Members present:

Mr Bruce George, in the Chair
Mr James Cran
Mr David Crausby
Mr Gerald Howarth
Mr Kevan Jones
Jim Knight
Syd Rapson
Mr Frank Roy
Rachel Squire


Memorandum submitted by, Home Office, Cabinet Office and Ministry of Defence

Examination of Witnesses

RT HON ADAM INGRAM MP, Minister of State for the Armed Forces, and MR BRUCE MANN, Director General, Financial Management, Ministry of Defence, RT HON JOHN DENHAM MP, Minister of State for Policing, Crime Reduction and Community Safety, and MR ROBERT WHALLEY, Head of Unit, Organised Crime, Drugs and International Group, Home Office, and MR CHRISTOPHER LESLIE MP, Parliamentary Secretary, and DR JOHN FULLER, Acting Head Civil Contingencies Secretariat, Cabinet Office, examined.


  1. Gentlemen, I understand that a division is expected in the next few minutes, so we will have to temporarily suspend proceedings, hopefully not in mid sentence. At least it will give you a chance to re-group before you return. Welcome to this, the Committee's final session in our inquiry into the defence and security in the UK. This inquiry flows directly from the attacks of 11 September and the Committee will report probably by July. We did an earlier report which we published at the end of last year. It might appear rather strange that some of you are appearing before the Defence Committee but, although there are, I understand, 65 committees and sub-committees in the United States dealing with the events of September 11 and the aftermath, the figure in the UK is much smaller and you are attending that one this afternoon. It is also unusual for three Ministers to appear at one and the same time before a committee. Our inquiry has crossed many departmental boundaries and issues of co-ordination and co-operation have been central to it. We are very grateful to you for agreeing to come and present a truly cross-departmental approach (I will not say "question mark") to defence and security in the UK and I am sure you will all be speaking with one voice. I understand you will each be making short opening statements, at the end of which maybe we will be saved by a division and then we can start the questioning immediately upon our return. Mr Denham, please.
  2. (Mr Denham) Chairman, I am grateful for the opportunity to introduce the session. With my colleagues, Adam Ingram and Chris Leslie, I would like to explain briefly for the benefit of the Committee our arrangements for counter-terrorism and civil contingencies. I would like to introduce my official, Bob Whalley, who is Head of the unit in the Home Office which provides security policy advice to the Home Secretary and to Home Office Ministers. My colleagues will introduce their officials. The Home Secretary has lead responsibility within Government for counter-terrorist policy. His chairmanship of the Ministerial Committee on Terrorism and the Civil Contingencies Committee allows him to maintain a clear oversight of the issues and measures being taken to strengthen the UK's ability to respond to the terrorist threat. The Home Office's national counter-terrorist contingency plans are tried and tested. They have existed for many years and allow the UK to respond to a wide range of terrorist threats including those which might involve the threatened or actual use of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials and new threats. The assessment of the terrorist threat is a continuous process and via DOP(IT)T which, as you probably know, Chairman, is the name of the relevant committee, the threat has been analysed and planning assumptions made for the prioritisation of protective and consequence planning across all departments. As a matter of sad necessity we in the UK have developed considerable expertise in fighting terrorism. We have learned to be prepared, to plan, to review and to take further action where required. Following the tragic events of 11 September, the Home Office, Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Defence have been at the heart of a major cross-departmental programme of work designed to enhance the resilience of the UK and counter the new indiscriminate threat of terrorism from abroad. I would like to emphasise that, although a great deal of effort has been expended within the UK since September 11, effective measures to respond to the threat of terrorism were already in place. The Government not only accepts but actively embraces the case for contingency planning and for conducting exercises to test those plans. For many years the Home Office's national counter-terrorist exercise programme has enabled police forces around the UK to test their response capability in conjunction with the military and other departments. Three full-scale operational exercises have been taking place each year. This is one of the main reasons why the UK's crisis management machinery works - and I believe works well - when we have had to deal with real terrorist incidents. I am not, Chairman, pretending that any of this makes the UK a risk-free zone. There can be no such thing. But it is right that we should keep things in context. Our priority now is to strengthen our response arrangements by identifying any gaps and weaknesses and by taking the necessary remedial action.

  3. Thank you very much. Mr Leslie?
  4. (Mr Leslie) Mr Chairman, if I may take up the mantle on the points that Mr Denham has raised, I should for the record perhaps introduce myself and say how much I welcome the Select Committee's inquiry. I am Parliamentary Secretary at the Cabinet Office and, following the machinery of Government changes after the last general election and the establishment of the Civil Contingency Secretariat, I took on responsibilities for emergency planning activities. To my right is Dr John Fuller who is the Deputy Director of the Civil Contingency Secretariat and will be aiding and supporting me throughout the day. I also, following in particular September 11 and the constitution of the Civil Contingencies Cabinet Committee, chair one of its sub-committees on UK resilience. All I want to say in opening is that from what I have seen in work in this area so far the civil authorities in general have built up over decades a great deal of expertise, not only in anti-terrorism activities, but also in emergency planning in general. Our aim has to be of course to enhance preparedness, to build on partnerships with others which are so vital in this area and to really embed a concept of resilience into the mainstream of our work across all Government departments. As John has already said, we have to guard against both complacency on our part but also unrealistic expectations that are out there, but I do believe that we have raised our game significantly and we are testing our capabilities at all times and we do stand ready to cope with emergencies and disruptions whatever their source.

  5. Thank you very much.
  6. (Mr Ingram) Chairman, you are familiar with me as the Minister for the Armed Forces. You know that I always welcome your inquiries. We always wait for the conclusions with some anticipation.

  7. I am sorry about the last one, Minister. It did not go down too well in the MOD, did it?
  8. (Mr Ingram) We could spend the next two hours debating that one. I have with me Bruce Mann, who is the Director General for Financial Management within the MOD. The primary role of the armed forces is the defence of the United Kingdom against external threats. The Committee will be well aware of the work that is still being done by the armed forces to combat the threat from international terrorism at its source. Six months ago Afghanistan was a haven for Osama bin Laden and his network. There is still work to be done but along with our many allies we have made it plain that we have the will and the ability to ensure that there are no safe havens for him and his kind anywhere in the world. Of course there remains a risk of a terrorist attack in this country. I know my officials and those from other departments you have questioned have made it clear to you that the prime responsibility for combating this threat lies outside the MOD. That does not, of course, mean that the MOD contributes nothing. We fully recognise the importance of the task and our ability to provide specific specialist capabilities in the fight against terrorism in the UK. My Department has already given you a great deal of information on these capabilities, much of it classified, and further classified information can be provided, in writing, if you wish. The MOD contributes to a comprehensive response which combines the resources at the Government's disposal. The Government mechanisms, which are summarised by important phrases such as "the Home Office lead" and "police primacy", are both determined and able to combine resources - including those of the armed forces - to combat this threat.

    The Committee suspended from 4.26 pm to 4.36 pm for a division in the House

    Rachel Squire

  9. I would like to pick up on where the last Minister to speak left off, namely with a couple of questions on military defence and how many of us have looked again at what ways the events of September 11 require us to look at how the armed forces fulfil their duty to defend the United Kingdom, in particular that it is when we are talking about the land mass of the United Kingdom it is largely limited to securing UK air space and UK waters. We recognise, obviously, far more clearly than we did how rogue civilian aircraft can potentially threaten UK air space and yet it seems that the last time additional home defence measures were taken was more than ten years ago during the Gulf War. Can I ask the Minister why similar measures to those that were taken then do not appear to have been taken in response to the attack of September 11 on the United States?
  10. (Mr Ingram) I interpret that question as meaning about point defence on sensitive sites. Would that be the direction you are coming from on this, or specifically in terms of what? I am not quite clear as to what you are seeking.

  11. We are focusing specifically on the defence of the homeland when we are talking about this island territory of ours and how we are reacting to preventing aircraft that are just targeted to land and cause maximum death and damage.
  12. (Mr Ingram) So specifically on the aircraft?

  13. How are we responding to that?
  14. (Mr Ingram) There is a general issue underlying that as well in relation to the last time we were in a conflict, although this is a different set of circumstances. The SDR came into play and of course that laid down new precepts, new concepts and a new focus on how we should be addressing our defence posture and taking that capability to where the threat lies, which we believe is beyond the shores of this country because we are not under direct attack in that sense. The SDR dealt with the generality of that and of course the new chapter to the SDR then looks at events post-11 September to make sure that we have got our posture right. It is not a new overall review but it is to make sure that the things that need to be done will be done based upon that examination and then upon that analysis and then best delivery of what is required. As to the air defence of the United Kingdom, I think you have had detailed information on this in confidence as to the mechanism by which this applies. It would be wrong for me to go into timings of response and again I think that possibly has been made available to you. The coverage of the United Kingdom we believe to be sufficient in terms of that air response but, having said that, that does not mean to say that we would not examine the basics of the aircraft in terms of response time because we have to look at where possible attack points could be. However, the use of aircraft must be the line of last defence because that is a point at which the threat is then going to impact. Our best option is to try and deter that from happening, either before, if it is a civilian aircraft, it takes off or, if it is in flight, knowledge which then gives us a better ability to deal with this before it comes into our territorial area. There are a number of mechanisms which can apply in the countries in which aircraft take off, in-flight if an awareness is made, and the alerts that can then happen to the possible country of attack before we then have to deploy in country if it is then directly threatening an immediate target within the UK. I do not know if that answers our question.

  15. Yes, it does. I wondered if you wanted to make any further points on this occasion about issues we have certainly raised in this Committee previously about the Rapier air missile defence system that the US certainly seems to have considered very seriously following the 11 September as an additional way of securing air defence.
  16. (Mr Ingram) You are talking about ground defence. Again, I think this would be better dealt with - and I am not dodging the question - in private session because one then has to examine the nature of the sites, the location of the sites, and then what do you do? Is it one site, is it a multiplicity of sites? What do you do in terms of readiness and the utilisation of those resources? It is an easy response and a defined response but then a judgement has to be made: is it the best response in all circumstances? I have tried to define the way in which the threat should be tackled as far away from the shores as possible and then to have in place mechanisms which then specifically deal with that response covering the whole of the UK and not necessarily one specific site. Ground defence, by its very nature, would be likely to be located around one or more sites. That may not be the target.

