Select Committee on Defence Sixth Report



    1. Over the years since the end of the Cold War, there has been a significant shift in the Government's interpretation of how the Armed Forces should discharge their fundamental responsibility for the defence of the realm. This has occurred in response both to the changing nature of the military threat to the UK and to developments in the understanding of where the UK's Armed Forces could most effectively make a contribution (paragraph 25).
    2. 11 September may have pointed to the need for enhancing existing provision in certain areas, but it has not led to any fundamental re-evaluation of the principles underpinning the SDR or the roles and responsibilities which the SDR gave the Armed Forces (paragraph 27).

    4. Together the requirements to establish hostile intent and to assess whether the action would be proportionate in terms of its likely consequences place a high hurdle in the way of any decision to shoot down a 'rogue' civilian aircraft. We support this and believe that the MoD's approach to this very difficult issue has been the right one (paragraph 44).
    5. We firmly believe that a decision to shoot down a civilian aircraft should not be delegated to officials, whether civilian or military, and that any decision to shoot down a suspected rogue civilian aircraft must be taken by Ministers (paragraph 45).
    6. We believe that the MoD should continue to look for suitable air bases closer to London at which QRA aircraft might be stationed, bearing in mind that the full panoply of support and protection provided by their current bases would not be necessary for this deployment (paragraph 47).
    7. We do not believe that the use of ground-based missiles against civilian aircraft can be justified. Neither do we believe that they can be an effective deterrent (paragraph 51).
    8. We recommend that the MoD and the RAF provide specific additional psychological advice and training for interceptor aircrew of the QRA aircraft which may be called upon to respond to a rogue civilian aircraft incident (paragraph 52).
    9. We recommend that the Government initiate within NATO an examination of how NATO's integrated air defence system should be restructured to provide the optimal air defence capability against new and emerging theats including those from 'rogue' civilian aircraft (paragraph 55).

    11. We look forward to the Government's consideration of the Armed Forces' role in the protection of key sites in the SDR new chapter (paragraph 61).

    13. We welcome the prompt action of the MoD to increase the level of protection to our Armed Forces and those of the United States stationed in the UK (paragraph 63).

    15. In general we have a high opinion of the professionalism of the MDP, but we would be concerned to see them develop a role as an armed counter-terrorist police force without appropriate safeguards in terms of governance and public accountability. (paragraph 68).
    16. We recommend that the MoD publishes the conclusions of Stage 2 of the Quinquennial Review of the MDP as they relate to the proposed reserve capability and governance and public accountability issues (paragraph 69).

    18. We accept that security measures at naval bases and military ports should be based on threat assessment and intelligence and should be designed to interfere as little as possible with legitimate civilian activity consistent with maintaining appropriate levels of security. This balance should be kept under review. We believe that the threat of an asymmetric terrorist attack on Royal Navy ships is a real one and we recommend that the MoD take urgent steps to ensure that any capability gaps in their defences against such known threats are closed (paragraph 74).

    20. We have not examined in detail the case for a National Counter-Terrorism Service, but we do believe that it merits further consideration. The Anti-Terrorist National Co-ordinator should not have to operate by invitation. It is odd that the national co-ordination of anti-terrorist matters is achieved through a Committee of ACPO. We do not criticise the present arrangements which seem to work well, but neither do we believe that they are incapable of improvements (paragraph 81).
    21. We recommend that the Government reviews the arrangements for the transmission of intelligence-based information to individuals with key responsibilities in local government and in the private sector. We are not satisfied that the current system is adequate (paragraph 92).

    23. We have not examined aviation security outside the UK, but clearly, given the nature of the aviation industry, the security not just of UK airlines but of all air traffic coming into the UK will depend significantly on the robustness of the international security regime (paragraph 100).
    24. We welcome the improved performance in baggage screening. However, as the fact that there was room for such improvement illustrates, X-ray screening cannot be guaranteed to be 100 per cent effective. And that in turn reinforces the need to ensure that each of the different elements which contribute to the overall security of airports is as robust as possible (paragraph 106).
    25. Airport security involves the contributions of many different agencies. We welcome the Government's determination to improve co-ordination between them and to create a more strategic approach. We look to them to report progress on this matter in their reply to our report (Paragraph 112).

    27. The catastrophic scale of the potential consequences of a terrorist attack using shipping containers requires us fundamentally to re-examine our security measures. And to do so promptly. We were concerned, for example, by the apparent lack of real urgency in the work on improving CBRN detection for containers (paragraph 116).

    29. We are not persuaded that the Government has understood the vulnerabilities of an interdependent highly connected, technically dependent yet open society or has incorporated that understanding into its policy and planning (paragraph 119).
    30. We agree with the CCS that there is much work to be done to identify and protect the vulnerabilities of networks and systems, and we expect to be kept abreast of progress (paragraph 123).
    31. We welcome the appointment of a Central Sponsor for Information Assurance and Resilience and the new focus within the Cabinet Office for intelligence and security issues under Sir David Omand and look forward to a stronger government lead in this increasingly important area (paragraph 125).

