Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1420
WEDNESDAY 22 MAY 2002
MP, MR BRUCE
DENHAM MP, MR
LESLIE MP AND
1420. Help me with this issue. The derogation
can only be made in time of war or a public emergency threatening
the life of the nation. It would seem that we need that derogation
as you described earlier in order to be able to detain people
that we do not really want here but we cannot send them anywhere
else, and that is almost in order to prevent us having a public
emergency. If the judgement is that these are dangerous people
that we need to detain, then it is to prevent the emergency, it
is to prevent the war; it is not because that has arisen. The
continued use of the derogation seems problematic to me. I supported
the Bill and voted for it but there seems a difficulty in there
in continuing to use it for very long.
(Mr Denham) I am not sure I entirely follow the logic.
I suppose the logic is that if you manage to detain everybody
who could possibly be at threat then there would be no threat
so you would have to let them all go. I am not sure that is where
we are at the moment. If we remember the circumstances in which
Parliament chose to enact this legislation, the feeling in Parliament
was very clearly that this legislation was necessary and that
the ability to have a derogation from ECHR was justified by the
circumstances at the time. I would simply say to the Committee
that I do not believe anything has changed since the time at which
Parliament made that judgement and therefore it remains justified.
Having said that, as was quite reasonably done in the passage
of the legislation through both Houses of Parliament, a number
of safeguards were built into the Act. There are provisions in
terms of the way it is being used. The Terrorism Act is already
being reviewed annually by Lord Carlisle and he will also review
the immigration and detention provisions in Part IV of the Act.
The whole of the Act will be reviewed by a committee of Privy
Council as chaired by Lord Newton of Braintree. There is a time
limit on the legislation. In other words, I think that the end
of the process gave us a piece of legislation that was quite justified
by the circumstances at the time and the circumstances which we
have now but in which careful safeguards were built in because
Parliament wanted to ensure that it would be alerted if there
1421. I entirely accept that, Minister. What
I am suggesting is that what will change at the point at which
we come to review this is public opinion and a feeling of crisis,
a feeling of emergency, because hopefully the legislation will
have been effective, hopefully we will live in a more secure environment,
but if we then have to repeal that legislation or let the derogation
go, then we will be in a more insecure environment as a result.
Do we therefore not need a more permanent arrangement than we
have at the moment?
(Mr Denham) At the end of the passage of the Bill
the Home Secretary was satisfied that he had a piece of legislation
that enabled him to address the weaknesses in the previous package
of anti-terrorism legislation. We accepted that Parliament, I
think for understandable reasons, wanted to have some safeguards
and some checks and some reviews built into that because it is
quite far-reaching legislation, and I think what was produced
is workable now and enablesand indeed will requireParliament
to take a further set of decisions in the future. At that time
the job of Government will be to assess honestly in the situation
we face whether the circumstances that led to support the principle
of derogation continue to exist or not. If they do it will be
the responsibility of Government to persuade Parliament that the
Act should be continued or amended in the light of experience,
and indeed to try to take the public with us.
Chairman: Thank you. Mr Leslie, your
delay in coming in will now be remedied. Throughout our inquiry
there have been one or two little criticisms, not about you personally,
but about the Civil Contingencies Secretariat from all quarters,
so we are having a generally all-party probing of this matter.
Mr Cran: Chairman, thank you for taking
my introduction away from me. It is very kind of you indeed. I
suppose, Mr Leslie, I am looking at you and certainly at Dr Fuller,
but of course others who want to come in, please do. The Civil
Contingencies Secretariat is in a deceptively important position
in the fight against terrorism. It is in a fairly pivotal position,
is it not? Without going into the details of the exact words of
why it was set up, it was certainly set up to improve co-ordination
as between partners and to get rid of departmentalisation and
so on. Tell us how successful you think you have been. I know
you are going to use words to tell me this, but convince me with
something other than words.
1422. Excuse me: what are you asking for?
(Mr Leslie) Give us a clue.
1423. Actually, actions.
(Mr Leslie) The point to stress at the outset is to
emphasise the role of the Cabinet Office and particularly the
Civil Contingencies Secretariat in facilitating an integrated
and co-ordinated response. As I mentioned at the outset, the Civil
Contingencies Secretariat was established in June, of course before
September 11, and, also as I said at the outset, I do not seek
to be complacent about perfection at all times but nor would I
wish to see unrealistic expectations from other quarters about
perfection in that respect. There has been a very steep learning
curve undoubtedly, particularly since September 11, in making
sure that we have all the necessary procedures and personnel and
structures in place to cope with the wide array of potential crises
and emergencies that can occur. There are 1001 incidents that
you and I can think about and try and model through how we would
respond, on which government department would take the lead and
so on, and we have been trying to do that. What I have been seeking
to achieve is an ability to focus in on general capabilities that
the Government needs to have that will be able to help us respond
and recover whatever type of disaster incident takes place, and
there are key capabilities that I think we need always to make
sure we are on top of. I have been quite impressed with the work
of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat. They are not alone. As
I say, they are helping to co-ordinate the response but of course
each Government department has its own lead responsibility for
its own particular areas and no doubt we will go through those
later on. I think it is that measure of extra co-ordination, joining
things together, that we have been trying to do our best to achieve.
