Examination of Witnesses (Questions 320-339)|
WEDNESDAY 28 NOVEMBER 2001
MP, AND MR
320. How do you see the role of the MoD police?
(Mr Hoon) They do a wonderful job.
321. How do you define "vicinity"?
(Mr Hoon) Is this a quiz game?
322. The MoD police are only apparently allowed
to operate within the vicinity of military establishments. I am
told, by one who is responsible for your own security in the building
in which you operate at the moment, that that was in the past
where the shadow of the building fell at a particular time of
(Mr Hoon) I am sure you are very proud of the fact
that one of the great traditions of the United Kingdom constitution
and its interpretation of Acts of Parliament is that it is done
in a reasonable and sensible way. I am sure that "vicinity"
will be applied in a sensible way as far as those particular powers
323. Secretary of State, it now falls to me
to continue the line of questioning on the line we have been proceeding
so far. You slightly disarmed us, in a sense, by posing questions
to us that you reckon you face, and we of course accept that you
are at the heart of a process of investigating how we need to
respond to the events of 11 September. It was a couple of months
ago now. I hope you will accept that what we are trying to do
is to see how far your initial thinking has gone and, where you
have formed some preliminary conclusions, if you can share some
of those with us. One of the questions you pose is the question
"In the military dimension, is there a role for pre-emption?
What is the role of armed forces in dealing with problems upstream?
What capabilities do we need?" You did then assert that what
we do need are "fast, integrated operations, involving high
levels of military skill, improved intelligence gathering capability
and a deeper understanding of potential opponents." Can I
take the point about improved intelligence gathering capability,
because I think there is acceptance that that is one of the areas
that we really do need to concentrate on. There have been commentators
who have suggested that we need to improve our ISTAR (Intelligence,
Surveillance, Target-Acquisition and Reconnaissance), guarding
and security of homeland assets, special forces (for overseas
operations) and ballistic missile defences. From the work that
you have done so far in this additional chapter, what new capabilities
have you identified as being needed, or are existing ones to be
given a higher priority?
(Mr Hoon) I think I am going to take the Fifth on
this. I do think, Chairman, that these are not matters that I
am particularly enthusiastic about going into in an open session.
324. Then can I press you a little bit further?
Do you agree that the question of intelligence gathering is a
high priority, and particularly in the light of the way in which
you answered Patrick Mercer earlier?
(Mr Hoon) I have said already, I repeat and I would
emphasise, that these kinds of operations, if they are to be effective,
have to be intelligence led. That is an absolutely crucial factor
in dealing with terrorist threats both upstream and, once a threat
has manifested itself, in dealing with those who are responsible,
not least becauseback to our discussions earlier about
doctrine and strategywe are dealing with organisations
that are not necessarily manifestations of state organisations
in a way that conventional warfare might involve.
325. I understand that you do not want to go
too much further than that, but there have been suggestions made
to us this morning, from Professor Rogers, for example, that we
could be facing possible attacks in the United Kingdom. Therefore
can you tell us, in advance of whatever conclusions come out of
this review, if work is already in hand to strengthen intelligence
(Mr Hoon) A good deal of effort is being made to ensure
that we have the right kind of capabilities to deal with potential
326. Finally, perhaps I can move on to the question
of equipment programmes. When will you have a clearer idea of
the impact on equipment programmes and the changes in the priority
which may result from this review? You have said that you expect
to produce a review at the end of the spring next year.
(Mr Hoon) I think there are a number of processes
that have to be gone through. Obviously we have to prepare a report.
There is a very important consultation process that we have to
engage on. I have to see the conclusions and see whether there
are any specific recommendations in relation to particular kinds
of equipment. We will then have to make judgements as to the best
way of securing that equipment in the light of not only our own
requirements within the MoD, but also obviously priorities across
Government. You will know from your own experience of Government
that these are not necessarily straightforward issues.
327. Indeed. I was going to ask you a question,
and I am sure you may not answer it, but let me put it to you.
Which programmes do you think might have to be given a lower priority,
can you tell us?
(Mr Hoon) In the absence of (1) the work, (2) its
conclusions, (3) assessing different priorities both within the
MoD and (4) across Government, I have some difficulty in answering
328. I suppose this is directly related to that.
Have you had any discussions with the Treasury yet?
(Mr Hoon) I have regular discussions with the Treasury.
329. Would you like to share with us any of
(Mr Hoon) As you know, there is a doctrine of collective
Cabinet responsibility that I adhere to very strongly, but I think
it right that the Treasury have taken a very keen interest in
the work that we have undertaken. As is well known, the Chancellor
has made available £100 million for the Ministry of Defence
to deal with the operations that have been conducted so far, he
has remained interested and engaged in the work that we have been
involved with, and we have had strong support from him.
