorities,
other emergency services, will be exercising again on a range
from real time through table top on an annual basis. Certainly
since September the terrorist implications or the application
of terrorism to major disasters will have played a part in that.
On top of that, nuclear power plants, airports, all have a requirement
for testing in order to retain their ability to operate. So there
is a huge range across the country.
Mr Cran: Thank you.
1228. A couple of questions on the role of the
Ministry of Defence. The Ministry of Defence has embarked upon
a process of writing what they call a New Chapter to the
Strategic Defence Review. Has ACPO submitted a response
to that? Did they know that such an exercise was going on?
(Mr Veness) We had the benefit of very
early notice in respect of the development of New Chapter.
We had the opportunity to second an officer to engage in that
debate, so we had an ACPO colleague assigned to assist us in these
discussions and his role has been valued within the MoD, not as
a full-time assignment but as somebody to build that particular
bridge. We have also been involved in each one of the workshops
and the discussions, particularly those that relate to the role
of where effectively CT reinforcement might be applicable in New
Chapter activity. There clearly are other air and sea defence
aspects as well with which we have been closely engaged. We feel
that we have been included in New Chapter unequivocally
and through all of the committees that have been augmented that
discussion continues week by week and we have the opportunity
both to submit and to comment on papers as they are emerging from
New Chapter. I think the next round is imminent.
1229. If they are written submissions maybe
at some stage you could ask the MoD if a version could be submitted
to us. We will be producing our report in perhaps the middle of
July so it would be really helpful if we had the benefit of your
contribution before that.
(Mr Veness) Yes, of course.
1230. The MV Nisha, the ship that was
parked down in Portsmouth for some time, that was quite an exciting
event with Special Forces guarding it and jumping on board, looking
all over it. Were there any lessons learned from that particular
incident? There appeared not to be any threat. It went away quietly,
clearly that is not the whole story. Are there any lessons to
be learned from that incident itself?
(Mr Veness) As you will appreciate, there were some
entirely legitimate concerns which made it essential that action
was taken quickly, particularly given the course of the vessel,
it was moving around the Channel and it would have taken it right
into the heart of London in order to discharge its cargo. I think
the action was absolutely appropriate. There are very significant
lessons in respect of command and control of the particular problems
of a vessel on the move. There are a range of issues that we have
benefited from significantly in respect of what we can discover
of a vessel in addition to having to take the rather draconian
steps of boarding it with the assistance of Special Forces and
the degree to which the shipping industry has opened up that debate
in a very constructive way indeed. Indeed the owners of the Nisha,
as you would expect, are contributors to those discussions. A
great deal of useful work has progressed. What I think is even
more helpful is what it means to put together an incident of maritime
counter-terrorist threat in the traditional sense, which has been
a ship under way that represents some sort of menace, and also
to think about what that might mean in terms of the consequences
of if this had not been the Nisha and it had been a vessel
on which there was a CBRN cargo in some form or another, what
that means then in terms of consequence management for the immediate
locality and in this example, very appropriately, Sir, what does
that mean for the people of Hampshire. Those lessons have been
explored and continue to be so. This is not just a ship which
represents a danger, it is a ship which represents a danger to
sea and land within the possible spread if the scenario had been
different. So a great deal of hard work continues post Nisha.
1231. On a more general basis, are the arrangements
for military aid to the civil power in the event of a terrorist
attack adequate for the police?
(Mr Veness) Yes. I described earlier on the three
areas of counter-terrorist military aid which I would call designated.
They are part of the counter-terrorist endeavour. Those are very
clearly search, bomb disposal and Special Forces support. Those
are very, very well rehearsed and we are completely confident
in those arrangements.
1232. Is it more acceptable to have armed troops
guarding key sites in times of heightened alert or police officers?
(Mr Veness) It depends, I think, upon the need for
arms would be the first decision. If we confronted a threat which,
for example, applied to the nuclear power industry or electric
power generation which was of such a nature that it required an
armed response then I think we would have to look radically at
from where we could draw those armed resources. If the only way
of matching the threat is the deployment of armed military personnel
then I think that is a decision where certainly the question is
entirely legitimate. Whether it is appropriate for there to be
a long term sustained deployment of the military on a non specific
threat, I would regard that case as less compelling. If there
was effectively a very real needand it was across a broad
geographic spanI think we would have to do as a country
what was necessary in order to defend our vital interest. If that
requires soldiers on an ad hoc, one hopes, limited basis
then that perhaps would be the wisest thing to do.
1233. Very diplomatic answer. Does the threat
of suicide terrorism, which frightens us all, require a more robust
form of security that only the armed forces, let us say, the military
(Mr Veness) The span of challenge, Sir, is absorbing
us in great detail at the moment. There are measures that we can
apply which have worked to good effect in Sri Lanka and indeed
Israel but there are dimensions of the threat against which defence
is very limited indeed. It is not necessarily whether armed forces
are the answer there but whether armed force is the answer in
those circumstances. That raises some very difficult legal issues
which we are grappling with at the moment.
