House of COMMONS
MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
and MS CHLOE SQUIRES
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
Taken before the Defence Committee
Mr James Arbuthnot, in the Chair
Mr David S. Borrow
Mr David Crausby
Mr David Hamilton
Mr Mike Hancock
Mr Dai Havard
Mr Adam Holloway
Mr Bernard Jenkin
Mr Brian Jenkins
Memorandum submitted by the Ministry of Defence
Examination of Witnesses
Rt Hon Bob Ainsworth MP, Minister of State for the Armed Forces,
Admiral Lord West of Spithead GCB
DSC, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Security and
Counter-Terrorism, Home Office, Mr Jon
Q51 Chairman: Good morning and welcome to this session on national security. Minister, would you like to introduce your team?
Mr Ainsworth: Do you want me to make an opening statement as well, Chairman, or just make the introductions?
Q52 Chairman: No, thank you. At the moment just introduce your team - unless there is anything you have to say to start us off.
Mr Ainsworth: I have with me, Chairman, Jon Day, who is our Policy Director at the MoD; I also have with me Brigadier Chip Chapman, who is the Military Director of Counter-Terrorism and UK Operations in the department.
Lord West of
Q53 Chairman: I have an opening statement, which is that this is very much a preliminary inquiry into national security, in the sense that we do not wish at this evidence session to go into lots of operational detail about how this country intends to defeat people who are intent on attacking it. There may be questions which we will ask which you will think it more appropriate to say it would be unhelpful to answer that question. In that case just say so. We do not want to go into a lot of secret secure stuff that would give succour to our enemies, as it were. So long as you make it plain when you do not want to go in particular directions that would be helpful to us. Minister, you began by talking about making an opening statement, is there a need for you to make an opening statement?
Mr Ainsworth: I have got one which I can read out to the Committee, if that is what you wish?
Q54 Chairman: No, thank you. National Security Strategy, who owns it?
Mr Ainsworth: The lead department for national security in
Q55 Chairman: How do you coordinate the roles of the various departments in relation to the National Security Strategy?
Mr Ainsworth: As far as the MoD is concerned, we seek to make our contribution by being involved in all of the relevant committees so that we can get ourselves involved in the initial planning right through to being available to make people aware of the various capabilities we have got. We do not lead in any of this work. The very fact that we are involved enables us to explain to people what we can and what we cannot do, what is available and what is not available, and to make sure they understand how to access all of the various capabilities that the Ministry of Defence holds.
Q56 Mr Jenkin: Does not the Home Office lead inevitably lead us to a rather narrow definition of what a National Security Strategy is, given that, for example, our foreign policy is crucial to our national security?
Lord West of
Mr Ainsworth: I am sorry, Chairman, the counter-terrorism aspect I meant for the Home Office. I did not want to confuse you.
Q57 Mr Jenkin: That would explain why the NSS is a bit of a Christmas tree because there is no single minister responsible for creating coherence in the National Security Strategy?
Lord West of
Q58 Chairman: Minister, how has the Ministry of Defence's approach been affected by the publication of the National Security Strategy? Has it changed in any way and, if so, what?
Mr Ainsworth: We have been involved in the development of the National Security Strategy. We have got officials who have been involved in the development of that. Ministers sit on the committee, as Lord West has just said. It is early days to say that it in itself has developed our capabilities because there is a lot of work still to be done. However, we have developed alongside the Adam Ingram report a compendium of defence capabilities in order to make sure that there is better understanding by all who need to know exactly the full range of what defence has to offer, so they can access it, and that has been part of that process.
Mr Day: Throughout my career the MoD has been criticised for pursuing a defence policy in isolation from the wider context. I think for the first time, as has been said, the National Security Strategy provides that broader context for our thinking, rather than having to create that context on a case-by-case basis, annually or in the context of defence reviews. For us it gives us a much more coherent basis for our planning.
Q59 Chairman: What has the Ministry of Defence actually done in terms of the National Security Strategy?
Mr Day: The National Security Strategy will play into the next iteration of defence strategic guidance, and it will provide the context for that. It is essentially a planning document. It also provides substance to the committee framework on which we sit. For the first time it will underpin our planning in a way we have not had a central government doctrine in the past.
Q60 Chairman: When you say "will" underpin your planning; it has already?
Mr Day: It is. It is playing into the current iteration of defence strategic guidance which, as you know, is the basis for our planning.
Q61 Mr Holloway: You have got doctrines, plans, committees, initiatives, X, Y and Z and of course it all sounds absolutely marvellous, but the reality is that we are not winning the war on terror. Do you not think we could be doing rather more in terms of dealing with the drivers of radicalisation and be a little more sensitive in our foreign policy because it might actually make your job rather easier?
Mr Ainsworth: "We" the Department of Defence, or "we" the government overall?
Q62 Mr Holloway: The government overall, the Department of Defence, from where you are sitting do you ever find it rather frustrating that you are picking up the pieces of something that, self-evidently, is not working?
Mr Ainsworth: In what way is it not working? We have a threat; the threat has been developed; it is a global threat and it is developing over years and we have to respond to that in kinds of different ways. Of course preventing radicalisation is a part of that. Defence has a role to play in that as well, but not necessarily a lead role. Actually explaining what we do, the way we do it and the way we conduct operations in order to prevent radicalisation is a role that we can play as defence. We do attempt that; it is not easy and we maybe need to do more; but that is a responsibility of the whole of government to explain its foreign policy, the reasons for its foreign policy; and to attempt to make sure everything about that is explained and is as positive as possible and not having a negative effect.
Lord West of Spithead: I cannot remember your exact turn of phrase there, but actually we have done a great deal in terms of what you loosely call (and I do not like the term) "war on terror"; I would say "excising the terrorist cancer from our society" and actually making us all safer. We have done a huge amount. The formation of the OSCT last year I think was a splendid decision; I had nothing to do with it; I have to say I was not in government at that stage. It took the responsibility for coordination of counter-terrorism across all government departments away from the Cabinet Office, where they did not have the resources for it, and it is now based in the Home Office. The OSCT, under Charles Farr, has been a huge success story. Our counter-terrorist strategy CONTEST was first produced in 2006; we are busy refreshing that and there will be a CONTEST 2 coming out later this year. All sorts of things have been addressed in there. We have done some really good work on the Protect strand. We have done some really good work on the Pursue strand; you can see that when you look at the number of cases going through our courts. We have done an immense amount of work on Prevent, which is stopping radicalisation and stopping extremism. This work had not really been done going back historically. We have actually looked at what are the causes of it; we have put a lot of effort into that. We have got a whole agenda that goes across all government. We now have a weekly security meeting chaired by the Home Secretary, Vernon Coaker or me which gets people from every single department. The MoD are there and they go through issues to do with Prevent; we get briefings from the agencies who are there; we have DCLG; other government departments; and this is really closely coordinated and done and actually I think we are delivering a huge amount. It does not mean the threat has gone away, sadly, because the threat is very high; but we have done a huge amount. As this slowly comes out, what has been achieved, I think quite rightly people will be very proud of what is being done. To be honest we should have done it because we put a lot of resource into it, a lot of effort into it, and those things are beginning to pay off.