330. If Operation Veritas has cost £100
million so far, it is not unreasonable to suppose that unless
matters are brought to a very swift conclusion, it is going to
be a continuing expense in which we are engaged, possibly an increasing
expense. Have you had any indication from the Treasury that they
will not inhibit our military manoeuvre by withholding cash from
your already strapped budget?
(Mr Hoon) We do not need that indication, it is implicit
in the way in which the Ministry of Defence has always operated
that the costs of those kinds of operations are met in full. That
has always been the case in the past, and it will be the case
in relation to operations in and around Afghanistan.
331. In respect of Operation Veritas, obviously
there have been expenses incurred in terms of more spares and
ordnance required. Is that included in the £100 million?
Are you satisfied that we have enough spares now from the shelf
of across-the-range ordnance equipment and so on, or are you looking
for more money for that?
(Mr Hoon) The amount covers the costs expended over
and above routine expenditure. To give you an illustration, it
certainly includes ordnance, but it would not include, for example,
the routine salaries of members of the armed forces, because they
would be paid in times of peace as well as in times of war. There
is a perfectly straightforward, acceptable and agreed definition
between the Ministry of Defence and the Treasury as to what is
payable and what is not. Certainly as far as those regular costs
of operations are concerned, we are able to secure them without
any difficulty whatsoever from the Treasury.
332. Fine, I think that will be reassuring.
In terms of the review that you are carrying out now, though,
clearly it is likely that you will come to a conclusion around
about the same time as the Budget. If your conclusion were that
you needed to add on additional capabilityand it does appear
that that is what most commentators believe to be necessaryand
you are unwilling to sacrifice existing capabilities, in those
circumstances the only way you can fund it is by an increase in
your budget. The timing is going to be rather difficult, is it
not, because you are presumably going to have to agree with the
Chancellor the settlement for next year in advance of your having
come to your conclusions under this review?
(Mr Hoon) As I indicated in answer to the same question
earlier on, it is for me to judge how best to encourage the Treasury
to provide the Ministry of Defence with the resources that it
judges that it requires.
333. I think Parliament has a role in that too,
Secretary of State.
(Mr Hoon) And Parliament has a very important role
Chairman: We are producing a report before Christmas.
I would not be surprised if we express our views, for what it
334. You have already mentioned that the extra
money for Operation Veritas is coming outside of the budget. Has
any indication been given to what that long-term cost is going
to be in terms of continued involvement in Afghanistan and related
issues? The second point is in terms of the new chapter. Clearly
I accept what you are saying, that it is too early to say what
the outcome is going to be in terms of equipment and everything
else, but are you also going to be reviewing what the current
operations are now? This morning we heard, as has already been
said, that it might be a zero sum game in terms that we shall
have to absorb some of the cost internally. Are we looking at
some strategic things like, for example, the Falklands and other
commitments overseas that may well have to come under review to
pay for this new chapter or new expenditure that we have to find
to fight in this new world?
(Mr Hoon) It is a very sophisticated way of asking
the same question that I have just dealt with, but I shall try
and give you
335. The same answer.
(Mr Hoon)a more sophisticated answer. As far
as your first question is concerned, obviously it will take as
long as it takes.
336. That was not the question.
(Mr Hoon) What I would assure you, though, is that
financial constraints are not an issue.
337. So you have got a blank chequebook?
(Mr Hoon) I think that is a rather emotive way of
putting it. We spend whatever is necessary to deliver the objective,
and I assure you that we are not under any kind of financial restraint.
That is not a factor that I have to take into account. I do not
have to judge how many cruise missiles we fire. I do not have
to make a judgement about the number of sorties that we use to
support the Americans in their campaign over Afghanistan. I do
not have to make a judgement financially about how many ships
we use. I get military advice, and if the military advice is that
we need a certain number of ships, or we require a certain number
of sorties or we require a certain number of cruise missiles,
financial considerations are totally and utterly irrelevant to
338. Have you actually done some predictions
on what that cost is going to be?
(Mr Hoon) I am sorry to be blunt about that, but you
are in as good a position as I am to say what is the likely outcome
of the events in Afghanistan as of this afternoon. It will take
as long as it takes.
339. You will scare the Chancellor to death
with that type of approach. He must have sleepless nights!
(Mr Hoon) I am sure a distinguished member of the
Select Committee on Defence would have thoughts on that just as
much as I, as the Secretary of State for Defence, have. Things
have gone extraordinarily well in recent times, and obviously
we hope to be able to maintain that pace and progress in further
operations, but there are constraints. The weather is one of them
in Afghanistan at this time of year. The determination of fanatics
in al-Qaeda is another of them. They certainly demonstrated in
recent days a degree of fanaticism we might not necessarily have
anticipated. Nevertheless, things have gone well, and I hope that
they continue to go well.