1424. I knew I would not get quite there, which
is why the Chairman's facetious remark was not appropriate. I
then move on to ask my question another way. In your statement,
and I presume that this relates to the Civil Contingency Secretariat,
you said, "We have instituted a continuous programme of improvement,
testing and honing of our capabilities to deal with wide-scale
disruption, whatever the source". Could you put some clothes
on that? What do you mean by "continuous programme of improvement"
and so on?
(Mr Leslie) As you will know, and this is not just
something that has occurred since September 11, the thing to stress,
and particularly in the UK, as John Denham has been mentioning
earlier, is that we have got a lot of experience, sadly, in dealing
with terrorism and other incidents and a lot of structures have
been put in place to cope with incidents. That did not just occur
on September 11 so we have had of course for many years regular
exercises of testing emergency planning, scenarios; some of those
are very wide-scale and live in their operation. Lots of those
other types of exercises taking place. You can take the top operations.
We are trying to run through things at both real time and real
scenarios as frequently as we can. We are also trying to look
at the basics of Government. Some questions are very large, often
very local. The thing I always try to emphasise is that whatever
incident takes place the chances are that initially it will require
a local response from the emergency services and then trigger
a number of other mechanisms if and when extra support needs to
be augmented to the scene or at a strategic level, so working
through those arrangements I think is very important. I have been
focusing on capabilities of local authorities up and down the
country, their emergency plans, and it is a very, very wide area
1425. That leads me neatly to the next point
that I wanted to ask. You said in your statement, and it has been
repeated elsewhere, that we must not be complacent. This is not
a political point, it would be the same if Ministers of my party
were sitting there. The great problem with this sort of thing
is the farther away you get from an incident such as 11 September
it is just terribly difficult to maintain the level of readiness
and all the rest of it that one would hope you could maintain
and so on to exist. How are you doing that? How are you getting
over this complacency?
(Mr Leslie) I think the key thing to stress is the
stronger structures that we have managed to put in place, and
I do not just mean the Civil Contingencies Committee of the Cabinet
and the sub-committees that have been established and working
very, very hard, particularly since 11 September. I am talking
about arrangements in respect of military aid to civil authorities.
I am talking about the way in which we train and support local
authority emergency planning officers, for example, through the
Easingwold Emergency Planning College. I think we had 8,000 people
go through there last year and we are looking to increase the
breadth and depth of courses that take place. We are now trying
to mainstream and embed, as I was saying at the beginning, the
theory of resilience planning into the day-to-day Civil Service
operations that go on in a whole series of different Government
departments so that, as you will know, just as there are considerations
about efficiency of Government in public expenditure of financial
audit, for example, I believe there is a much greater scope for
consideration of resilience matters in the day-to-day decision
making that takes part in Government. As you say, there are clearly
fashionsthat is probably the wrong wordthere are
clearly greater levels of attention at particular traumatic times
but I do believe that we can sustain that if we are focused, and
we certainly have support from the Select Committee in this, on
always keeping our attention on these important matters.
1426. But you do concede that it is a difficult
job, is it not?
(Mr Leslie) Undoubtedly difficult but I think it is
necessary and it will happen.
1427. Can I move on to something else. A number
of witnesses have questioned, I was about to say criticised but
let me use the word questioned rather than criticised, what they
understand, and indeed what I understand, is going to be the case,
the practice of nominating a particular department to lead in
the case of a particular terrorist incident, namely whatever is
nearest the bailiwick of a particular department. The feeling
is that what that does is it dilutes the expertise which could
be built up over time to deal with these terrorist incidents and,
therefore, it has been put to us that it is much better that the
lead be taken by perhaps the secretariat. What say you to that?
(Mr Leslie) I know that there are existing published
scenarios in the Dealing with Disasters publication by
the Home Office that discuss how and when a lead Government department
role would be taken up. I think that is a publication which if
you have not already seen it you should have sight of. I know
that we have been working on clarifying lead Government department
responsibilities in that range of potential scenarios quite actively
in recent months and I suspect that there will be much more in
the public arena about that in due course. As far as I am concerned
there is clarity about which Government departments do take the
lead in various different situations.