Q63 Mr Holloway: I completely accept, amongst this raft of initiatives, there has been some great stuff; but the fact remains that out there in the world we are still delivering defeat. We have got a huge problem with British kids of Pakistani origin; we have got some serious problems in the operational theatres; and Muslim public opinion around the world moves against us by the day.
Lord West of
Q64 Mr Hancock: I am curious because when you first answered that question you suggested that there had been success in stopping radicalisation of parts of the community. I would be interested to know how you judge that because when I speak to young Muslims, and I have a sizeable contingent in my own constituency and around the area, I do not see that happening. I am interested to know how you judge the success or otherwise of what you are doing?
Lord West of
Q65 Mr Jenkins: When I heard the term "overarching strategy" I thought that is a great title, a great term. Within that do we have different departments reporting, like stovepipes, up to the top, or have the departments changed their policy, and are they working closer with each other so there are departments working at every level? How has that approach changed the operation of the MoD; and has the MoD felt its role in working through the Home Office is somewhat restrained; or is it quite happy to do that; or would it like more contacts, please?
Mr Day: Shall I give you an example of the sort of cross-Whitehall working that is now becoming the norm?
Q66 Mr Jenkins: Yes, please.
Mr Day: Under the NSID framework there is an Afghan
strategy group which brings together all of the key departments involved in
Afghan issues: Foreign, Defence, DFID,
Home Office, the agencies when necessary.
That organisation has created the joined-up strategy for
Q67 John Smith: Without giving away any secrets, can you say hand on heart that this new joined-up approach to the national security threats on our country has actually prevented or deterred actual threat of attack or security threats against us, since you have been taking this new approach?
Mr Ainsworth: There are repeated examples at every level of
a joined-up approach to all the different threats that there are. This provides the umbrella under which to do
that. The MoD is constantly responding
to requests for assistance from other government departments, both within the
Q68 John Smith: Are you able to say that attacks have been prevented by approaching it in this way?
Lord West of
Q69 Mr Havard: We have got a National Security Strategy within which there is a component that deals with counter-terrorism essentially, and that element is now vested, for policy purposes, in the OSCT in the Home Office, and coordination of responses for that is largely with the Cabinet Office, into which all the other government departments essentially feed in various different ways. Is that essentially what you are explaining to me?
Lord West of
Q70 Mr Havard: My question then is this: it seems as though there is an elaborate architecture to deal with the counter-terrorism element, which you now describe, but you have described something that goes beyond that. Is this the only thing that is essentially in the National Security Strategy? Who does the other bits? Who coordinates the policy on those? This is a question which other people have asked of me which is: is it not time to have one ministerial position in the government responsible for bringing the whole of the National Security Strategy together rather than just one element of it, which is counter-terrorism etc?
Lord West of
Q71 Chairman: Are we not very unusual in terms of Western countries in not having a national security adviser at the level of Condoleezza Rice?
Lord West of
Mr Day: The fundamental difference I think between what you are suggesting and the current approach is that to introduce a minister with the sort of responsibilities you are talking about would either require them to be a coordinator, or to have overarching responsibility (and I am sorry to use that word again) across a range of very large government departments: the Foreign Office; Ministry of Defence; large elements of the Home Office; DFID; the Department of Health; a whole range of departments. You would have to take a decision as to whether that individual minister took responsibility for all of these departments, or was simply a coordinator. At the moment we have the coordinating model which is done through an official working to the Prime Minister. The alternative model would be quite difficult to implement within our current structure, and would require significant changes to the machinery of government. I am not sure that Condi Rice is quite the equivalent in that respect, because I am not sure that she has the responsibilities across such a large range of what we are calling "national security risks".
Hamilton: The one that is missing from
all of the contributions is the devolved parliaments, because if you talk about
health, if you talk about serious crime that comes under the Scottish
Parliament. Therefore there is not a
minister responsible; that has to be a dialogue that takes place. Surely it is commonsense to talk about - those
matters should be taken from a devolved parliament and brought back into a
reserve power. I mean it quite
seriously. There is an issue about a
reserve power which covers the whole of the
Mr Ainsworth: There is a lead department for every analysed
threat. Where it is a devolved matter,
Lord West of
Mr Hamilton: The point I am making is that it is still evolving. If it is still evolving then maybe that should be addressed also. If the policy is still evolving, which it is, then maybe that should be looked at again.
Q73 Chairman: You have heard what he has said. It seems to be a sensible point.
Lord West of
Q74 Mr Hancock: I am grateful for the comments we have heard, particularly the one that it is still open to debate whether or not we do have a minister with overall responsibility.
Lord West of
Q75 Mr Hancock: I understand the implications, because it is about the ministers giving up power and nobody wants to do that. I understand that but I am heartened by the idea that it is still open to discussion. I would hope that the majority of the British people would like to see somebody like that who is actually given that responsibility. If the seriousness of the situation is such as you have described then the one thing for sure is people do not want to see this done through an elevation of committee structures, ending up with the Prime Minister. There needs to be some sort of coordination there at senior ministerial level - a job for the Deputy Prime Minister, if we had one. I am curious about your suggestion, because when you were asked questions about this organisation you did not actually tell us what the Ministry of Defence were bringing to the party. You told us about all these systems that were being set up, but you did not tell us exactly what differences there were going to be in the past. I am curious about how you are now sure you are going to be sustained in the loop; that the intelligence services are sharing with you information; that the Home Office and Cabinet Office are coming to you at the earliest opportunity, not as an afterthought. I think that is the crucial question the MoD has to answer. What are you bringing to the party? Are you satisfied that the processes that are being talked about are sufficiently secure enough for you to be sure you are being told at the first instance and not at the last step?