  17. Can I pick up on the point about trying to identify and intercept and prevent a potential threat as far away as possible before it gets anywhere within the United Kingdom air space? I believe that your own memorandum states that the defence of the UK rests on the ability of our armed forces to undertake missions outside the UK, obviously not to concentrate on their efforts literally on the home ground. However, that contrasts with the statement in Defence Policy 2001 which said, "The UK's national security and defence depend fundamentally on the security of Europe as a whole ... NATO is and will continue to be the primary means of ensuring British and European collective security and defence". Whilst, clearly, the UK's "vital interests" extend beyond the defence of the UK itself and I think we all agree our forces' ability to deploy overseas is an essential means of protecting those interests, just how far do you think that defence of this island itself is guaranteed by overseas deployments? I think it is something that is often raised by the public as the balance between to what extent our armed forces are deployed overseas and to what extent they feel they are here to defend the home territory.
  18. (Mr Ingram) Yes - are we doing too much abroad and therefore neglecting home defence as a consequence?

    Jim Knight

  19. Is that a statement?
  20. (Mr Ingram) No. That is me trying to articulate the public mood, the headline mood that could apply in all of this. That argument is out there. The ethos of what we seek to do, not just in this country but as part of our NATO response and other coalition responses, of course would be to identify where the threat is. If it is an aggressive country that is clearly easy and obviously if that is a country which is beginning to show that level of aggression against us all the mechanisms would come into play as to how that should then be dealt with, through all the diplomatic processes, all the other processes, but then, if war is inevitable, is it a threat against NATO? Is Article 5 then triggered? Where stands the UN? Immediately there is a multiplicity of responses. Is it within the confines of Europe? Where stands the combination of European countries alongside NATO and all of that? That is against the aggressive country. If it is against a threat of aggression, in this case from international terrorism, it is a different quality of aggression. It is not armies marching against us. It is not necessarily sophisticated weapons of destruction. It may be crude weapons of mass destruction which may be located here, so intelligence gathering and best use of intelligence will become a critical factor in all of that to identify where the source of the threat is, how then we can deal with that particular threat. If it is within a country with which we have good relationships they may be able to tackle that domestically. If it is a hostile environment then we may have to take international or unilateral action depending on the circumstances, again depending on the nature of the threat, specific or general. It goes across that layer of issues which we have now identified within the SDR new chapter of the prevention approach, the deterrence approach, the coercion to try and encourage action to be taken within that area of where the threat is coming from and then to seek to disrupt it if it is being funded by countries encouraging this and by then taking that on to try and stop the funding route of that and, as I say, through the diplomatic route as well, but ultimately to destroy that threat if necessary. Have we by our actions in recent times, whether in Sierra Leone or the Balkans or Afghanistan, weakened our resolve in this? The answer to that would be fundamentally no. If anything, we are doing all of those things. We are identifying where the threat is, different manifestations of it, how then it threatens other aspects of this country where terrorism could grow in countries of potential threat to us and trying to tackle it there. The best and most graphic example of that, and that is why I mentioned it in my opening comments, is Afghanistan, because that was a network of international proportions which we were tackling; it was tackled at source but recognising that it could be elsewhere. We are ready in all of those postures but that does not mean to say that we do not have a look at what those postures are and see if there are ways in which we could better refine it and that is what the new chapter examination is all about.


  21. The SDR said something like for the first time in a generation there is no threat to the UK home base. That was written in 1998. Experience has shown that there is a threat to the UK home base and I suppose the question is, have we got the balance right? I am not in any way opposed to expeditionary warfare if required, but one has the impression that the events of September 11 really indicated clearly to us that the use of the military for homeland security defence purposes was very important. While I welcome the new chapter to the SDR, were you surprised or would there have been any evolution of MOD policy if September 11 had not taken place to secure the home base greater than perhaps the SDR was prepared to project?
  22. (Mr Ingram) Again, one of the other aspects of the new chapter is looking at specific home defence activities, probably through the TA or better use of the reserves. That is something which we are looking at and on which we will probably be announcing some conclusions at a fairly early stage. Some of the comments which have been made and some of the examinations which have been made about that then takes us down particular routes of what then do we do with that element of our resources and how best do we utilise them? We are coming to a conclusion on all of that. We do not yet have a final position adopted in that. That, as I say, will be determined very shortly and I would hope that you would find some worth in that when it is published. The question is, would we have done this without September 11? If not September 11, there may have been something else. There may have been another greater realisation of a threat to the security of the world in that sense from growing international terrorism and therefore do we need to do something? Is it a specific issue for us? I cannot say with certainty that that would of itself have triggered it but my assumption would be that that would have been a trigger. It seems to me that we do a lot on the back of triggers. Something happens and then we say, "Are we getting this right?", and then, "Do we need to re-examine it?" The end of the Cold War caused that type of examination. What was our defence posture? Did we need to change our defence posture? Yes, we did, and then it was refined later on in terms of the SDR. By looking at it in the new way, through the new chapter, we are looking at certain specific ways in which this can be done with a lot of the focus on home defence. There are many triggers that happen in terms of government awareness about threats. Specifically on the terrorist issue you just need to look at the different types of legislation we have brought in over time in response to Irish terrorism, and it is usually when something else happens that we then say, "Do we now need another set of emergency measures in response to that?", the most recent of course being the Omar tragedy when we brought in a range of new measures and then on the back of that a new definition of the Terrorism Act which applies in this country. Triggers can bring about a re-examination but of itself that does not mean to say that everything that was there was flawed. It just may mean that we need to do something better and more focused. That is really the drive and the intention behind the new chapter. It is better that we take time to get it right rather than knee-jerk and give an instant response because we have to examine the totality of where the threat is coming from.

    Chairman: Good. We cannot wait to see the new chapter.

    Mr Crausby

  23. The 1998 Strategic Defence Review told us that "support against terrorism of all kinds will remain of the highest priority for the foreseeable future". Mr Denham told us about the work programme in his opening statement since September 11 and, to be fair, he also said that effective measures were in place. Can he tell us what the armed forces have actually done between 1998 and September 11 2001 in pursuit of defending us against the threat of terrorism? I just wonder how ready we would have been if September 11 had been an attack on the UK.
  24. (Mr Ingram) Remembering that the main attack on the US was a civilian target, of course, and the Pentagon as well, if the knowledge had been there that those aircraft had been coming in specifically targeted on targets in this country, we had a state of readiness. We had mechanisms in place to deal with that specific threat. We could go through a range of other scenarios where we could point out what we were doing, whether it was in terms of an attack on water resources or a chemical attack in this country or a biological attack or a radiological device attack, and yes, we have had states of preparedness in advance of the SDR and so that is part of the overall delivery of this. Then you need the intelligence to know what the threat is and then how you respond to that. That is the real key to this, that the capability is there, but then you need to know that it is going to happen. The nature of asymmetric threat is that you cannot predict precisely what is going to happen and therefore you can only imagine and best define those scenarios and put in place those mechanisms ready for that. The threshold of the level of attack has now been lifted post-11 September and it is because of that that we look at other elements of our preparedness. Since then we have put in place quite a range of enhancements, correctly so, building on that which is already there. They are not new capabilities; they are enhancements to existing capabilities, more extensive coverage and so on.

  25. If it was of the highest priority in 1998 what is so radically different about 2002 in the sense that we completely accept that the asymmetric threat is incredibly difficult to defend ourselves against?
  26. (Mr Ingram) It is on that point that I am saying about thresholds being lifted. The Sarin attack in Tokyo was another lifting of the threshold. That made countries aware of the sensitivity of certain aspects of their infrastructure. How do you deal with mass contamination and areas beyond an MOD delivery responsibility, although the MOD can be part of the playing in of how we then take on the challenge? Whether it is a threat from a rogue ship or a rogue aircraft, all of these things have been defined, as I say, before the SDR. To use the phrase that we are ready for this I think is correct because the threat was out there. International terrorism was known about. We in any event had 30 years of dealing with domestic terrorism of quite a dramatic type. Remember that a particular group, the IRA, tried to take out the Cabinet of this country. That was not mass death but if they had moved into a different phase of operation they could have been doing that. We had to be aware of that right across that period of time. Using the phrase was a statement of where we were at, not a new understanding of a new problem. What has happened since then is because of that lifting of the threshold. Is there anything more we can be doing? The answer to that is yes, and that is what we are now beginning to deliver.


  27. Mr Denham, are you satisfied with the arrangements to co-ordinate counter-terrorist work between the police and the security services and, in certain circumstances, the military?
  28. (Mr Denham) Chairman, I think the straightforward answer to that is that I am satisfied that we have the structures right, that we have the lines of accountability and responsibility clear, and that they do work well in practice. It is obviously the case that through the structures that I outlined earlier we are continuously looking at the risk and the threat and our response to see if anything further needs to be developed, but I do believe that the pattern of co-ordination, the understanding between different agencies, the lines of accountability ministerially through the Home Secretary, are clear and well understood and also flexible and able to respond rapidly to new situations. That is not a complacent statement. It does not mean that we cannot constantly strive to identify areas where we need to improve, but what has built up over a 30-year period of time has I think got a lot of good professional experience and practical knowledge and practical ways of working built into it.