(Mr Denham) If I could add a point, Chairman. The
Home Secretary obviously chairs the Civil Contingencies Committee
which is supported by the Secretariat as part of this work, and
I think I would robustly defend the way in which lead departments
are being developed. Part of the thinking behind the establishment
of the Secretariat prior to 11 September was, of course, the experience,
for example, of the fuel dispute and a number of other events
where it was recognised, not in a dissimilar way to some types
of terrorist attack, that apparently quite a small event could
have a major impact throughout society because we live in a very
interconnected society. By its nature it is impossible to identify
and plan for every one of the thousands of possible scenarios
that could happen and therefore what is needed is a broad set
of capabilities to respond right across Government owned in each
of those departments, so that when the unexpected, or the slightly
different from what you might have expected, turns up people are
still able to respond. I think what Mr Leslie says is right, having
lead departments within that overall framework actually expands
our capacity to respond and expands our flexibility in a way in
which, if you like, a very narrow, possibly incredibly highly
professional but nonetheless very narrow, organisation not connected
into the delivery of services would not be able to do.
(Mr Leslie) I think it is important to emphasise that
we do not just simply farm out responsibilities.
1428. I do not like to use the word "farm"
after the experience of foot and mouth.
(Mr Leslie) We do not just divvy up. There are a couple
of good examples about how we actually supplement the lead Government
department arrangements: the sub-committees of the Civil Contingencies
Cabinet Committee, the London resilience approach, the team led
by Nick Raynsford, the Minister of State at DTLR as well as being
Minister for London, that looks across the piece at the questions
in respect of the capital, other matters relating to chemical,
biological, radiological and nuclear questions. There is a thematic
approach that supplements the departmental responsibility model.
(Mr Denham) I am never quite sure whether ministerial
involvement reassures or concerns the Committee but it does, I
think, have the added value through the Civil Contingencies Committee
that Ministers from departments are clearly aware of where their
department has responsibilities as part of the overall set-up.
It is not possible for departmental Ministers or Secretaries of
State to say another Minister, whether in the Home Office or the
Cabinet Office, is responsible for making sure the country can
respond, and I think that is an important part of the process.
1429. Just so that I am clear, in your original
answer, Mr Leslie, you said that further information will be in
the public domain shortly. Did I get that correct? If so, when?
(Mr Leslie) I think that there is a rolling programme
of publishing and updating documents such as Dealing with Disasters,
a publication that I mentioned earlier. I understand that we are
looking to bring into the wider arena awareness about departmental
responsibilities and I will be certainly talking about that and
when we can do that shortly.
1430. One more question, Chairman, and it is
simply this. Let us just assume for the sake of argument, let
us think of 11 September, who would have thought that three aircraft
would have been hijacked in the manner that they were, I think
probably very few of us. Therefore, it is not against that background
outwith the possibility that you could have a multi-faceted attack,
either in the United States or Britain. If that were the case
how would your scenario work then? It is multi-faceted, it covers
a number of the bailiwicks of a number of departments, would one
department in those circumstances be nominated to be the lead
department? How do you deal with it?
(Mr Leslie) At a national level, of course, the Home
Secretary as Chair of the Civil Contingencies Committee takes
the ultimate lead in these matters.
1431. Of course, I understand that.
(Mr Leslie) And I think that really is the primary
1432. But below that would he not in normal
circumstances, I do not know what the procedure would be, nominate
a particular department to take the lead? I am just asking in
a multi-faceted attack what would happen.
(Mr Denham) Of course it was not, fortunately, an
attack on this country but if we look at what happened on 11 September,
the attack took place in the United States at about two o'clock
our time. It was the COBR organisation that brought together officials
and then Ministers from across Government. In a very short space
of time a whole series of decisions were taken and implemented.
By the next day there were, what, a thousand police officers on
the streets of London adding to reassurance. Public reassurance
messages were co-ordinated through the media. A no-fly box was
established across London. A whole string of enhanced airport
security was put in place. I think that actually demonstrated
the resilience of the model because we have a co-ordinating mechanism
that brought people together. Clearly it was the police who put
the police on the streets and it was the people who do airport
security within the DTLR who did airport security and did the
no-fly box. The communications system, which is still being built
up, which was requested for the first time by CCS on that day,
did the public reassurance. In other words, when we need to bring
people together for a multi-faceted response the idea is that
part of the picture knows what they are going to have to do and
has the confidence to know that they can deliver. We will continue
to build on that. Exercises are held, we test this out and we
find where the system might be weak. My personal view is that
the response of the system, even on September 11, showed it had
the ability to deliver a lot of important decisions and make them
happen in a very short space of time, and that is prior to the
work we have done since then.
1433. I have no doubt about that, but my colleagues
are much quicker than I am on these occasions, and I am not quite
sure I had got there. The answer to my question is, yes or no.