Mr Day: On the final point, I am absolutely sure that we are joined-up entirely into the intergovernmental loop to as greater degree as we have ever been. I do not see that as a problem. As far as what the MoD is bringing is concerned, in terms of the operations we are conducting we bring the defence perspective, we bring the capabilities, we bring a level of understanding about operations and policy that does not exist anywhere else in government. Equally other departments bring the same. In terms of counter-terrorism and Resilience we can perhaps go into that in more detail but, as the Minister said, we bring a range of niche capabilities and a "back-up", if you like. It is very difficult to explain when you are not part of it, but there is a closeness of cooperation now in dealing with a whole range of issues that means, for example, we are able to produce a strategy for Afghanistan that integrates and has the buy-in of very, very different actors from defence, through to DFID, through to the agencies, in formulating and implementing policy. That, to my experience, is something we have not always been good at in the past.
Mr Ainsworth: The fear seems to be that policy will develop and Defence will not be involved in that and will not have a say in the direction of travel. We are involved in the planning process exactly in order to prevent that from happening. We are completely embedded within it. We can see the developments are happening and see proposals as they come forward and we can have our say and have our input into that. As far as access then to defence capability is concerned, of course that has to be done through the Ministry of Defence; it has to be cleared through the Ministry of Defence; so I do not really understand the concern that there is about us being left behind or left out. We are embedded in the planning process and then have control over the contributions that we make to any particular scenario which arises.
Q76 Mr Hancock: No-one was suggesting you were being left out; we were making sure that you were actually included in.
Mr Ainsworth: We are.
Q77 Mr Hancock: I would feel sad if you were left out, but none of us have mentioned that.
Mr Ainsworth: I thought that was your concern.
Q78 Mr Jenkins: If we, as you tell me, have got in position a security coordinator who now is capable of pulling together different parts of different departments, and we may possibly have a minister who could do that but that would be politically dangerous if he were in conflict with other ministers in other departments - I think that is the underlying contention - and we might look at this procedure, do you not think, Minister, in a democracy it is better to have a minister who can be brought to the House and questioned rather than a coordinator who cannot be brought to the House and questioned?
Mr Ainsworth: Yes, of course we need accountability for the decisions taken, and ministers must take that responsibility at the end of the day. What needs to be coordinated is the information flow, and that needs to be coordinated on a regular basis. There is the ability to bring ministers together whenever that is necessary in order to take the required decisions.
Q79 Mr Havard: Is the active debate really one about not necessarily having a minister who is responsible for all these things, but essentially back to this argument about a security adviser so that this coordinating position becomes something slightly different, and in a sense almost in between being a minister and having more capacity than just simply having a coordinating function? It raises still the question that Brian raises about democratic deficit in terms of being able to hold them to account. Is that the real debate that is happening?
Mr Ainsworth: If you put a single person in charge of the whole of the national security environment, or the counter-terrorism environment in that regard, then that single minister winds up being responsible for MoD's ability to counter-terrorism in the -----
Q80 Mr Havard: What about a security adviser.
Mr Ainsworth: MoD's ability to counter-terrorism in the maritime environment; MoD's responsibility with regards to rapid reaction in the air environment; and right through the whole spectrum to how you deal with a flu pandemic, with all the expertise that is there and available in the Department of Health. How you would capture that in a single person - whereas Alan said, they would either become a coordinator themselves; or you would be setting up some kind of pretty strange and far-reaching department.
Q81 Mr Havard: That is why I asked you the question. Is it an active debate about having an adviser as opposed to a minister?
Lord West of Spithead: I think the active debate more, now we have moved from the National Security Strategy (for example you talked of accountability), is exactly how we will set up the joint committee on National Security Strategy within Parliament, to actually look at the National Security Strategy and actually be looking at that. That will be coming out in the matter of the next few weeks. Because the Prime Minister has the responsibility for this - as I say, Robert Hannigan through the Cabinet committee supports the Prime Minister - the Prime Minister is the man who is responsible for the National Security Strategy, he has been rather tied up with some other bits and pieces and that has slowed down this move. As I say, this autumn that will come out. We will also establish the National Security Forum which will have a focus group and will be able to aid and assist these things, and I think that will allow us to have a very good and refreshed National Security Strategy next spring. These other issues, as I say, have been hot topics; for 15 months people have been talking about exactly what that top hamper should look like; and I do not think we have absolutely decided yet. I am in no doubt whatsoever that the coordination works well within the Cabinet Office. Robert Hannigan has a very firm hand on this. The areas of Resilience are coordinated by the contingency secretariat. Other people feed into the various Cabinet committees, and therefore we have a very good handle on this composite of risks to our nation, and actually which departments are dealing with it, and each department will then deal with them separately. For example, if we come into Resilience, there are a number of departments responsible and it gets pushed right down to a local level, so local government actually has its local Resilience forums and actually produces plans for things. All this, I think, is actually remarkably well coordinated. It does not mean there is not room for improvement. Now we have this overall strategy it makes things a lot easier.
Chairman: It may be that you have a very good handle on it, but it is a year now since the National Security Strategy was produced and Parliament does not have a good handle on it and it is really about time it did.
Holloway: Admiral, I worry about this
because I think some of this talk is possibly dilusional. If you talk about having a joined-up approach
Lord West of
Q83 Mr Holloway: No, in terms of dealing with this problem.
Lord West of
Q84 Mr Holloway: In terms of dealing with the threat we face, and forget about the process at the moment.
Lord West of
Q85 Mr Jenkin: We have mentioned Robert Hannigan a few times and he is this coordinator. Why is he not here answering for the government on this?
Lord West of
Chairman: I will take responsibility for this, as for most things.
Q86 Mr Jenkin: Does that not underline how in fact accountability is confused? Lord West, you are more refreshingly honest than is probably good for you, your political career I mean, because when you say the Prime Minister has been very busy with other things, is that not exactly the point: the Prime Minister needs someone at his own level sitting at his right-hand side, watching his back and dealing with all these issues, rather than it being lost in the bureaucracy of the Cabinet Office and in the coordination between different departments? It cannot have the same coherence than if a minister was at the Prime Minister's side coordinating these issues.
Lord West of
Q87 Mr Jenkin: I am sure that is the case.
Lord West of
Q88 Mr Hancock: Can I ask a direct question of the Cabinet Office about Resilience. Do you know exactly at this moment how many members of the Armed Forces there are, where they are located, and what they would be able to do if you needed them? Do you know that now? I am looking to the Cabinet Office to answer this question. Coordination means that they ought to. If Resilience means anything it means they ought to know because the Ministry of Defence would have told them on a pretty regular basis.
Mr Ainsworth: If somebody in the Cabinet Office does not know exactly what forces we have got in a particular part of the country at any one time, I do not think anybody around this table should be surprised by that; but there is a structure for them to find out immediately at any level that they wish to do so. First of all, there is the Commander, Land Forces who is double-hatted in terms of being the national contact for defence capability; and then we have got the regional structure underneath that. If it is regional people who want to know, they have those relationships already and they plug straight into them.