  29. You could potentially have some quite sleepless nights worrying if almost a Railtrack crisis could hit you and that, if there was a crisis, co-ordination proved not to be successful. I know it is very important that you give reassurances, but when you go home at night or when you go into the office, I am sure you are probing and seeking as far as is possible that the different agencies are working effectively, but do you think that the exercises you are doing, the strategies you have laid down would be able to cope in a major crisis?
  30. (Mr Denham) I think the reassurance that I get is from the ability of myself and indeed other Ministers, particularly of course the Home Secretary, who has the major responsibility, to understand and discuss these arrangements with the key people, many of whom you have spoken to yourselves as a Committee, with the Head of Anti-terrorism, the representatives of the security services, and also, of course, as you put it, in a ministerial sense we have formal ways of doing that through the committee structure. We are also able to participate as observers or participants, as appropriate, in the exercises that take place where we are able to see in real time real decision makers taking part in exercises and know also that there is a detailed analysis of those exercises and work is done to identify the things that went well and the things that need to be addressed in the future. I have been in the post nearly a year. My very strong impression is of an extremely professional set of services who understand very well their inter-related responsibilities and I have been impressed and reassured by that.

  31. When you consider the organisations and the body of persons that can be involved in various stages of counter-terrorism, one body of people gets neglected, and I promise my colleagues this is the only question I will ask. We had people along to the private security inquiry. It could be a couple of hundred thousand people if you added in-house security, who, as they are in the process of being regulated, could provide, if properly used, an incredibly useful additional resource. Have you given much thought to that or could you give more thought to that involvement of a properly constituted, properly regulated, professional private security industry as opposed to what has gone on for much of the last four or five decades?
  32. (Mr Denham) Clearly we are committed to developing a properly regulated and licensed security industry and you, Chairman, have probably had as much to do with getting the Government into a position to do that as anybody in the last 20 years, and you are very familiar with it. Whether making a training in, for example, counter-terrorism work or observance skills or something like that, should be part of the licensing process is something that could be considered. It is not part of our current plans and I think it is one of those issues that in particular ACPO, as the gold command, for instance, were to come to us and say they felt it would be useful, that is something that we would want to discuss. I think it is also worth pointing the Committee to the current Police Reform Bill that is going through Parliament which will create a system of accredited community safety officers. These will be a set of people not employed by the police but employed as neighbourhood wardens, street wardens, potentially private security guards and the like, and it will be possible for chief constables, with the co-operation of employers, to accredit and train and co-ordinate the activities of these individuals in the way that often happens informally at present around securing major out of town shopping centres and things of that sort. My feeling, Chairman, is that chief constables who wish to expand that family of people that they were able to work with would probably work through that accreditation training, because frankly the levels of training that can be built in and the levels of specific skills that could be added will be higher through that system than through the SIA which will be important but basic standards. That is new legislation and I think the position at the moment is that those who are responsible for this work will want to consider how they might use it. The discussion you have raised is an important one but I have to say it is not on the agenda as something that is going to happen at the moment, but I am aware of your interest, Chairman, and I share your interest in making the best use of this large group of people.

  33. When we spoke to David Veness, and may I say I think you are incredibly fortunate in having somebody as competent and as knowledgeable as David Veness, he spoke of the idea of a National Counter-Terrorist Service as "a very interesting proposition", and he commented on the current arrangements and noted that "there are identifiable areas where we could make progress". Any comment on that, Minister?
  34. (Mr Denham) As I recall from reading his evidence, that was in the context of the same question. I do believe that the Metropolitan Police Service have in particular looked at the way in which they already co-ordinate with private guarding agencies, for example, in the Docklands area, where there is good practical co-operation. If somebody in David Veness's position with his experience wishes to raise these issues, that is a discussion we would gladly have with the police service. I would say that in what is essentially an operational matter this is something in which I would be strongly influenced by an operational police service view as to whether this would add to their capability, particularly through the accreditation route that I described earlier.

  35. When he eventually retires, in about 15 years I hope, I hope his successor is half as good as he is, and he is not paying me to say these nice things. Following 11 September the Government of course, as you know, introduced the Anti-terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001. How much use has been made of those powers to date?
  36. (Mr Denham) Of course there is a range of powers within the Act, Chairman. Use has been made of that, though I would have to come back to you with details of the financial powers that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has led on. Some individuals have been detained under the provisions in the Act that were introduced. I think the Act is proving a useful addition to the fairly comprehensive terrorism legislation that we had previously.

  37. What about the banned organisations? Can you give us a clue as to what is happening with the proposed proscribed organisations?
  38. The position with the proscribed organisations under the 2000 Act - again I would wish to check the detail - is that there are a number - I think it is a small number - challenging the proscription. They have appeals to the Home Secretary and they are challenging the proscription through the appeals procedure which has been established. That is ongoing. A number have not done so. I will be very happy, Chairman, to write to the Committee with details on where we are with the proscriptions.
  39. Mr Howarth

  40. Would these people have been capable of being detained under any previous legislation or has the new legislation provided the authorities with a lever which was not previously available to them?
  41. (Mr Denham) The problem that the legislation sought to address was that there were people - I have to choose my words with care - who essentially we were neither able to detain because we were not able to bring them in front of the courts to obtain a conviction but, because of the country from which they had come and the state of affairs there, we could not return them to that country. In a sense, whilst they were people that - and I use this in a non-legal way - we would prefer not to have in this country, we were not able to deal with them satisfactorily and so it has given us an additional power which did not previously exist.

  42. Is that because the courts would not have allowed us to return them to those countries?
  43. (Mr Denham) That is part of the issue, yes. We, of course, as a Government have a position on returning people to certain situations where people's lives would be at risk, extra-judicial execution, things of that sort.

  44. So we have untied one hand from behind our back?
  45. (Mr Denham) What we have done is to introduce a necessary power in a way that means that we are working legally both in terms of our national and international legal obligations and I think it is very important in taking forward the action we are taking against terrorism that as a country we work within a sound legal framework.


  46. Can I come back again to your comments on a National Counter-Terrorist Service? Mr Veness's views, as far as I can recall, were along the lines of the possibility of a National Counter-Terrorist Service on the lines of perhaps the National Crime Squad or the National Criminal Intelligence Service. Is his idea a runner in the light perhaps of the alternatives I have mentioned?
  47. (Mr Denham) I am sorry if I referred to a different section of Mr Veness's evidence. I have to say I read his evidence as somewhat equivocal on this point. My interpretation of it was that he said that in establishing NCIS and the National Crime Squad this was meeting a very clear need, a very clear gap in our criminal intelligence services and our criminal investigation services, but I do not think he was making a case that such a similar gap exists in the organisation of counter-terrorism activities. As I said at the outset, I think that the arrangements that we have at the moment do seem to me to be, certainly in terms of the way they are structured and the way they inter-relate, both robust and flexible.

    Syd Rapson

  48. Could I return to the Crime and Security Act 2001? Some of the powers under that particular Act are exercised specifically for detention by relying on a derogation by the UK Government from Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights. There is a derogation under that power but the derogation can only be made "in time of war or other public emergency threatening the life of the nation", and at the time all of us collectively felt that that was a real possibility when this derogation under the new powers was brought in. How will the Government judge whether the circumstances continue to apply for that and how long will the derogation continue for? I think we have only got nine people in detention at the moment from an original 144 arrested. Forty six were charged but there were no convictions, and there are ten awaiting trial, but apparently there are only nine in detention. How long is the derogation going to apply and how long can we keep that up because of the threat to the nation state?
  49. (Mr Denham) That is a difficult question to answer, Chairman, because we do not know what will happen internationally in this country or in other countries on the anti-terrorism front. Suffice it to say at the moment that nothing has happened since the House judged that this legislation was necessary to lead any of us to conclude that it is no longer necessary. These are things that have to be kept under review. There is of course a procedure through CEAC which is capable of reviewing the use of the Act. That I believe is a place where these arguments could be aired, but I would say that the decision of Parliament to make these powers available was a correct one because, as I say, circumstances have not changed to suggested that it was wrong. I would also comment briefly on the numbers. At the time concerns were expressed that this was a power that would be used indiscriminately, that there would be fishing expeditions against anybody who looked a bit suspicious, that people would be locked up all over the place. The figures you have given suggest that this is a power which every attempt is being made to use responsibly.

  50. Can I address the derogation on Article 5 which was given because of that severe worry that we had? Is it endless? We made the derogation because we felt it was necessary. Does it expire after a period of time? You said there is a review. I just wondered, once you have given that derogation, do you then say, "Okay, we can turn a blind eye to the Convention on Human Rights because of this overriding worry"?
  51. (Mr Denham) If the derogation is applied in the case of an individual and somebody is detained under the power, and part of the argument that has to be used is that the derogation applies, then there is no time limit. It does not say, "After three months we will assume that whatever reason it was that we had the derogation must have passed". It clearly has to depend on the actual circumstances and that will depend on the progress on action against terrorism at home and abroad over the months and years to come.

  52. I have probably misunderstood. The derogation is on the individual, not on the ability to use the Act for detention purposes?
  53. (Mr Denham) Either way round the argument is exactly the same. You cannot artificially apply a deadline to something that depends on the international situation. Having said that, the Act itself will fall to be renewed by Parliament. I have to confess, Chairman, that I would have to come back to the Committee with the detail of the date, but one of the agreements that was made with the Act was that that provision would have to be renewed. That is built into the process of that, but the principle that I argued was that you would not say, three months after you had started using it, you simply assumed that the derogation did not apply. Clearly that would not work.

    Mr Howarth

  54. Is it up to the United Kingdom Government to determine that we are entitled to a derogation and can we be challenged in the European Court? I think people here would regard it as being very much a matter for the United Kingdom Parliament to determine. I wondered whether we do have as much freedom of action as you are suggesting.
  55. (Mr Denham) It is for the United Kingdom Government, with of course Parliament, to judge whether this is appropriate. Parliament passed the legislation and the Government has to use it. That does not take away from individuals the power through the appeals procedure which was laid down to challenge that decision or to challenge the decision in another legislative forum. Both Government and Parliament have set out their will on this.

    Jim Knight

  56. 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.
  57. (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 were problems.

  58. 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?
  59. (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 enables - and indeed will require - Parliament 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 Contingency 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 Contingency 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.


  60. Excuse me: what are you asking for?
  61. (Mr Leslie) Give us a clue.

    Mr Cran

  62. Actually, actions.
  63. (Mr Leslie) The point to stress at the outset is to emphasise the role of the Cabinet Office and particularly the Civil Contingency Secretariat in facilitating an integrated and co-ordinated response. As I mentioned at the outset, the Civil Contingency 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 Contingency 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.