    33. We invite the Board of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology to consider the proposal for an investigation into the possible consequences of a terrorist attack on a nuclear installation. We believe that this investigation should examine the physical robustness of installations against such attacks as well as the potential consequences of an attack in terms of the amounts of radioactive material liable to be released and its effects (paragraph 131).

    35. It is a matter of regret that the CCS was not able to respond more positively and energetically to the events of 11 September. Instead of using its unique position at the heart of Government to lead a strategic response it seems to have become bogged down in the details of the plans of individual departments and the relationships between them. Instead of being the solution to the habitual 'departmentalism' of Whitehall, it has become a casualty of it (paragraph 153).

    37. Ten months have now passed since the terrible attacks of 11 September and nearly a year since the publication of the emergency planning review document. We believe that the Government has had time enough to address the issues raised by the review. It should now as a matter of urgency publish its proposals for civil contingencies legislation, with the explicit aim of introducing that legislation in the 2002-03 parliamentary session (paragraph 158).
    38. We regret the absence of any reference to the contribution of Armed Forces in the Emergency Planning Review consultation paper and the failure of the MoD to engage in the consultation process (paragraph 244).

    40. We believe that there should be national performance targets for local authorities' and other agencies' emergency plans. We accept that there may be difficulties in imposing such targets in the absence of a statutory duty to prepare emergency plans. We recommend that once that duty is in place targets should be imposed and performance against them monitored. In the meantime we encourage local authorities and others to introduce such targets on a voluntary basis (paragraph 161).
    41. We believe that consideration should be given to the proposition that the Government's role in all emergencies which make a call on central government, including the more frequent and localised emergencies, should be co-ordinated by the central co-ordinating machinery which would have to respond to a major emergency. This would be for two principal reasons. Firstly, the lack of clarity amongst non-central government agencies, as to which department is responsible for what, is one of their major complaints. They believe that they need a single central co-ordinating body; in other words a one-stop shop. Secondly the experience gained by the officials in such a body from dealing with smaller scale emergencies would be of huge help to them if they ever had to deal with a massive disaster caused by a terrorist attack (paragraph 173).
    42. The proposed Civil Contingencies Bill will place a statutory duty on local authorities and other local agencies to have in place civil contingency plans and will require those agencies to co-operate in the preparation of the plans. Central government should be prepared to accept a similar responsibility. To do so will require not only central co-ordination but also central enforcement (Paragraph 176).
    43. We believe that the CCS should be renamed the Emergency Planning Agency (or Centre); it should have a clear role as the public face of the Government's response to emergencies; it should be a one-stop shop for government assistance and support to local agencies in the event of an emergency; and it should take the lead in co-ordinating central government's response to massive and cross-departmental emergencies. It should have adequate resources and authority to carry out its terms of reference (paragraph 181).
    44. We believe that such an organisation will require strong and dedicated political leadership. We believe that leadership should be provided by a Cabinet Minister. We are not convinced that the Home Secretary, given his many other responsibilities, is best placed to deliver it. (Paragraph 182).
    45. We welcome Sir David Omand's appointment and the bringing together of intelligence and consequence management which it implies (paragraph 183).
    46. If our earlier recommendations are accepted, we believe that Sir David's new post will give him a unique opportunity to reinvigorate the central government machinery for co-ordinating and directing national security and consequence management functions (Paragraph 184).
    47. MUTUAL AID

    48. We recommend that the Department of Health and the Fire Service Inspectorate ensure that their work to provide mutual aid and reinforcement on a national basis is completed by the end of the year (Paragraph 195).

    50. We are very concerned that the communication systems which would be used in the event of an emergency have unknown but potentially fundamental vulnerabilities. We note the lack of confidence in the reliability of the Government's Emergency Communication Network. We recommend that an urgent review is conducted into the potential vulnerabilities and reliability of the communication networks which responding agencies would have to rely upon in an emergency (paragraph 199).
    51. We welcome recent decisions by the Government to ensure interoperability of communications between the emergency services and other responders, including the military, although we believe that this result could have been more effectively achieved by earlier co-ordination between government departments and the services concerned (paragraph 204).
    52. We recommend that Airwave and the other compatible new systems should be included in the review into communication resilience which we recommend. Any contract entered into for the procurement of these systems must guarantee a robust level of resilience throughout all parts of the system (paragraph 205).

    54. We believe that there is an opportunity to increase the involvement of the private security sector in counter-terrorist reinforcement. But that should only be done in step with the raising of standards in the industry. It is disappointing that the licensing regime for the industry will not be introduced before 2004-05. If the private security industry and its staff are to play an effective role, they will need the appropriate training. We look to the police and the private security industry jointly to bring forward detailed proposals as a matter of urgency, for consideration by the Home Office and the Security Industry Authority (paragraph 212).