Lord West of Spithead: In the area, for example, of counter-terrorism - and again this is a step forward that the MoD have done - they have now produced a defence, counter-terrorism and Resilience capabilities compendium - this never existed before - which the OSCT can look at; it says what operations they are involved in; what they are doing; what forces are available for certain things. Yes, in the Cabinet Office they would not know the direct answer, as my colleague says, of course they would not, but they could find out straight away. Some very good things have been done - that is just in counter-terrorism - but in other areas as well to make these things available.
Q89 Mr Hancock: Going down a very long chain before they got the answer.
Mr Ainsworth: The person who is going to be asking the question is the person who is going to be faced up to the threat, and that person at whatever level needs to access military capability, quickly, easily and comprehensively. For instance, when we had the floods in Gloucestershire last year, the command was taken by the Chief Constable of the local area straightaway; he had already a relationship with the regional brigadier who became part of that long command, and who gave him sight of and access to military capability. That is how the system worked at that level.
Q90 Mr Hancock: Some of the Committee were lucky enough to go the Counter-Terrorism Science Technology Centre and they have an extraordinary range of capabilities there, but one of the things the Committee picked up on was the difficulty they were having in getting other government departments to make use of them and to learn from their experiences and use their abilities. What are you going to do to make sure that government agencies are actually looking to that capability and to make better use of it than appears to be the case at the present time?
Mr Ainsworth: Capability is in the compendium we have already talked about, and you can see that yourselves. It is a classified document, so we cannot make it ------
Q91 Mr Hancock: Why are they not using it?
Mr Ainsworth: They are using it. There are requests for their assistance that come to me on a regular basis.
Q92 Mr Hancock: You are satisfied that all government departments who need to are making use of the facility that is there?
Mr Ainsworth: The purpose of the compendium is to make sure that people know exactly what is available to them. For Resilience purposes we will try to make a non-classified document available to a wider community so they can access those capabilities.
Q93 Mr Hancock: What are you doing about making sure those other agencies and departments know what is available there? Why do you think they are not using it at the moment?
Mr Ainsworth: I do not accept they are not using it at the moment. Defence capability is being used by lots of different people on lots of different occasions. It is difficult to go into specifics for obvious reasons but they are being used. The purpose of creating the compendium is to give greater visibility to everybody who needs it so that they can use that capability.
Lord West of
Q94 Mr Hancock: This is the Counter-terrorism Science and Technology Centre at DSTL. Are you saying they are not, in their opinion, fighting an uphill battle to get other agencies to make use of them?
Brigadier Chapman: DSTL have a number of immediate response teams. Those immediate response teams have been used a number of times this year. If they are not used we would argue that is probably a sign of success because of increasing civil resilience. The number of occasions they have been used and the circumstances I cannot obviously go into at this forum. Every civil power is aware of what can be brought to bear across a capability framework. The Protect framework and what the scientific support community can bring, all those who need to know seem to be aware because they are used on a regular basis.
Mr Day: We would be very happy to pass you a copy of the compendium on a classified basis and a list of those people who have it and have access to it.
Q95 Chairman: Yes, it would be helpful if you could.
Lord West of
Q96 Chairman: I do not think that we would want to give the impression from our visit to the Counter-terrorism Science and Technology Centre that everything was going wrong, because we thought that they were very impressive. There was just more we felt that could be done to get what they have to offer out into the broader government community.
Mr Ainsworth: Chairman, that is the purpose of producing the compendium.
Mr Day: Exactly as the Minister says, it was in response to our concern about this that we produced the compendium, which was only issued during the summer. Inevitably there will be a lag, but we are confident the information other government departments and other agencies require is contained in this document.
Brigadier Chapman: The final codicil to that is that CT centre personnel do sit on CONTEST, science and technology boards, so they do have linkages into the Home Office, science and development branch.
Lord West of
Chairman: We need to see whether that linkage is working as effectively as it could be. In answer to Bernard Jenkin's question, I understand we did ask to see Robert Hannigan but, for good reason, he is away and unable to be here today.
Crausby: The Committee wanted to
explore, with more practical questions, into the cooperation between
departments and agencies. I suppose I
should begin by asking Mr Ainsworth, what structures do you have in place
to work with the
Mr Ainsworth: Commander-in-Chief, Land is double-hatted as the standing joint commander. He has overall responsibility for ensuring that defence cooperates with other government departments. We then have the regional structure which plugs into all of those other government departments at that regional level. All of the planning of training work that takes place across government departments, the MoD is a part of that, is consulted on the developments that are being made and able to cooperate and be fully involved.
Q98 Mr Crausby: I want to make sure that we do not get so concerned with all the technical arguments at the top that we do not get down to the real business on the ground. Can I ask effectively both Mr Ainsworth and Lord West: do Armed Force units take part in regular inter-agency training exercises? How do you satisfy yourself that units are ready to deploy in an emergency and can work seamlessly with all the emergency services, the police, fire brigade, ambulance service, and indeed any other necessary organisations?
Mr Ainsworth: At a national level there is usually a counter-terrorism exercise carried out every year. MoD is fully involved in that. There are three Resilience exercises carried out every year. We are involved in those as well. There are all kinds of different exercises, decided at a local level or decided at a regional level, where MoD is fully involved in a way that it wishes to be. With regard to, how do I satisfy myself that the capability is there and available, the niche capabilities that we are tasked to provide are wholly and solely our responsibility, to make sure they are maintained. So we maintain a maritime capability. We have other niche capabilities it is difficult to talk about - air rapid reaction capability; they are all solely the MoD's responsibility. Although they are encapsulated in the overall national strategy they are our responsibility to maintain them at the level of readiness that we are committed to do.
Mr Day: I do not think it has really been clear yet -
the Army's non-deployable brigade structure in the
Havard: It is a peripheral point in a
sense, but the question was not only other formal agencies but other
organisations. I declare an interest
here: I am Secretary of the All-Party
Mountain Rescue Search Team group and this is an organisation that is purely
voluntary. It has to be able to
communicate with all these other organisations, and communications is the key
to all these responses. We saw this in
Brigadier Chapman: Can I pick that up on behalf of the Minister. Just taking the very good example of the mountain rescue teams, as you are aware the RAF maintains four different mountain rescue teams across the country and they have communications which can communicate with the first line responders, including Airwave, which is the principal response communications from police, ambulance and fire services.