  64. 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?
  65. (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 of policy.

  66. 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?
  67. (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 fashions - that is probably the wrong word - there 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.

  68. But you do concede that it is a difficult job, is it not?
  69. (Mr Leslie) Undoubtedly difficult but I think it is necessary and it will happen.

  70. 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 a secretariat. What say you to that?
  71. (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.


  72. I do not like to use the word "farm" after the experience of foot and mouth.
  73. (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.

    Mr Cran

  74. 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?
  75. (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.

  76. 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?
  77. (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.

  78. Of course, I understand that.
  79. (Mr Leslie) And I think that really is the primary ----

  80. 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.
  81. (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 Cobra 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.

  82. 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.
  83. (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!

    Mr Jones

  84. 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?
  85. (Mr Leslie) I can tell you at length about the Civil Defence Grant Act 2002.

  86. Please do.
  87. (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 rightly - as I do myself, as someone who took through the Bill - that 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 belief - and I feel this is very, very important - is 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 181/2 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.

  88. 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?
  89. (Mr Leslie) I can certainly send you a note about Durham.

  90. Yes or no?
  91. (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 say - and I do not have the figures in front of me - because 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.

  92. In respect of what?
  93. (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.

  94. In relation to emergency planning?
  95. (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 formula approach.

    Mr Jones: Can I have the answer about the survey?


  96. This was the London survey, was it, you were referring to - the Nick Raynsford survey which was sent to all the London boroughs?
  97. (Mr Leslie) Could you repeat that?

  98. I think Kevan Jones is referring to the London survey.
  99. (Mr Leslie) I think John Fuller can deal with that.

    (Dr Fuller) Certainly. The survey relates to the work that the London Resilience Team have been carrying out. I believe that we had 33 questionnaires sent out. All of those questionnaires have been returned and are currently being analysed. There are going to be follow-up visits to all the authorities that returned the questionnaires, and individual feedback to each authority. Overall it is allowing us to take forward the work in London under the chairmanship of Nick Raynsford to ensure that the capital's response is properly co-ordinated at the cross-London level.

    Mr Jones

  100. What form are the follow-up visits going to take?
  101. (Mr Leslie) I think it would be useful if we sent you a note on that because this is quite a discrete bit of work in the London area.

  102. I got a copy of the consultant's report last week and at least one London borough sent their questionnaire back and if you read it at face value it gave quite a glowing picture of the fact that they had an emergency plan. They have recently had a consultant look at their emergency plan who says it is complete fiction, he says it is there on paper but not there in practice on the ground. To what extent are you actually going to ensure that it is not just local authorities ticking boxes and sending it back to you, you are going to make sure that what they send back to you is actually working in practice? At least in this one London borough it is not even though the form sent back to you speaks in glowing terms about what they have got.
  103. (Mr Leslie) I cannot comment on a specific case but what I do know is that we have to look at the wider statutory framework in which emergency planning officers work and the duty that I believe they should have to prepare certain types of plans. There is a big piece of work going on right now about future legislation because, do not forget, since the 1948 Civil Defence Act we have been working on certain assumptions that have changed quite dramatically to the modern day. I think one of the proposals in the Emergency Planning Review, and I do not know if you have had a chance to see that document, was the question of certain statutory duties to include certain elements in emergency plans prepared by local authorities. So we are actively looking at how we can bolster and improve those at a local level from local authority to local authority.

  104. The survey was just a paper exercise, was it not?
  105. (Mr Leslie) No, I do not think so. I think it is quite an important piece of work and I think we are addressing the legislative framework as quickly and as effectively as we possibly can. I really do think that the auditing and general inspection approach taken by, for example, the Emergency Planning Society, the work of the Emergency Planning College, the community in general in the emergency planning fraternity is very professional and whilst, as I say, there is no such thing as ----

  106. You are in charge of it.
  107. (Mr Leslie) Whilst there is no such thing as perfection in any of these matters, I believe that there is a robust framework out there in each local authority.

  108. That is nonsense, I am sorry.
  109. (Mr Leslie) And there are returns required in the Civil Defence Grant requirements.

  110. You cannot have it both ways. You can hardly say that you take a robust approach to ensuring that emergency planning in the areas is actually working and at the same time argue that somebody else is responsible to ensure the standards are there.
  111. (Mr Leslie) I am not saying that somebody else is responsible. There are a variety of ways of checking.

  112. You are supposed to be in charge of it.
  113. (Mr Leslie) That is right, and there are a variety of ways of checking that local authority emergency plans are strong and robust.

  114. What are they?
  115. (Mr Leslie) One way, for example, is in the returns in respect of the Civil Defence Grant as paid out by the Government. John, if you could add the facts.

    (Dr Fuller) If I could respond factually on the questionnaire. The initial visits have taken place to the local authorities but those were only the first visits and there are going to be follow-up visits to ensure that the boxes that were ticked are actually true, that the actions are following on the ground and it is not just a paper exercise. That is all happening under the auspices of the London Resilience Team which works to the London Resilience Forum chaired by Nick Raynsford and Deputy Chair, the Mayor.

    (Mr Denham) Could I just add one point because it is quite important, which is to say that in terms of London there was a major exercise in February of this year, so whatever else is going on it is not the case that people are just putting bits of paper about. The aim of that exercise was to see what happens. Clearly the work of the London Resilience Team, which Nick Raynsford has been working with as the Minister, will be looking at the results of that, the strengths and weaknesses, and ensuring that they are addressed. It would be wrong to give the impression that simply we send out a letter and people write back and say "it is fine" and we say "that is okay then". The exercises are a key part.


  116. We have to move on, except because I am Chairman I can ask another question. If you are Ofsteding London, what about the other areas? Is there any plan to get in amongst the other local authorities to see how well they are doing?
  117. (Mr Leslie) Absolutely, there is. This is one of the reasons we have a UK Resilience sub-committee of CCC as well, which I chair. Although it is not exclusively the only response to disruptive challenges, local authorities are an important component in that. We are trying our very best to make sure that they have the capabilities to respond. One aspect of that is making sure that we check and update the requirements and the duties that they have to have sufficiently robust and strong emergency plans in place.

  118. It is totally amazing that it has taken up until around now to have a mechanism by which the quality, sophistication, qualifications of the personnel involved in emergency planning are subject to the scrutiny that they are now being subjected to. Let us hope that the process moves along more swiftly and more thoroughly.
  119. (Mr Leslie) A lot of it is to do with the statutory framework in place and I think your representations in respect of a future Civil Contingencies Bill would be most welcome.

    Chairman: We are coming back to the Emergency Planning Review shortly.

    Mr Roy

  120. Can I just bring you back to something you said in your conversation with Mr Jones, that you were quite impressed by the work of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat. I would like to reiterate what Mr Jones was saying that so far from the evidence we have received, especially from the aviation sector, the private sector and Transec, there is certainly not a high profile of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat among those people who should be using that service. I think that should start alarm bells ringing somewhere. Can I also say even the name Civil Contingencies Secretariat sounds to me like Whitehall-speak, it conjures up images of something from Yes, Minister where we all talk a lot and nothing gets done. I also suspect, Minister, if you went out there and asked the general public about the CCS they would not have a clue what it was about and would not remember it. Bearing in mind those criticisms I would like to ask, we are now eight months after 11 September, do you not think that it is time that we had some sort of figurehead, whether it would be a politician, that would have a name that could encompass all the roles similar to that which the Americans have done with their Director of Homeland Security? Is it not time to have someone who could co-ordinate and could be publicly recognised for the work that they are doing?
  121. (Mr Leslie) There are a number of different questions there. I think the first thing to say is that as far as the public are concerned we have got to make sure that there is reassurance at large. The most important thing to stress, as we have at the outset, is if you are looking for an equivalent Director of Homeland Security we have one in the shape of the Home Secretary as the person who is at the head not least of the Civil Contingencies Committee of the Cabinet, and he is responsible for taking a lead across the board in the big picture on these areas and that is where the buck ultimately stops. I think it is important also just to follow up on some of your wider comments about the Civil Contingencies Secretariat in general. The idea is not that that is the public face, as it were, of our response to either terrorist incidents or disruptive challenges in general, that is one part of the mechanism for making sure that we facilitate an integrated response within our own internal Government structures. We are looking and learning as we develop the work of the CCS all the time at how we can augment and support their work. For example, Sir Richard Wilson, the Cabinet Secretary, has asked Sir David Omand, the former Home Secretary of the Home Office, to come in and give a strategic and wider supporting look across the piece at the work of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat, looking at questions about resources, priorities and so on. There are a number of different ways in which we are trying to build improvements and strength into our own internal arrangements. I do have confidence in the work of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat, they really have had a tremendously difficult job to do, particularly bearing in mind that 11 September came only a matter of weeks after their establishment.

  122. I accept that 11 months ago it was set up but we still have not established how the Civil Contingencies Secretariat is to be used and certainly the Civil Contingencies Secretariat does not have a high profile with us and talking about Transec, the aviation sector and the private sector, they are all saying that. Surely the bells should be ringing somewhere.
  123. (Mr Leslie) Chairman, Transec would relate to DOP(IT)T and to the Defence and Overseas Secretariat which is defence allied work. Transec's work is about security and preventing that terrorist attack takes place. The Civil Contingencies Secretariat for sure, we must be clear, is not about preventing terrorist attack, it is about dealing with the consequences of that and other consequences. I am not entirely surprised that organisations that are essentially dealing with prevention of terrorism are not dealing on a day-to-day basis. I can assure you, Chairman, that organisations like Transec and indeed their ministers are very much involved in discussions with the Home Secretary who is in charge both of preventative policy and the policy that takes place after an event about these issues, and that ministerial accountability is there, which is why I do not think we need a Director of Homeland Defence, because we have clear systems of political accountability to the Home Secretary and through that to Parliament, and we have the structures which support him. I think it is very important not to confuse what the Civil Contingencies Secretariat does, because we have a structure which does look at both prevention and consequence management. Clearly the two structures have to join to hand over and all the rest of it, but they are not the same activities.