1234. Would you think personally that only an
armed force, whether it be police or military, can deal with a
suicide bomber attack?
(Mr Veness) At the end of the day if all other measures
that one could envisage have failed or look likely to fail then
I think you are absolutely right. It is difficult to imagine a
balanced response to a suicide terrorism which is, after all,
the epitome of deadly force impacting upon the public. When one
sees the way that this has been used elsewhere in the world, not
just explosives but a massive amount of metal shrapnel, ball bearings,
nails which spread harm across a very significant area, if one
is confronted with that scale of deadly force certainly in any
other judgment we would respond with deadly force. It is finding
the mechanism by which that might be deployed before the bomb
goes off that is the really testing area.
1235. Now, Mr Goldsmith, the Emergency Planning
Review identified the need for legislation, how urgent is that?
What could the police dimension be to that legislation?
(Mr Goldsmith) If there is to be statutory responsibility
laid upon local authorities in terms of planning or indeed police,
fire, ambulance, then the sooner it is in the better. At the moment
emergency planning and the response to an emergency has operated
well within the limits that we have been working to. The issue
comes as to how that is then developed particularly in the light
of 11 September. The clear definition of who is responsible and
for what they are responsible would ease some rubbing points,
although I have to say my experience is both locally and nationally
that people get on and make things work even if there is no clear
defined statutory responsibility so to do.
Chairman: Fine. Thank you. The last questions
from Mr Cran please.
1236. You will be very pleased to hear it is
just about to end but before it does three short questions. The
Committee learned with a little interest, and not a little astonishment
at the same time, that the civil emergency services have separate
communications systems from the MoD and that just raises the question
of what the effects would be if there is some sort of terrorist
attack where time is of the essence. A comment from you?
(Mr Goldsmith) In dealing with the response side,
the police services across the United Kingdom are now taking what
is known as Airwaveit used to be known as the Public Safety
Radio and Communication Projectwhich was a terrible acronym,
now in its commercial form it is known as Airwave and that is
being rolled out over the next three to four years for forces.
When the project was initially envisaged the concept was that
all emergency services, and indeed the military, coastguard and
others that might see a role for one system, would have a common
communication system and when one looks at it from afar there
is a lot of logic in that. Because of the requirements of the
police service for encryption and other matters, and the need
to be able to speak to police officers wherever they are no matter
how remote, it is a relatively expensive system that the other
emergency services have not initially seen the benefit of. There
has been a lot of work over the last two or three months on this
matter. I was asked to chair a working group of emergency services
post 11 September. One of the issues we identified as requiring
some action was interoperability of radio systems. The fire services
had already gone out to tender on ten regions and that then led
in my view to the possibility that not just the police would have
their own radio system and the fire service another but the police
would have one radio system and the fire service could have ten
radio systems, which again using the rationale that they had adopted
of regional mutual aid would not be a problem if every brigade
had the same system but if we are looking post September at fire
brigades potentially being required to operate many, many miles
out of their region that could create some difficulties. My understanding
is that the technology does not mean that each radio system would
necessarily enable one to speak to another radio system. A lot
of work has been undertaken between the different emergency services,
the Fire Brigade Inspectorate has been involved, and my understanding
is that a paper is now with ministers on this matter because the
fire brigade point of view, if I dare to speak for them, is that
requires funding for which they are not equipped to deal. In terms
of interoperability it would mean that at any incident, whether
it is terrorist or any other major disaster or, indeed, perhaps
a motorway pile-up where all emergency services are involved,
one would have a common communication system. I recognise that
there are different ways of using radios, for example in the police
service every officer has their own radio so that he or she can
be tasked independently, the fire service work on a crew basis
and they do not want every firefighter to have radio communications
back to the control room, they want to go from one lead tender
with the senior officer at the scene having communication back.
The ideal, certainly from a police perspective, is that people
would use the same system. That would mean that the military,
who I understand have shown an interest in the Airwave project,
would be readily communicable with by the incident commander or
commanders. In terms of dealing with an incident that has got
1237. As we sit here now if there was to be
a major terrorist attack we have the prospect that the various
components responding could not communicate one with the other,
or at least not easily?
(Mr Goldsmith) Not directly in the sense that if you
were a fire brigade officer and I was a police officer dealing
with the same incident I could not use my radio to speak directly
to you, we would have to work on the assumption that if there
was such a major attack then the mobile phone infrastructure would
probably fall over through the sheer volume of calls, therefore
you would have to go back to your control room and I would go
back to my control room and they would converse.
1238. Just so that we know it, this situation
could be rectified by the Government in this paper that you put
to whom, to the Home Secretary?
(Mr Goldsmith) The Office of the e-Envoy has been
involved in doing a lot of the background work. The Office of
Government Commerce has been involved as well. I believe the paper
is with the various ministers involved and, this is a guess, it
would be the Home Secretary and DTLR for the fire brigade.
1239. And the aim of that exercise is to get
compatibility and all the rest of it between the services and
(Mr Goldsmith) Yes, interoperability.
1 Ev 239. Back