Mr Havard: We get great support on the Brecon Beacons from Chivenor; there is not a problem with that, that is not the point. It is the point that it is becoming increasingly expensive for voluntary organisations to keep pace with the technological change - whether it is the police, ambulance service, fire service, military whoever - in order to be able to continue to make that contribution.
Crausby: Our visit to the
Brigadier Chapman: We have a defined doctrine which is out to all government departments, which is called 'Operations in the UK: Defence Contribution to Resilience - JDP-02', which actually was only republished last year, as I think I am right in saying that it is the second edition. That goes through all the gamut of military support to the military and civil authorities, including MACP, MACD and military aid to the civil communities.
Crausby: Can you tell us in broad terms what role the
Brigadier Chapman: The actual doctrinal
publication is produced by the
Smith: We were, Mr Chairman, as you know, very
impressed by what we witnessed at the
Mr Ainsworth: You were really impressed, but have you ever been to Chequers, I do not know!
Q103 John Smith: I used to work there.
Mr Ainsworth: The things that go on at
Shrivenham are not exclusively defence; there are a lot of cross-government
courses and training that is made available from the
Q104 Chairman: But I would echo what John Smith says, that a half day spent at Shrivenham by the entire Cabinet would pay absolute dividends for the future of the country, and I would suggest that is something you should be seriously considering.
Lord West of Spithead: I am all for more military training for everybody, but I think it is just worth emphasising that an awful lot of these issues that we are talking about, the prime responders and the people who are primarily responsible for acting on them are other government departments and agencies. Taking the resilience area, for example, since the Civil Contingencies Act, there is no doubt a lot has been done there in terms of getting acts together and being able to react to these things, and there are large numbers of people. We have something in the region of, if you count VSOs and everything else, 160/170,000 police in this country, then one looks at the numbers in the military and then we have got 52,000 in the fire brigades. The numbers involved and the responsibilities do lie with these other groups and, as I say, since the Civil Contingencies Act and our National Capabilities Programme, I think we are getting better and better at responding. When one needs the military, apart from some very niche things, if something goes dramatically worse, then there are mechanisms for actually achieving that, but, as my colleague says, there are certain things like MCT and certain things like the air capability which of course could not be provided by anyone other than the military itself.
Mr Havard: One component we saw there was - is it called the Advanced Research Group - ARAG. To me, it is the Advanced Research Group.
Mr Holloway: And Assessment Group.
Mr Havard: Somebody is doing research
and this research, whether it is stabilisation in
Chairman: Well, Minister, you have heard our plug for your establishment.
Borrow: We have had mention earlier in the proceedings
of the role of Commander-in-Chief, Land and the support for civilian
authorities, and there are a few questions that I had earmarked to ask you and
some of them we may have touched on, but I will just run through them and
perhaps get a response, Minister, to those issues. Firstly, could you outline briefly how the
provision of military aid is made to the civilian authorities and what
provision the MoD makes for emergencies in the
Mr Ainsworth: There are two broad categories of capabilities which we maintain and one, I would say, is niche capabilities which other people generally cannot provide, and that is a full range from the air component through to maritime counterterrorism, Special Forces' capabilities, things that we cannot go into in detail, but they are there and the MoD is the provider, and then there is augmentation capability as well. Generally speaking, that is pulled together through the Commander-in-Chief, Land and the regional structure. Now, that can be provided by whatever is available to suit the purpose at the time. Sometimes it is Reserves and sometimes it is Regular Forces to meet the needs of the particular request. All of those are approved at ministerial level. All of them are charged against the Department which is requesting the assistance because they are the people who actually hold the responsibility, not the MoD, in the first place. If there is a training gain to the MoD in conducting a particular operation, then we take that into account in the charges that we make, but that is the broad structure. I do not know whether Jon might want to put any more on that.
Mr Day: I think, Chip, you can go through the details.
Brigadier Chapman: This really comes into three
areas. That we provide military aid to
the civil authorities is the broad-brush one and of course within the
Mr Day: If it would be helpful, we can provide you with examples of the kinds of areas of support we have provided in recent years, both on an unclassified basis and on a classified basis as well.
Chairman: Yes, both of those would be helpful, thank you.
Q106 Mr Borrow: Can I just follow up and ask you, Minister, in relation to the sort of support that would be available in terms of helicopters over the next couple of years, are there any changes likely in that sort of support that can be provided in the UK to civilian authorities from helicopters were circumstances to arise when that request could be made?
Mr Ainsworth: Well, we have the search and
rescue capability and we have also got a training capability constantly
available in the
Brigadier Chapman: It is worth saying that of
course one of the few places where we do have a lead government department
responsibility is in the provision of search and air rescue, and the number of
places I do not think is going to rise in the future, and of course they are of
extremely high readiness every day of the year to help the civil
community. Of course in the
Gloucestershire floods last year, that was the biggest search and rescue used
Borrow: Are there any plans to change that capability
in terms of the
Brigadier Chapman: It is different with a different series of aircraft; they are mutually exclusive.
Mr Ainsworth: Search and rescue aircraft do
not leave the
Q108 Mr Borrow: Are there any changes proposed in terms of the provision that would be available were those circumstances to arise again?
Mr Ainsworth: Specifically on helicopters,
we have to maintain a helicopter force in the
Q109 Mr Borrow: So as to the level of helicopter support that would be available in 18 months' time, were an emergency similar to the floods that took place in Gloucestershire last year to happen, we would be able to mobilise the same number of helicopters as were available to be mobilised in 2007?
Mr Ainsworth: I know of no reason why we should not be able to.
Chairman: I am sure you will find that we have further questions to ask on that sort of thing in due course.
Q110 Mr Holloway: Admiral, if there were a series of big, white flashes in a provincial town or city or in London and there were thousands of dead and injured, can you give us just a flavour of the sorts of things that would happen in the aftermath in terms of all that you have been putting together?
Lord West of
Q111 Mr Holloway: Or whatever, but something with many thousands of dead and injured, 10,000, say. What sort of things would come in?
Lord West of
Q112 Chairman: Sorry, can you translate that please?
Lord West of
Q113 Mr Holloway: Do you, for example, have a system in place whereby you can suddenly generate beds for 5,000 seriously injured people across the country or 10,000?
Lord West of Spithead: I do not know the exact numbers, but the Department of Health have in place plans to take major numbers of casualties, and this is part of what we do across the board, that we push the departments that they have to put in various contingency plans, and it applies similarly to pandemic flu, it applies to dealing with dead bodies from pandemics. All of these things have to be looked at by that appropriate department to set in place plans and have those sitting there to action, and we do then exercise those as paper exercises and also some of them we exercise as actually people ----
Q114 Mr Holloway: But do you have a rough idea of how many beds you could generate over a very short period of time for a very, very large number of civilians?