  124. Thank you. I apologise for Mr Roy really confusing things. He embarrassed me enormously. Perhaps the confusion was based on the fact that the memorandum from the Civil Contingencies Secretariat said that the CCS's tasks are to identify potential crises, to help departments pre-empt them or handle them and to manage a central co-ordination machinery for this wider work and secretarial response to the Prime Minister. So it actually says here that one of its functions is to identify potential crises.
  125. (Mr Denham) Chairman, if that was misleading, then ----- We are of course concentrating, quite rightly, on terrorist responses. The structures that I have just described are specific to the terrorist type of threat. There are other things that fall within the remit of the Civil Contingencies Committee like, for example, flooding and issues of that sort, which do not come in front of DOP(IT)T, so the language which applies in the generic sense does not apply in this case. So that is a score draw, Chairman, on the confusion issue.

    Chairman: I think 3-1 to Mr Roy. At least the Scots will be able to win something!

    Mr Jones: I think 4-1, because we asked Mr Garnett about this -----

    Chairman: Mr Granatt.

    Mr Jones

  126. Mr Granatt. He is so memorable. He was actually asked whether we should have one politician in charge of this and he 1) ducked the question, 2) said there was no one in charge. What you are saying to us today is that the Home Secretary is in charge. That is news to this Committee.
  127. (Mr Denham) The Home Secretary is the minister responsible for both prevention work and the work of the security services and so on. He chairs DOP(IT)T. The Home Secretary is also responsible for chairing the Civil Contingencies Committee supported by the Civil Contingencies Secretariat which is responsible for ensuring that the arrangements are in place for dealing with the consequences of a terrorist attack. So I think we have the person, and that is certainly understood by us within that structure.


  128. Thank you. Can I just add, Mr Denham, that as the CCS is so pivotal, we want to be absolutely certain that the personnel are right, the structures are right, the co-ordination is right, not only horizontally but vertically too.
  129. (Mr Denham) I understand that, Chairman. I am sure that the Committee will recognise that the involvement of Sir David Omand, which Mr Leslie referred to, will help strengthen that.

  130. I have a couple of follow-on questions. I am not a time-and-motion specialist, but how much of your time is spent on this sort of work that we are talking about? That would give us an indication of ministerial involvement. Or if you cannot answer, perhaps you could drop us a note. Or maybe - I do not want to be offensive - if we picked a week, then could you perhaps show us what ministers were involved in which committees, or what visits, just to give us a flavour of ministerial responsibilities. You can include the Home Secretary in that as well, if you wish.
  131. (Mr Denham) It would be not something I would want to do from the hip, Chairman, and I am not sure whether you would wish to concentrate purely on civil contingencies matters or the Home Secretary's work with the security services, for example, that sort of thing. If you take all the people who are involved in aspects of this, it would be a major job to do, but I would say that it is a significant slice of my work. Can we consider it and see how helpful we can be.

  132. Perhaps our offices can exchange something on this, we can get the methodology correct and you can give us some indication of time spent and which committees?
  133. (Mr Denham) Yes.

  134. One of the problems that we have faced is the incredible departmentalism involved. There may be an attempt to co-ordinate, but whatever the theory says, it is quite difficult. We have talked about horizontal co-ordination. Now the other way around: regional structures, local authorities, fire services. Are you confident - and could I ask you all, as you will all be part of this process - that in terms of the powers and responsibilities of those at levels below the national level, the allocation of responsibility has been well thought out, is functional and can exist effectively in a crisis? I think we do have a little anxiety that perhaps some local authorities have all the competence, all the specialisms and all of the funding they require - including not Durham, or every one of our constituencies, so if you are going to say anything about Durham, please look at our constituencies in the same grant? I am not entirely convinced that every local authority has attained the competence of what ought to be seen as the best or the norm. Whenever you talk to anyone from local authorities, for instance, they always fight their corner, as all politicians and administrators do. Are you prepared to take very, very seriously decisions that might offend or cut against established practices and say, "No, this level is not operating effectively. We have to provide more central staff in a crisis to supplement you"? What consideration have you all given to looking at the level of competence of performance of those at levels beneath that of national?
  135. (Mr Denham) If I can answer in general terms, Chairman - and I am sure Mr Leslie will want to talk about local authorities, and possibly Mr Ingram about the military - I would be confident, if you look firstly at the organisation which effectively will be in the lead in terms of co-ordinating response to a terrorist attack, which will be the police, that through the work of ACPO, TAM, through the training and so on, the chief constables and those planners in local authorities know what they are meant to do in a wide range of incidents, including a wide range of responses. I am confident that the ability for them to respond, for them to have to be able to deploy trained personnel to respond to some of the things which we now have to give more attention to, is significantly better than it was on September 11, although there is progress still to be made in that area. I believe that within the Health Service hospitals have robust plans which sadly have been demonstrated in train crashes and plane crashes and so on, certain disasters, which are well rehearsed and well integrated into the system. So the generic answer is that I think we have a very good structure in place, but the reason that we look at different scenarios post September 11, the reason that we do exercises, is to see whether there are weaknesses within that system, which is why we keep coming back to saying that no one is complacent and no one is saying that we cannot make improvements on what we have got. You may wish to say something about local authorities specifically, Mr Leslie.

    (Mr Leslie) I think there are a lot of different ways. As I said at the beginning, we have always got to focus on the fact that the chances are a local response to an incident will be a first requirement, and so making sure that we have subsequent procedures for further requests for support or mutual aid and so on to go up the chain. You will know about the gold, silver and bronze command paradigm that was used by a lot of different organisations, particularly the police, and how those things then feed into the Civil Contingencies Committee at a national level. One of the things I wanted to mention was our work that we have already undertaken with devolved authorities. I have been to Edinburgh to talk with Jim Wallace, who is my equivalent up there, particularly about arrangements in respect of those matters. The example of how we have looked particularly at the capital and the London arrangement with Nick Raynsford I think is quite important too. The announcement in the White Paper on Regional Governance by the Deputy Prime Minister also included a section about how we envisage at an English regional level an input on civil contingencies planning, whether that be eventually by elected regional assemblies or ultimately by Government offices across England, so that we have at all levels sufficient strategic co-ordination capacity to make sure all mutual aid requirements and so on can be properly dealt with.

  136. If there is any additional information that you would like to send us to convince us more that emergency planning procedures and staffing and premises and co-ordination are going to meet a whole range of contingences, please send it to us because we still need a little convincing.
  137. (Mr Ingram) Can I respond as well. It seems to me in some of the preamble to the questions earlier you were indicating that we did not have a coherent structure, that there was no confidence in that structure, that it was not delivering on the ground, Mr Jones was intimating that. I think if this is an inquiry then it is not to come with that preconceived notion but to try and establish ----

    Mr Jones: I am sorry, Chairman ----

    Chairman: Let Andrew finish, please.

    Mr Jones: It is important.


  138. Excuse me, Mr Jones, let Andrew finish and then you can come back with your question.
  139. (Mr Ingram) I think we should try to establish the ground truth in this inquiry if that is what you are seeking to do and specific areas will then develop. As we have tried to argue from here, everything we do is tested by exercises. There have been major exercises undertaken across the wide range of the services that need to be pulled into place. Lessons are always learned from that. The important aspect of this, I would argue, is that much of that is below the parapet because when we learn the lessons we do not tell everyone about those lessons because who is then going to have that type of attack upon us. We can try and seek headlines in this but this is about effective delivery of the emergency services and therefore it is not all just tested in exercise terms but also tested in reality. The MV Nisha was a classic example. That incident proved to be of no threat but the reality was that it was tackled very, very effectively. There is nothing to indicate that if a similar threat arose that the combined services across a range, whether it is police, whether it is military support, whether it is emergency services, whether it is linkages between local authorities and the health service in terms of consequence management, could not deliver on the ground. I think you are wrong to give some indication that Government is not delivering on these key areas. The reality is from my experience, both from my time in Northern Ireland and my time in the Ministry of Defence, we have a highly, highly efficient, highly co-ordinated and highly effective delivery of emergency response across the reach of the threats that are posed. Can we be better? Yes, of course we can be, that is what we are doing, your inquiry will help us in this and that is what we do those exercises for and why we are constantly looking at ways to refine that.

  140. Thank you. We are coming back to the role of the Ministry of Defence and the military in this process. Certainly what Mr Jones said is not some kind of "emotional spasm", it is honestly based on a four or five month inquiry, which is not yet completed, and that is why we are seeking additional information. When we do produce our report it will be very, very fair.
  141. (Mr Denham) It would be enormously helpful to us as Ministers, Chairman, before you complete it, if there are specific areas of concern that we hear of them. I am not aware of criticism that the police are completely unprepared or do not know what their command structures are or that the view is the National Health Service does not have well developed emergency plans. Whether I pick up there is a specific issue about local authorities we need to address or whatever, I think we would like the opportunity to know exactly what it is that is being suggested is simply so fundamentally wrong in the capacity of the emergency services and the co-ordinating structure to deliver. It is important to distinguish between that and the impression an individual may have given on a bit of Government Secretariat and this Committee. We are talking here not just about what has been put in place since last June but the structures that have been built up, tested, tried in practice, tested and developed again over a long period of time.

    Chairman: I can assure you, gentlemen, we are very responsible and when our report is published it will be very fair based on a lot of things we have heard, and heard in confidence that will not be included in our report, and if there is any follow-up we would wish then certainly we will approach you.

    Mr Jones

  142. I want to come back to the Minister because I actually find his comments quite insulting frankly, it was not an emotional spasm at all.
  143. (Mr Ingram) I never used that phrase.