If there is a multi-faceted attack in the United Kingdom, I accept
there is plenty of co-ordination and I accept the Home Secretary
will be sitting there constantly. All I am asking is, would that
include more than one department as the lead department? That
is all I am asking.
(Mr Denham) I think there is a slight misunderstanding.
The lead department role does not mean a lead operational department.
If a terrorist bomb goes off, the police co-ordinate the response
to the terrorist bomb and work with the other emergency services,
work if necessary with the military authorities through the co-operation
agreement. On a major incident there would be co-ordination of
other responses by Government. There is a need to understand,
in areas where potentially more than one department has an interest,
which has the lead responsibility in terms of developing policy,
developing capability and being able to contribute to the multi-faceted
response. This does not cut across what would happen in the circumstances
of a terrorist event or indeed of many other major disasters.
Mr Cran: Chairman, I have got there. Thank you
very much indeed.
Chairman: You can explain to me afterwards!
1434. Can I just say that Mr Cran may have got
the answer to that, but I do not think any of the rest of the
Committee have. It is not complicated at all. It is about answering
questions, Chairman. I think we must get back to answering clear
questions. Mr Leslie, you said you were quite impressed by the
Civil Contingencies Secretariat. I have to say, you are obviously
very easily impressed, because it certainly has not impressed
this Committee, and I do not think that certainly the witnesses
that we have had in the last few weeks have been very impressed
by its operations. Clearly it is the worst excesses of departmentalism
that are still in existence. If you are talking about reassurance,
Mr Denham, I do not think Mr Granatt reassured me or any of this
Committee in terms of his performance before this Committee. Mr
Leslie, you say about a co-ordinated approach. Let us take, for
example, local authorities. Why is it, then, that if you are taking
such an emphasis on local authority emergency planning, you cut
the budget, for example, of Durham by 10 per cent this year and
a number of other local authorities' budgets by up to 10 per cent,
if it is such an important issue? The other point is the fact
that you have recently sent out a questionnaire, I understand,
to local authorities asking what their local emergency plans are.
One, how many have you got back and two, what have you actually
done with them?
(Mr Leslie) I can tell you at length about the Civil
Defence Grant Act 2002.
1435. Please do.
(Mr Leslie) That, as you will know, went through all
its parliamentary stages and concluded around January/February
time. That was a response to a legal challenge a couple of years
previously by Merseyside who discovered a lacuna in the legal
framework in respect of being able to determine a specific grant
from authority to authority, after which point, in the last financial
year, local authorities were essentially able to have a demand-led
claim on the Civil Defence Grant Fund from the UK Government.
The Government believed, I think quite rightlyas I do myself,
as someone who took through the Billthat we need to have
a more national strategic and co-ordinated approach to the allocation
of Civil Defence Grant, rather than a more haphazard demand-led
arrangement where some authorities were able to double their budgets
very easily and other authorities did not do that. My own personal
beliefand I feel this is very, very importantis
that we need to have a fair and a comprehensive formula approach
to the allocation of resources, because all resources are limited
and we should not shy away from that. If we are going to allocate
the Fund, then there needs to be a formula looking at a flat rate
for the basic service provision that we require, looking at some
reflection of population and so on, in the type of formula that
we use at a national level. So the level of Civil Defence Grant
stood at around £14 million in 2000-01, and at its demand-led
peak it plateaued around £18½ million. We have managed
to sustain that demand-led total envelope in the way that we allocate
that sum for this financial year, but we have used a formula in
the way that we share that money out across the country. We have
made sure that no authority is penalised more than 10 per cent.
We have also allowed other authorities the opportunity to have
a fairer share if they have not benefited from that demand-led
arrangement. I hope that is clear.
1436. No, it is not actually. What you are basically
saying is that in Durham where they had their grant cut by 10
per cent, the council taxpayers of Durham are having to subsidise
emergency planning, are they not?
(Mr Leslie) I can certainly send you a note about
1437. Yes or no?
(Mr Leslie) Council taxpayers subsidise all emergency
planning arrangements and always have done, because my understanding
is that local authorities supplement, or in many cases should
supplement, emergency planning arrangements from their own budget,
not just their ring-fenced budgets. Let me just say about Durham,
if there has been a 10 per cent reduction, as you sayand
I do not have the figures in front of mebecause of the
formula, then I am fairly confident that they will have had a
far more significant increase in the funds that they received
for the financial year 2000-01 to 2001-02.
1438. In respect of what?
(Mr Leslie) In respect of the amount of money that
they would have received in the previous financial year before
the demand-led arrangement was in place.
1439. In relation to emergency planning?
(Mr Leslie) In relation to Civil Defence Grant. So
I am quite confident that Durham will not have been penalised
if you look at it over that period and the re-institution of the
Mr Jones: Can I have the answer about the survey?
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