Lord West of
Q115 Mr Jenkin: Just on this helicopters point, I represent an east of England constituency which is liable to flooding, coastal flooding, and in 1953 there were very serious floods and a great many people drowned, but, in these days of helicopters, one hopes the helicopters would be available and, as a topical subject, one would hope they would have winches because, in lifting people to safety from a flooded area, you require a winch in your helicopters. Is that something which is being addressed?
Mr Ainsworth: There are winches widely
available in the helicopter fleet and all of our helicopters in
Q116 Mr Jenkin: And on the training helicopters that would be deployed in an emergency?
Mr Ainsworth: I cannot say that every
training helicopter in the
Q117 Chairman: Again, we will come back to that in due course.
Mr Ainsworth: All the search and rescue helicopters have got winches of course.
Lord West of
John Smith: I do not think we should give the impression that there is general concern about the ability to respond to civil disasters. We had a major civil disaster exercise in my constituency recently in Barry with an airliner crashing into the big number one dock, involving all the services, and, I have to say, it was a huge success and the professionalism displayed by both civilian, voluntary and professional military personnel was exceptional. Why they chose Barry, I am not sure, Mr Chairman. I think it was to protect the next episode of Gavin and Stacey! It was a very successful exercise.
Chairman: Another tribute!
Q118 Mr Holloway: Do you have groups of people who sit around working up potential scenarios of things that terrorists might do, areas that are vulnerable?
Lord West of
Q119 Mr Holloway: Yes.
Lord West of
Mr Holloway: Well, at a more sort of tactical level. Do you have people who sit around dreaming how you might blow up an airliner by putting different chemicals together?
Chairman: We do not want to go into examples, but do you?
Q120 Mr Holloway: Are there people who play that scenario at a very practical, technical sort of level?
Lord West of
Q121 Chairman: Would you like more? The answer to that is always yes.
Lord West of
Q122 Chairman: Would you like more people doing this horizon-scanning?
Lord West of
Q123 Mr Jenkin: Can I ask about the CCRFs, the Civil Contingency Reaction Forces, which, I think, were mobilised in 2004. Brigadier, you said that in Gloucestershire, for example, some Reserves were deployed in Gloucestershire?
Brigadier Chapman: That is correct.
Q124 Mr Jenkin: But were they the CCRFs?
Brigadier Chapman: No, they were not. The reason the CCRFs were not there, it is a sign of success because we can force-generate quickly from the Regular Force structure. Now, the difference between them in a sense is that the CCRFs are something which you might need to mobilise for Mr Holloway's high-end 10,000 people consequence management scenario. We have used Reserves under sections 22 and 27 of the Reserve Forces Act 1996. The CCRFs, if there were a high-end disaster, would need to be mobilised, and obviously it is not for me to say, but that is quite a high-end political decision to take, so the CCRFs have not been used as formed units since they were formed under the SDR new chapter, and that is because we have never met the threshold where we needed to use them because of the increasing civil resilience brought about by the Civil Contingencies Act and the other range of initiatives which have gone on since 2002.
Q125 Mr Jenkin: Well, that is an extremely good answer and one which you might have been thinking of before you came here because, speaking to members of the TA at the 100th Anniversary of the Essex TA celebrations earlier this month, they would like to be deployed in civil emergencies, they would like to wear their uniforms on their home patch and know that they were going to be deployed. Are these CCRFs really deployable?
Mr Ainsworth: You cannot mobilise them unnecessarily.
Q126 Mr Jenkin: I appreciate that.
Mr Ainsworth: They are there and we can mobilise them. In every region there is a CCRF, around about 500-strong from the Reserves, that can be mobilised. In the Gloucestershire case that you talk about, we were asked for specific capability, we were asked for it very quickly and we were not asked for large numbers. We were asked for helicopter lift, we were asked for bodies to build protection around some of the flood infrastructure and we were asked for some logistics to get water distributed. Now, we had Regular Forces and Reserve Forces available to us in order to be able to do that.
Q127 Mr Jenkin: But is it actually more expensive to deploy the CCRFs from Regular Forces and is that why you still draw on the Regular Forces, despite all the other commitments and cancelled leave and cancelled training and all the other things they have to put up with under the present circumstances?
Mr Ainsworth: Yes, there was no request. There was a very urgent requirement to make sure that the initial planning and water distribution was done and the Army did that and had the capability available and did that and then handed over to other people fairly quickly, so it was not an ongoing necessity for us to carry on distributing the water, but we had other people that were happy to do it, but who just did not have that ability to react quickly.
Mr Day: I do not think this is an issue of cost. I think that, if the contingency were large enough, then these would be the people that we would mobilise.
Q128 Mr Jenkin: Do the CCRFs ever exercise as formed units or are too many of them deployed on operations to exercise as formed units?
Mr Day: Because they are based on infantry battalions, they exercise within the framework of being a disciplined body of men with a coherent C3 structure that can be used to execute instructions most likely in an unarmed manner, so again, if you go to Mr Holloway's example, you would probably want them to do a consequence management task as generalists where they do not need any specialist training because we would bring in specialists, like we did, for example, with engineers on the Gloucestershire floods.
Q129 Mr Jenkin: But one gets a bit depressed to hear, for example, that Two UK Signals Brigade may be the next bit of the TA to be axed in the general run-down of our TA and Reserves when that is a crucial link between the blue-light services and the Armed Forces. One senses that these are not really a priority area of present defence policy.
Mr Day: Two Signals Brigade were used, elements were used on the Gloucestershire floods; they were the reservist element I was largely referring to.
Q130 Mr Jenkin: Can we have an assurance that they are not going to be disbanded?
Mr Ainsworth: We have a Reserve Review which is being conducted currently.
Q131 Mr Jenkin: Exactly.
Mr Ainsworth: Well, you know and other Members of Parliament know that that is ongoing and we will be reporting to Parliament in due course. There is no suggestion that a particular unit is going to be axed, nor has there been any suggestion that that review is in any way finance-led. It is about making our Reserves more appropriate to our needs today, and that is being conducted with that in mind.
Q132 Mr Jenkin: But is it not the problem that the National Security Strategy said that the Government was determined to shift the overall balance of defence procurement towards the support of current operations, and of course that means away from longer-term capabilities? We know that is happening on training and we know that is happening on manpower. Is it not the case that really these Reserve Forces for civil contingencies are quite far down the list of priorities because of the pressures on the Armed Forces elsewhere?