  144. I found your comments quite insulting. There are serious concerns that have been raised with this Committee as part of this inquiry both from local authorities, the police, the Fire Service, the aviation sector, the private sector, Transec. Are we supposed to ignore them because if that is the case, Mr Ingram, and I know you would not want us to exist as a Committee, that is our role. These questions we are asking today are not things that we just think up as a Committee, they are things that have been put to us. There are some serious concerns out there and they will be part of the report. To come at this, as you three seem to be today, that everything in the garden is rosy is not the impression that we have been given.
  145. (Mr Denham) Chairman, clearly that is not what we have said.


  146. No, that is not right.
  147. (Mr Denham) I do object to the implication that nothing has been done, that nothing is being put in place and nothing has changed, which is the implication of what Mr Jones has said.

    Mr Cran

  148. Chairman, I think we have to get a slight balance into this. I think the concerns we are talking about are not individual concerns about the performance of the police, the performance of the armed services, the performance of the Fire Service and so on, of course we are not saying that. It is a question of is the Civil Contingencies Secretariat doing this mammoth job of co-ordination properly? We have to be convinced that it is doing it properly.
  149. (Mr Denham) That is helpful.

    Mr Cran: Then the other question is once it takes a decision are the co-ordinated measures across the emergency services going to work or not? For instance, there is a question of radio compatibility as between the fire services and the armed forces and indeed we are told the two are not compatible, so if we had a situation where they needed to talk to one another somebody had better have a mobile phone or they probably could not. Those are the things that concern the Committee. I just thought that needed clarification.


  150. I think Mr Mann would like to join in on this. Please, you are very welcome.
  151. (Mr Mann) If I may just respond on the point about communications. As I think I told the Committee, although it was in private session, we have decided that we will join the club on the secure communications network that is being put in place by the police and emergency services, so there will be that kind of compatibility.

  152. It was not the MoD we were worried about, it was the Fire Service.
  153. (Mr Denham) Can I take that as an example of whether the structures are capable of moving or not. Decisions on a separate approach to procurement had been taken in different emergency services prior to 11 September on the basis of assumptions that were current at that time about the need or otherwise for interoperability. As a result of the work that we have been doing since those assumptions have been revisited and it has been decided that the police, who already have a system, the ambulance and fire brigade services will be procured with compatible and interoperable technology. I think it is reasonable to say that without the structures that we have here that bring together the emergency services, the civil contingency planners, that decision might not have been reopened. It was reopened, it was looked at again in the light of 11 September and a different approach is being pursued. I give that as one example out of a substantial number of issues which this structure has been able to say is a question which is either new or we need to revisit it again, are we going to review our decision? The decision is taken right up to ministerial level within departments and that is what is going to happen.

    (Mr Ingram) Can I just give another example because I have heard criticisms from local authorities that liaison with the Army is not as it should be. Whether that is right or wrong, whether that is an established fact, we will be putting two extra liaison officers into each of the regions to deal with that very specific issue. That is without having a debate about whether it is right or wrong, it is simply saying if there is a perceived weakness out there let us deal with the perceptions as well as trying to tackle some of the bigger elements.

    Chairman: I do not want people to get the impression that there is any animosity here.

    Mr Cran: Not at all. Absolutely.


  154. Between the Committee members maybe, but not between the Committee and the witnesses!
  155. (Mr Denham) Mr Cran has been very helpful, I think, in illustrating the way things are.

  156. Minister, when we had the Fire and Ambulance Services here, the system of Airwave that was coming in deliberately had not included a number of essential component parts. It did seem rather ridiculous to have a massively expensive programme where some of the component parts had decided that for one reason or another they were not going to participate. Now you say the Fire Service has joined?
  157. (Mr Denham) The Fire Service and Ambulance Service will procure radio systems that will be interoperable with the police and with each other.

    Mr Cran

  158. And the timescale?
  159. (Mr Denham) The timescale will be a procurement, as the previous one would have been, over a period of several years. It will take time to put into place. I will have to get back to you on that.

    Chairman: Please do, if you do not mind.

    Jim Knight

  160. Will the South West Fire Consortium be recompensed for having gone too early?
  161. (Mr Denham) Issues arising from the procurement decision will obviously have to be dealt with in due course, and I think that is the appropriate thing for me to say this afternoon. No doubt when you took evidence from witnesses - I do not know what the date was - they may well have been aware that the issue was under consideration but of course, quite properly, they did not raise it with the Committee. I do think it is a good example of revisiting a decision because circumstances have been changed, and having, I hope, the courage to take the right decision where lots of arguments could be deployed for not changing.


  162. Thank you. We had a session on 24 April with the Fire Service, and it certainly had not been resolved then, so anything that you say will have happened subsequently. All I must say is if you can sort out communications, then give Lord Bach a little help to sort out Bowman. I am sorry, I am referring to Mr Ingram now.
  163. (Mr Ingram) I am not being drawn into that! I shall write you a letter about that.

    Mr Howarth

  164. Chairman, we cannot let Mr Denham get away with telling us that this key equipment is going to take years to procure. Seriously, can you give us some indication as to when commonality of emergency radio equipment between essential services is going to come into effect?
  165. (Mr Denham) As I have offered, Chairman, I will write to the Committee, because I do not want to give a date that is wrong. The procurement will take place over a period of years, and indeed the policy system which is currently being rolled out will take a number of years to implement and to replace the previous systems.

  166. Do you feel satisfied with that?
  167. (Mr Denham) I think that we are taking the necessary measures to make sure that as replacement takes place, as replacement must because of the existing systems, we are moving from a system which is less than ideal to a much better system. Clearly, there is no getting away from this, the question of resources that are available at a particular time, as well as the technical ability to implement, as well as the fact that we have to follow proper procurement policies - all of these things add to the timescale which is involved. Everybody would wish, say, to take a decision one day and it is in place the next, but actually contracts have to be tendered, let, programmes have to be put in place, and frankly, public sector experience of not managing to make these things work suggests that we had better get it right.

    Chairman: No one knows better than this Committee the time it takes from conception to delivery.

    Jim Knight

  168. I will exercise unusual self-discipline for this Committee in this session and ask if you could, Mr Leslie, give me a written response on the role of the proposed regional assemblies. I noted your response to Louise Ellman's question. I then dug out the Red Book of the White Paper and read the two sentences that referred to it, and I would be very interested in more reflections on the work of the Emergency Planning Review Implementation Unit in this area. One general impression I have had is that whilst we get a very strong presentation today about things working well in Whitehall, it has not trickled down very well to some people on the ground, and if regional government is going to play a possible role in achieving that, then I shall be very interested to hear how that will work.
  169. (Mr Leslie) I can certainly supply that. I can certainly say that the Deputy Prime Minister is very much committed to making sure that we do have strong emergency planning capabilities at government office devolved as well as elected regional assembly level, and I will make sure that I will keep you up to date not just with more information, but we will feed you with information as policies develop.

  170. Thank you. To move on to look at the Emergency Planning Review a little bit more, you mentioned earlier on in principle the need for emergency planning legislation. There is a long history of this being talked about. Certainly it was talked about in the context of the Civil Defence Grant Act debate, and that was the excuse for those like me who are concerned about supporting it, when I knew you would resolve it in that legislation. I am therefore concerned that we do not see any sign of that legislation coming forward. First of all, can you say that the events of September 11 have changed things and confirm the need for new emergency planning legislation? Secondly, have the events of September 11 changed your view of what should be in that legislation?
  171. (Mr Leslie) The Emergency Planning Review began, I think, at the beginning of August 2001, so obviously prior to September 11, but in fact I think the vast majority of the 260 responses that we have received from the local authorities did take into account their very immediate impressions of how they would be affected in the September 11 scenario. I think that I am coming to the conclusion that whilst the questions and the scope of the Emergency Planning Review were wide, looking at questions about duties on local authorities, how we could improve partnerships, the funding mechanisms and so on, there are some fairly fundamental, deep-seated questions about how we embed resilience concepts into all our government structures much more so that we have this routine level of operation I was talking about earlier. So I think our commitment, which is strong, to a Civil Contingencies Bill, will want to try to resolve most of these big policy questions as rapidly as possible. I cannot give any commitment about the timing of legislation.

  172. You anticipate my next question.
  173. (Mr Leslie) Surprisingly, you will be shocked to hear that I cannot say it might be in the next Queen's Speech, but certainly my own personal commitment to making sure we resolve a lot of these issues is strong, and I know that is shared by all my government colleagues whom I have been discussing with on this issue.

  174. You are making a strong pitch for it to be in the next Queen's Speech?
  175. (Mr Leslie) These are matters that will be announced in due course.

  176. You would understand some cynicism perhaps amongst some local authorities, where they have seen an Act come through very quickly on Civil Defence Grant, which some feel has taken money away from them, such as in Durham, for example, and with the promise of new legislation, then it all goes quiet. They respond to a consultation which does not show up very many fundamental disagreements amongst them about things, and then there is going to be another consultation. Is a further consultation just a way of delaying things?
  177. (Mr Leslie) No.

  178. So we can hang on before we get another Bill, until you get agreement from Number Ten or whatever?
  179. (Mr Leslie) No, I think there are a number of points there. The point about local authorities is they did make lots of representations, there was a lot of unanimity in certain areas, not always to do with funding preferences incidentally, there was quite a divided view about a standard spending assessment approach versus grant, but I think these things can be resolved. Any consultations that take place I think need to be pretty rapid and direct in this whole area. I cannot give information specifically about the timing of any legislative programme, that is the nature of Government.

  180. Why do you need another consultation?
  181. (Mr Leslie) We have not announced or published any consultation document on the Civil Contingencies Bill process as yet but I think it is important always at all times to not just have a top-down approach to this sort of very, very fundamental legislation. We are talking about a legislative framework that is structured in respect of anticipating hostile attack from foreign powers, this is the context we are talking about, the Civil Defence Act of 1948, and that really does need modernising. I think we have got a duty to involve local authorities, the emergency services and other wider communities in doing that but that need not take an inordinate amount of time.

  182. Could it take the form of a draft Bill?
  183. (Mr Leslie) It could well take the form of a draft Bill but then it may not.