    56. We cannot understand why the consideration of a new role for the Reserves in the SDR new chapter which was planned to be completed by April has in fact only entered its consultation period in mid-June, and seems unlikely to be completed until late autumn at the earliest (paragraph 221).
    57. It is not clear to us how the MoD will ensure that the necessary skills and training for even the tasks listed in their discussion document are to be found in a volunteer reserve force of 500 persons per region and only 5 or 6 days training a year (Paragraph 232).
    58. We believe that it is irresponsible to offer to put volunteer reserves into a CBRN contaminated environment without also explicitly providing for their protection and training (paragraph 235).
    59. We recommend that MoD publish estimated costs of the Reserve Reaction Forces, including illustrative costs for their deployment, and indicate where it expects those costs to fall. Without adequate information on the level and attribution of costs, it will not be possible for local authorities and others to include the Reserve Reaction Forces in their plans (paragraph 236).
    60. Provisionally, we welcome the thrust of the proposal insofar as it gives back to the Reserves a role in home defence. We also welcome the proposal to establish single 'joint' points of liaison on all emergency planning matters in each military region. We do not, however, believe that this proposal excuses the regular forces from being considered for an additional role (paragraph 237).
    61. We believe that the SDR new chapter should include a commitment to making available, in the context of a terrorist incident, certain capabilities from the regular Armed Forces. These might include specific capabilities—for example in the CBRN field—on a national basis as well as more general assistance at a regional level. The commitments from the Reserves and Regulars taken together should meet as far as possible the skills and capabilities required by the civil authorities, who should be closely involved by the MoD in identifying those skills and capabilities (paragraph 240).
    62. We recommend that the MoD identify what provision of airlift capacity, both fixed-wing and rotary, can be committed to the response to a major terrorist incident (Paragraph 241).
    63. We believe that joint exercises between the Armed Forces and the emergency services should be increased and should include other agencies as well (paragraph 245).

    65. We welcome the proposed creation of the Health Protection Agency (Paragraph 256).
    66. We recommend that the Government report progress on the PCTs' preparation of emergency plans and the arrangements for including the ambulance service in that process in their response to this report (paragraph 259).
    67. If ambulance and fire crew are expected to respond to a CBRN incident, they must have the necessary training and protective equipment. Now that there is a real threat of a CBRN attack on a scale not previously planned for, the Government must provide the additional resources needed. We were pleased to hear that progress was being made with the introduction of properly constructed decontamination facilities. We look to the Government to ensure that the resources are available to build on this beginning (paragraph 263).
    68. We believe that the Government should reconsider its policy on not providing information on CBRN countermeasures (paragraph 267).
    69. We believe that the public has a right to know, to an indicative level at least, what provisions the Government has made for its protection. We are not persuaded that such information would materially assist terrorists (paragraph 267).

    71. A major responsibility will fall on the Regional Directors of Public Health to ensure that PCTs have adequate emergency plans in place by October 2002, and that these have been prepared in co-ordination with other agencies, including in particular the ambulance service (paragraph 273).
    72. The Government clearly expects the regional tier to play a significant role in co-ordinating emergency planning and consequence management (paragraph 275).
    73. There may be a role for a regional tier in assisting with the co-ordination of the response to a civil emergency of wide geographical extent. But we believe that a major terrorist incident will require the direct and continuing involvement of central government including direct and close communication with the local agencies. If the Government believes that its contribution can be best delivered through GORs or other regional agencies it must ensure that their efforts are co-ordinated with and supportive of the work of local and emergency agencies (paragraph 279).

    75. We recommend that the Government, perhaps through the Cabinet Office and the CCS, publishes an annual report on the measures taken and expenditure incurred in respect of home defence and security. This report should bring together the contributions of all government departments and other relevant agencies and include reports from the devolved administrations (paragraph 284).
    76. We believe that our recommendations for an annual report on security will give the Government a regular opportunity to set out its strategy for delivering home defence and security in the UK (paragraph 293).
    77. As time passes and the memories of even such terrible events as the attacks of 11 September begin to fade, the urgency of the priority given to issues of defence and security may diminish. There is an increasing temptation to impose a conventional or historic template on the response to a radical new threat (paragraph 283)
    78. We are concerned that as time passes there is an increasing risk of complacency in respect of the threat from terrorism. We have found evidence of this during this enquiry (paragraph 15).

    80.    We believe that security against terrorist attacks in the UK could be improved by constructive public involvement (Paragraph 288).
    81. We understand that there is information whose public disclosure could be of material assistance to potential terrorists. We have evidence, however, which suggests that the Government takes refuge in that argument without always examining it as rigorously as it should. Information should be withheld from the public only where its publication would give rise to a specific and identifiable risk (paragraph 291)


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