Mr Ainsworth: We have to give appropriate priority to our current operations and any government would do that. We have got to make sure that we are giving them that appropriate priority, but that is not to say that we can forget about tomorrow's threat and all of these other issues, and we have no intentions of doing so.
Mr Jenkin: So overstretch is not affecting ----
Q133 Chairman: Before we get on to that issue, can I come back to the Civil Contingency Reserve Force. You are drawing a distinction, are you not, between mobilisation and deployment?
Brigadier Chapman: Yes.
Q134 Chairman: How long does it take to mobilise the Civil Contingency Reserve Force?
Brigadier Chapman: Within this forum, all I can say is that they are extremely high-readiness forces. I would not like to go into specifics.
Mr Day: Again we can write to you with the details.
Q135 Chairman: Could you?
Mr Day: Yes.
Q136 Chairman: Is that something that is sensitive?
Mr Day: Yes, it is.
Q137 Mr Jenkin: We know that the Armed Forces are stretched in the infantry departments, but you are able to give me and the Committee an assurance that the degree of stretch in the Armed Forces, which we know is very intense at the moment, is not affecting the readiness of Civil Contingency Reaction Forces, even though many of those personnel are actually deployed themselves on operations?
Mr Ainsworth: The fact that the Army is working hard and, yes, is stretched has had no bearing on any decision not to mobilise the Civil Contingency Reaction Forces.
Mr Jenkin: Well, you cannot put it more starkly than that.
Mr Hancock: In our predecessor Committee in 2002, we were discussing, in our report then, the ability of the Royal Air Force to respond to a rogue aircraft coming into the UK and we were given assurances at that time that the MoD were satisfied on the legal basis for shooting down an aircraft, and we were told that there was a procedure in place where the final decision would be taken by a minister, not necessarily the Prime Minister, but by a minister. Has that policy changed over those five or six years and, if so, in what way?
Q138 Chairman: This is one of those areas where you might feel it difficult to answer some of the questions.
Mr Ainsworth: All I can say, Chairman, is that since the Committee's report we did look at the issues that were raised by it about the capability of our people and we satisfied ourselves that we had the appropriate systems in place and appropriate protections in place. I cannot go into the detail of who gives approval, but we have satisfied ourselves as well as to the legal basis of that capability.
Q139 Mr Hancock: But the decision presumably would still be taken by a minister as opposed to a civil servant in the Cabinet Office?
Mr Ainsworth: Yes, the decision would be taken by an elected minister, yes.
Q140 Mr Hancock: If you have read that report, you will know, Minister, that one of the issues was about the psychological effects of doing this would have on pilots, in particular, and whether or not we were giving them adequate preparedness, not after the event, but before the event, to make sure that they were psychologically equipped for doing it. The Committee did actually visit the bases and we did speak to pilots who were involved in this process and at that time there was very little pre-training and support for pilots who were engaged in this, and I would be grateful if you could update us on what procedures are now in place to ensure that the aircrews themselves and their support are given the right sort of help.
Mr Ainsworth: We have, since that, looked at the preparedness of the aircrew, the support that is in there ahead of the task that might be applied to them, but also what would need to be provided after such an event, should it ever come about, so we have looked at all of those issues to try to make sure that we have got appropriate support systems in place for our people.
Q141 Mr Hancock: Well, I am more concerned about in advance of the process because that is the very real difficulty. That is the real problem, is it not?
Mr Ainsworth: There is an issue of aftercare as well, but I am talking about preparedness as well.
Q142 Mr Hancock: In advance?
Mr Ainsworth: Yes.
Q143 Mr Hancock: If I can just ask one question relating to what you have said previously, are you all satisfied in civil preparedness that local government is in a position to be able to respond because, whilst they were given powers, they were once again devoid of resources to support the powers they were given? With responsibility for civil preparedness, are you collectively sure that local government is in a real position to be able to respond in the way that you would expect it to?
Lord West of Spithead: Well, I think now because we have, as I say, the Civil Contingencies Act, the National Capabilities Programme, we have the various groups like the local resilience forums, regional resilience forums, I think stemming down from our NRA, the National Risk Assessment, which of course is the restricted version which became the National Risk Register, which is one that local councils and the public can see, people are aware now what things they have to prepare for and I think that, within the amounts of money that local government have, they set aside the right sums and the right training to achieve that.
Q144 Mr Hancock: But no extra resource was given to local government. I am still a member of local government and I know from my own city's point of view that it is very difficult to manage, the responsibilities that have been given against the resources that are available. I think this was classically, in the civil contingencies legislation, an issue of passing the responsibility, but with none of the supporting resources which would be necessary to bring it to the level that you, as a government, would expect local authorities to provide.
Mr Ainsworth: Resourcing is an ongoing friction between local government and central government. You do know that local government always say that they want resources for particular allocations and responsibilities and the last thing they want is a levering in of all of the monies that are passed to them.
Q145 Mr Hancock: I understand that, but, when new powers are devolved, particularly powers which involve them in taking on some very big responsibilities and co-ordination and even research of what is available, etc, they are very expensive and the Government did not pass to local authorities the resources necessary. I am interested to know, are you satisfied that your response from local government to what you have asked of them is sufficient to give you confidence that they can deliver?
Lord West of
Q146 Mr Hancock: On what they have to do, yes.
Lord West of
Chairman: Before you move on from that, it would be helpful if you could give us an assessment of how well-prepared you think local authorities are.
Mr Hancock: Absolutely. We had a whole session dedicated to it and we actually visited local authorities, and one of the issues, I would say to you, is the failure of the communication system which allowed the local authority to be able to talk direct to the police or fire who were actually on site and they would always have to be going through a third party and sometimes the third party was not equipped, so you had four different systems in place in some instances, the Police, the Army, the Ambulance Service and local authorities. They had no way of communicating on a shared system.
Q147 Chairman: So we are back to mountain rescue again. Perhaps you could do us that assessment.
Lord West of
Mr Havard: I do not want to make the point about voluntary organisations again, but, when you do this about local authorities, here speaks an English local councillor, but there are Scots and Welsh and the arrangements are subtly and slightly different and, if you can take that into account when you do it, that would be helpful.
Mr Jenkins: Can I get back to air defence please. There was a well-recorded incident recently about a civilian aircraft flying into British airspace and our fighters went up to intercept it. They could not contact it because the blinds were all drawn on the flight deck and it took them nearly half an hour to raise the crew who were asleep. It is true, is it not?
Mr Havard: It was in The Sun, so it must be true!