  184. Do not forget us when you are issuing that Bill, we will be most interested. I can understand the need to be very thorough in the drafting of legislation and to consult widely, and we all know that legislation hastily drafted tends to be very imperfect, but it could be a year, 18 months after the crisis of 11 September before legislation is on the statute book and then some time until the different parts of it are going to be implemented. I hope any potential terrorists will be prepared to wait until that time when all of our defences ---- I know much has been done, please do not think I am not aware of what has been done.
  185. (Mr Leslie) The point I was going to make was about putting these things in context. The Civil Contingencies Bill is only one measure in a vast array of issues that have already been dealt with, the Terrorism Act, as has already been mentioned, so we are not leaving stones unturned in some sort of sequential arrangement here.

    Chairman: I think you can predict one of our recommendations and that is that it is in the next Queen's Speech. I give you advance warning. This is not a Home Affairs Select Committee leak, this is pretty upfront. Without consulting my colleagues I will tell you that this is going to be a recommendation that this is going to be in the Queen's Speech, not that people may necessarily pay attention. We now come to a more soothing part of inquiry and Mr Jones will resume his questions.

    Mr Howarth: Did you say "soothing", Chairman?

    Mr Jones

  186. Thank you. I would like to ask about the threat from chemical, biological and nuclear attack. I want to ask a broad opening question and then there are some specific questions that I have and Mr Howarth is going to follow up on. What priority has been given to the risk of a terrorist attack using chemical, biological and nuclear devices post September 11. Can I quote what Mr Rumsfeld said yesterday to a Senate Committee which I would welcome your comments on. He said that the US had to recognise that if terrorist networks have relationships with terrorist states with weapons of mass destruction they inevitably are going to get their hands on them and they are not going to hesitate for one minute to actually use them. Would you comment in terms of the general issue and specifically on Mr Rumsfeld's comment about relationships to states which have that technology now.
  187. (Mr Denham) I do not think I want to comment directly on Senator Rumsfeld's comments yesterday but we obviously know there are certain terrorist organisations that at least have had aspirations to be capable in this area, so we are giving that, I hope, an appropriate level of priority. The question was what level of priority and that is always a relative question. You will understand, Chairman, I do not want to go into too much detail about that but I think I can say to the Committee that the structure that we have enables us to assess both risk and threat, risk in terms of our vulnerabilities, threat in terms of whether there are people out there with the will and the capability to do it, and to judge our response in the light of that. The process that we have set in place enables us to take those decisions. Clearly we have to be making appropriate preparations for the possibility of a chemical, biological or radiological attack.

  188. Thanks for the non-answer but I understand why it has to be a non-answer. Would it be possible for you to provide us with something confidential that we would not use in terms of the published report to give us some more detail that you would not want to go into in open session?
  189. (Mr Denham) I think we would want to be as helpful as we can be in providing confidential information to the Committee in this area, not least because I hope that it would provide some reassurance that the process that I have described actually exists and is not something I have dreamt up for the purposes of the Committee this afternoon.

  190. Can I go on to one well publicised specific response to biological threats. We had Dr Troop before the Committee a few weeks ago and she certainly got the Committee's top award for evasion of answering questions. We will perhaps ask some of the same questions to you, Minister, and see if we can get the same answers. It is around the decision to procure smallpox vaccine. I understand that you chair the sub-committee of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat on this issue.
  191. (Mr Denham) Yes.

  192. Why did an open tendering exercise not take place to procure this vaccine like it was in the United States?
  193. (Mr Denham) The structure of the decision, the decision to purchase vaccine, was one on which I and a number of other Ministers should have been consulted, ie the principle -

    Mr Howarth

  194. Sorry, could you speak up a bit?
  195. (Mr Denham) Sorry, yes. The principle of whether vaccine should be purchased was one on which I and, indeed, a number of other Ministers, I imagine, were consulted. The decision about how to conduct the procurement and precisely what type of vaccine to procure was a decision for the Department of Health in line with the philosophy discussed earlier of there being lead departments with lead responsibilities in this area.

    Mr Jones

  196. I got a response on a written question to Mr John Hutton on this subject and he said "Ministers took the decision to proceed to purchase the smallpox vaccine on 11 March". Which Ministers were they, was it the Health Ministers or the Health Department?
  197. (Mr Denham) The decision on the actual procurement on that particular date would have been Health Ministers.

  198. Not the Committee that you chair?
  199. (Mr Denham) No, the sub-committee does not take detailed, as it were, operational decisions, it has an overview of a range of different scenarios, different possibilities that could happen which we test against the planning mechanisms and the contingency plans that we have got in place. It is not a centralised decision making committee on issues which are properly the responsibility of departments to carry through.

  200. Can you explain to me what the relationship is between the decision to take it by Health Ministers and your committee, how does that actually work in practice?
  201. (Mr Denham) What we would do in our committee is, amongst other things, review the information that we have received regarding the possibility of, in this case, a biological attack, the capability of distributing biological agents and the strategy that should be put in place for responding to that. That is our committee and that enables us to range across all of the different people who might play a role, those who might be responsible for detecting that something had happened, those that might be responsible for moving in to decontaminate an area, which might be the emergency services, those who might be responsible for treatment programmes and for working with the public. What we do specifically is look at whether the arrangements which run across different services and different departments are properly co-ordinated. Within that, of course, there are a whole host of individual decisions that have to be taken. The procurement of equipment, for example, is not one that would be taken by my committee, that would be taken by the appropriate emergency service within their decision making structure because they have that specific expertise and that is the way that it operates.

  202. So clearly this is not just one meeting; it is obviously taking place over a number of months?
  203. (Mr Denham) Yes.

  204. In terms of the decision, though, that we needed smallpox vaccine and the "threat", is that your committee's decision or the Health Department's decision, that there was a threat and it needed to be responded to, or was it MoD's decision?
  205. (Mr Denham) The information which is received from the security services and other sources enables people to make an assessment to which ministers then have to respond. We are ultimately accountable for this system.

  206. What a lot of us found very difficult is that we actually raised this issue about possible biological threat, and I think the response was on 7 March when we actually got it. There was no reference to the fact that this decision had been considered or had actually been taken, say, four days later, which is why it came as a little bit of a surprise to this Committee that in its response the Government did not actually see fit even to say that this type of work was going on.
  207. (Mr Denham) I do not know whether that response was a private or a public communication, Chairman.

  208. It was public.
  209. (Mr Denham) Right. I have to say, Chairman, that my view - and this may not be the view of the Committee - is that it is not generally desirable that the details of these matters are in the public domain, and that is because we are looking at a process in which revealing in detail the extent to which provision has been made could indicate to people who are not friends of this country a whole amount of information about what we might think we know or do not know, or they might think we know and so on, that we would rather not be in the public domain. I think that was an important part of the security process.

  210. So what is the difference between our approach and the Americans' approach, which is a quite different approach in terms that they are not just procuring vaccine but actually that they went out to public tender? Why does America feel that it does not need this level of secrecy that we have?
  211. (Mr Denham) I think that is something that you would have to ask the American Government. Our view here is that in terms of giving details of contingency arrangements that are being made across a range of these issues, it is not a simple thing of saying, "Let's keep it all secret because it's easier that way." It is difficult. The public has a great interest in these matters and would like to know, but we also think that we have to be careful about not, through giving details of the planning we have made, revealing more than we would want to about what we know or think we know, which might both reveal where we are right and also reveal where we are wrong.

  212. So you do not think it should have been made public at all that we had actually secured or procured this smallpox vaccine?
  213. (Mr Denham) I think there are other questions about procurement which actually I am not best placed to answer, for the reason I gave about the procurement process.

  214. I appreciate that.
  215. (Mr Denham) In general, I would not criticise my colleagues for seeking to make provision without actually revealing the detail of our planning in the public domain.

  216. So you do not think it should have been made public that we had procured this vaccine in the first place?
  217. (Mr Denham) I think there is a difficulty. Of course since then this has got wider political overtones which have nothing to do, I am confident, with the procurement process, so I do not want anything I say about wider public disclosure to get mixed up in that. I think it is generally not desirable to have too much detail about our state of preparedness for a whole range of different possible scenarios in the public domain. That is my view. The consequence of this coming into the public domain was that more is in the public domain than I personally would have thought was desirable, because I do not think any of us wants to ----- On any one issue it does not look too bad, but if you go through every single thing that you can imagine might happen and say in a practical way, "These are all our strengths and these are all our weaknesses", is that of great use to the public or someone else? We have to be very careful about our approach to these issues.

  218. You could argue that it would be helpful to the British public in terms of reassurance, especially when they saw that the Americans a few months earlier had actually procured the vaccine. But you are saying you do not think it should be in the public domain at all?
  219. (Mr Denham) I think the difficulty is the one of the principle. On a specific issue I do not have particular problems, but over a range of issues the danger is of getting into a situation of revealing areas of vulnerability, revealing areas where we are mistaken in assumptions we have made, and that being in areas where we have to take this seriously because these are not lighthearted matters that we are dealing with.

    (Mr Ingram) Could I say that we have quite an intensive procurement activity in all of this. Sometimes when you decide to procure something it may not be readily available, so the public debate about seeking a particular mechanism or equipment, and then you get that time lag before it then comes into play, or exposing something. So to take the specific, I would ask the Committee then to think of the generality of the debate. On that they want everything. If not, where would the Committee draw the line on non-disclosure?

    Mr Jones: In this case it was actually freely available from more than one source.

    Mr Howarth

  220. There is some legitimate concern here, apart from the wider political issues, about the procurement process. We understand the need for national security and the need for you not to divulge information which will be sensitive and of value to an enemy. That is quite clear. The Americans, in seeking a vaccine, made it public that they were seeking a vaccine. You made it public that you were seeking a vaccine to protect the United Kingdom's citizens. They went to an open tender process. Apparently, according to Dr Troop, five companies were approached here. The British company which is supplying the United States did not get the contract. The public was told that a British company called Powderjet was going to get the contract. Subsequently it turned out that Powderjet were merely the middle man, and that the company which would be manufacturing the vaccine was a German company or a company based in Germany with a Danish parent called Bavarian Nordic. We were not told that. Furthermore, I have a press release here from Bavarian Nordic dated 11 April which says that they are entering into a 17.6 million euro strategic vaccine delivery collaboration with Powderjet. I work that out at about 10 million. You will know the stories that you are paying - the taxpayer, correction, is paying - something like 30 million for this, for a vaccine which is costing 18 million euros or 10 million to deliver to Powderjet. These are legitimate questions of public concern. Why have the Americans felt able to go to an open process, when they are much more sensitive about their vulnerability to terrorism than we are, because we have lived with it for longer than they have, yet we are not prepared to engage in that same open process?
  221. (Mr Denham) I think we need to distinguish between two separate issues, Chairman. One is revealing information about our state of preparedness or the assumptions we are making about what we should in fact be prepared for, and the issue which applies across a whole range of government business about the procurement of any particular thing or the way in which any particular contract is run. I do not feel able, for the reasons I have said, to give details of the procurement process in this case, although I understand that the Department of Health felt there were sound reasons given for what needed to be procured, the world position in the market and whatever.

  222. It was for national security reasons. That was the reason they gave.
  223. (Mr Denham) That is something that you would need to pursue with the Department of Health. I do not really feel that I can do that, for reasons that I have given already. You will have heard from the Department of Health about that. I do not think it is for me to pass judgement on the ways in which the United States is handling these issues. I would say to the Committee that we have 30 years' experience in this country of dealing with terrorism from different routes and different origins. Over that period of time, yes, there have been failures, but there have been many successes. That has been within a context where reasonable security has been taken about what we think we are protecting against, whom we think we are protecting against, how we think we are going to protect against it. My belief is that that has served us and the wider public well, and I would be very cautious about changing the quotas that have been developed over many years.

    Mr Howarth

  224. We understand that, Minister, but are you suggesting to us that we are not entitled to ask questions about matters which are in the public domain? It is in the public domain that Her Majesty's Government is securing some vaccine, although we do not know exactly how much, in order to provide some protection for the people of this country. It is in the public domain who got the contract and it turns out actually when some journalists did some delving that it was not a British company that was making it, it was a Danish company based in Germany.
  225. (Mr Denham) I think this Committee, or another Committee of the House or whatever, as in any area of procurement over which questions are being raised, is entitled to ask questions, it is one of the privileges of Select Committees. I have to say though that if you want to talk about the detailed role of Ministers in this process you or another Committee should talk to the Ministers who were involved in that process.

  226. If we could move on to the question of the military assistance to the civil authorities. At the moment military assistance to the civil authorities is provided only when it is available. It cannot be relied on or included in emergency planning. What would be the effects on military deployments and planning of guaranteeing the availability of, let us say, perhaps a battalion in each region with a response time of, say, four to eight hours?
  227. (Mr Ingram) I gave an indication in an earlier answer that this is one of the areas that we are looking at. I do not want to set out in detail the final conclusions as to how best we can deliver on that mission or request from whichever source it comes from in terms of civil aid. We are at the point of conclusion of an examination of this, it is not far away from the direction that you are coming from, Mr Howarth. I would love to be able to say today "yes, here is the answer" but we have not yet precisely defined what we intend to do. That is coming to a conclusion. I hope it is published in advance of your final report because it could then assist you in seeing whether we have met your thought processes on this. There is a consistency in direction on this in seeking to deliver on that area.

  228. We recognise that our forces are heavily committed.
  229. (Mr Ingram) It is nothing to do with that.

  230. You are saying that you are looking actively at the idea of specifically tasking certain units, perhaps on a regional basis, but you have not fully refined your thoughts on it yet?
  231. (Mr Ingram) Remembering a key element in terms of the review of the SDR The New Chapter approach relates to the TA and the Reserves and then to look at the combination of what can be played in best to meet that type of immediate demand. I would love to be able to announce it today because we could get a headline out of it but I think this shows that we are not chasing that type of approach. This is a serious point that I am making. We have got to be careful, we have got to make sure that what we are going to do actually delivers to meet that need. It will happen soon but I cannot give you a precise date.

  232. But you recognise the problem, which is the emergency services find it difficult to call upon the armed forces, specifically the Army, quite simply because they cannot guarantee to be available, so you are working on the idea that they might be able to guarantee some availability?
  233. (Mr Ingram) If there is a shortfall, and I think there is an indication from a variety of sources that there is a need for additional immediate response activity across the whole of the UK, then we have got to seek to meet that. How precisely we do that is still to be fully clarified. I have got to say this view that somehow or other the Army should be ready for any eventuality is simply not possible. It is not just a case of deployment overseas, it is a case of availability in terms of immediate response. What I can say, going back to the ground truth debate, is when the Army is called upon it delivers. We could go through a range of recent events where it did deliver. The emergency services should not just say "if this is something we cannot deliver they can call on the Army". We have got to get better co-ordination and understanding on that point.

  234. Are you looking at Reserves to perform this role more than the regular forces?
  235. (Mr Ingram) I have said what I have said.

  236. Okay. Can I ask you one final question. Have any military units other than Air Defence Squadrons been given any contingency tasking since 11 September?
  237. (Mr Ingram) Yes.

  238. Are you in a position to elaborate?
  239. (Mr Ingram) I will send you a note on that.

  240. I think it would be helpful. You have been helpful about the air squadrons and their role and I think it would be quite helpful to know what additional tasking has been given.
  241. (Mr Ingram) We are into classified territory again because explaining our state of readiness is what people want to know.

    Mr Roy

  242. My questions are on public information, Minister. Does the public have a right to know what they are threatened by and what the Government is doing to protect them? Could you expand on where you draw the line between information and causing a panic?
  243. (Mr Denham) It is a difficult balance that we have to try and strike correctly all the time. You want to ensure that there is a proper state of preparedness or alertness in the public. You do not want to either do things that could unnecessarily alarm people for no great purpose and you certainly do not want to provide information if there is a specific question of threat which would directly inform a potential attacker either that we knew what they were up to or, indeed, by giving the wrong information that we had no idea what they were up to. What we have developed over the experience of terrorism over the last 30 years is, in a sense, a graded response. We are all familiar with the times when there may be a greater reassurance presence on the streets or there may be more information available to the public about watching out for suspicious packages if we are seen to be in the middle of a bombing campaign, so I think there is a constant adjustment of the information which is available to the public which complements the more targeted information which is available to certain key organisations in both the public and the private sectors.

    (Mr Leslie) If you look at the wide array of possible circumstances where the public may need to have information about particular incidents or similar situations there are a number of different responses that the public sector, the Government, can make to those. Locally, of course, the police and emergency services have the capacity to inform particular neighbourhoods in particular situations. At the other end of the spectrum we have national warning systems that are also available to come into play. I recently attended a seminar with the catchy title "National Steering Committee on Warning and Informing the Public", so there are a number of bodies and experts focusing on these issues and also looking at new communications technologies as well as they develop.

  244. At least the title is better than the Civil Contingencies Secretariat.
  245. (Mr Ingram) At least you understood it.

  246. If you do not disclose the security measures that you have taken against chemical and biological attack, how can your actions be held accountable on behalf of the public?
  247. (Mr Denham) In a sense we are all accountable. The Home Secretary can be questioned by Parliament, Committees like this can question Ministers both in public and in private session where we can reveal extra information, we give classified information to the Committee, and through that to the House. I acknowledge the dilemma that you put forward and if things go badly wrong no doubt we will be held accountable for the consequences of that. It is not really possible to crawl publicly over everything that is done, as it were, and also maintain a reasonable degree of security. I think an inquiry like this one is actually welcome because your ability to operate both in public and in more confidential session does enable you to have an informed independent view of what we are doing which I am sure will help shape the way things are done in the future.

    Mr Cran

  248. I have two questions on another aspect of this, but before that I have two following up Mr Roy's question. You see, the problem is, you have given absolutely the right answer, in the sense that if I were in your position, on the public's right to know, I would have said precisely the same as you, because that is the prisoner of the position you are in. However, it all falls down when it comes to the particular. For instance, it just happened that I, like a lot of other people, flew into Washington on 10 September. It would not have been unusual for my wife and myself to go into an airport hotel, pick up a flight from Washington and take a domestic flight in the United States. I would have liked to have been told what was going on, and information was available - I am not suggesting directly to the British authorities, but it certainly seems to have been available to the American authorities. I have absolutely no confidence, from the way that the Government is structured, that I could get that information. Disabuse me of that.
  249. (Mr Denham) Let me again draw the distinction based on what we have done previously. If in the past, when we have had public terrorist attacks, there has been specific information sufficient to justify warning the public of the location, the time to clear an area or whatever, the system has, I think, generally worked well to do that, to get the relevant message across. If intelligence were to suggest that a bomb might go off somewhere associated with the same source, but we do not know where, it is not so clear that it is useful to say then, "We think a bomb will go off", although, as I said earlier, there is a graded response which does enable the level of messages about looking out for suspicious packages and so on to be raised. I think the question really is the one of grading the quality of the information according to the confidence that people feel they have in it. That does put a responsibility on the security services and others who are responsible for advising ministers on how good the information is and then for the rest of the system to act accordingly, but the system, I think, is designed to do that.

  250. Who takes the decision? Let us assume that there is such an eventuality. The public may be told or may not. Who takes the decision that they may or may not be told?

(Mr Denham) In practice you probably need to draw a distinction between something that is going to happen in ten minutes' time and something over a period of time, but if there were strong indications of a terrorist incident being predicted, then the Cobra mechanism would come into place. It would bring officials together, and officials are effectively on a standing instruction to bring in ministers and to consult with the appropriate ministers if there is anything which involves issues which are sensitive. Clearly, judgements about what to communicate to the public can fall into that category. So essentially it would be a process that came through the system of ministerial accountability, with the Home Secretary at the apex of that, which would actually work.

Chairman: Gentlemen, thank you so very much, that was very interesting. As you have given us an invitation to come back with further questions, I promise you we will avail ourselves of that invitation. Adam will tell me now what he was going to tell me about Bowman! Thank you so much.