Chairman: I am not sure where we are going with this though.
Q148 Mr Jenkins: Well, I am. Was the Minister totally involved, so they knew when they were going to give the order and how were they going to give the order to shoot that plane down? Why is it that an aircraft can come into British airspace with the crew asleep and not log in to say, "We're now coming into your airspace", because, otherwise, one day someone is going to shoot down a civilian plane?
Mr Ainsworth: I do not think that we came close to shooting the aircraft down, I am not sure.
Q149 Mr Jenkins: Why?
Mr Ainsworth: I am not aware of the incident that Mr Jenkins is talking about. There are infringements of British airspace all of the time that the RAF are responding to and not everything that you read in the press is true. I read in the press of how a Russian aircraft managed to reach our airspace and the RAF totally failed to respond to it, but, when you actually look at the facts, it was nothing like what was actually reported, so I will have a look into what you are raising with me and I will come back to you with an answer, but it certainly was not raised with me.
Q150 Chairman: It may be that, for one reason or another, the aircraft was not judged to be a threat.
Mr Ainsworth: Well, if it were judged to be a threat, then certain operations would have gone into place.
Mr Hancock: It must have been a threat to send two fighters up to intercept it. Someone must have made that judgment.
Chairman: We move on to the maritime world.
Q151 Mr Hamilton: Perhaps I might ask a question and the original question was asked by Mike and others about being mentally prepared for a potential disaster coming up. One of the things that happened in New Orleans in the floods was of course there was a desertion by the police of about 25/30 per cent and the police actually went over the wall rather than do the job they were employed to do, so, when you are doing mental preparedness for the various authorities, surely that must be something that you will look right across the board at, especially with the voluntary sector and especially those who are not in the Armed Forces. Could you report just on how that has been dealt with because that is a big issue. It is one where we have practical experience where a flood took place, and everyone knew it was going to come, and yet there were major desertions in the various organisations that were meant to deal with that flood, so could I ask that question and maybe see how we could deal with that.
Lord West of Spithead: I do not know whether that has been taken into account by the groups that are planning that, but, for example, when we are doing the pandemic work, we make assumptions about quite large percentages of people not appearing, up as high as, I think, 40 per cent we are talking about, as high as that on occasions, so work is done there, so I would imagine that it is included, but maybe I could get back to you on that to confirm that it is.
Q152 Mr Hamilton: In terms of maritime security, could you explain where the responsibility lies between the Home Office and the participation of Armed Forces units? Who has the primary responsibility, and how are other agencies engaged?
Mr Ainsworth: We are required to hold forces at readiness, but we do not have prime responsibility for the maritime environment.
Q153 Mr Hamilton: Who has the prime responsibility?
Lord West of
Hamilton: The second part was that
nobody has direct responsibility for the waters around the
Lord West of
Hamilton: Who is responsible for the
waters around the
Lord West of
Q156 Mr Hamilton: Who takes direct responsibility for
monitoring the waters around the
Lord West of
Q157 Mr Hamilton: So which agency co-ordinates all of that work that you have just referred to? What is the agency that would deal with that? Is it separate agencies?
Lord West of
Mr Ainsworth: Different people have different responsibilities in the maritime environment. The Department for Transport, Customs and Excise, the local police looking out to sea in their own area, they all have their own responsibilities for their own threat, but they do not have a comprehensive responsibility for the maritime environment.
Chairman: Is that not a bit of a worry?
Q158 Mr Hamilton: So we have not got one organisation that co-ordinates all of the areas that have just been referred to by the two of you?
Lord West of
Hamilton: If that is the case, and you
have referred three times to the Chief Constable and how you keep the dialogue
going with him, I assume that is English chief constables that you talk to, or
do you have a responsibility which goes across devolution position and do you
talk to the chief constables also in
Lord West of
Q160 Mr Hamilton: But that does not calculate the number of ships that are around the British seas.
Lord West of
Q161 Mr Jenkin: In the event of a maritime incident, which is basically civilian, but might require military assistance, who has gold command?
Lord West of
Q162 Mr Jenkin: How many vessels are available to Her Majesty's Government, Royal Navy, Coastguard and other government agencies, for coastal protection?
Mr Ainsworth: We have two frigates effectively, one fleet-ready escort available at short notice, and we then have another frigate that can supplement that, which is a patrol ship which is available at any one time. Then we have got three river-class offshore patrol vessels and there is always one minesweeper.
Chairman: That is about six ships!
Q163 Mr Jenkin: That is just the Royal Navy, is it not? There must be other government agencies, the Coastguard and so forth?
Mr Ainsworth: Yes, absolutely.
Q164 Mr Jenkin: Could you write to us with a more sort of comprehensive answer about all the government agencies?
Mr Ainsworth: There will be other vessels available at any one time, but those we are required to maintain.
Mr Jenkin: That is what the Ministry of Defence is required to maintain, but I am asking what is generally available to a gold commander in an area, and I would echo the Chairman's point that six ships does not seem very much.
Q165 Chairman: I must say, I am listening to these answers with increasing horror!
Mr Day: On any one day, there will be
other ships available. This is
guaranteed availability, but on any one day, there will be ships available in
Mr Ainsworth: That is a requirement to maintain on patrol six, but there is more than that at any one time.
Mr Jenkin: Could you write to us with details of what is available from the other government agencies because, I appreciate, that might not be in your knowledge at the moment.
Q166 Mr Havard: So, if we have a super-tanker coming into Milford Haven and it has been taken over in some fashion or another, it is going to be used as a weapon and it is within three hours of getting to the place, a ship is not necessarily going to get there in time, so you would call on other assets to help you deal with it or do whatever?
Mr Ainsworth: We have a maritime counterterrorism capability.
Q167 Mr Havard: Part of which would come. Anyway, that is a different matter. The question of ports, I think, is clearly important. The USA are having a debate amongst themselves and a great struggle about their declaration that they want to check everything that is going in and out of their ports and coming on to their land and going off it. I am not quite sure if they know how they are going to do that, in fact they do not know how they are going to do that, but we have the same problem, do we not? Is that co-ordination work being thought about? Yes, it is going to be somewhere, but is the lead on that transport?
Lord West of
Havard: So the dirty bomb in a
container coming through
Lord West of
Q169 Mr Havard: So presumably the merchant fleet in some fashion are involved in that discussion and then the operators or the commissioners of them and then presumably the Reserves from the Navy as well in some fashion, they are linked into that through the Navy presumably? We have people in the Merchant Navy and elsewhere who are reservists who are called upon and presumably they are represented by the Navy in that discussion.
Lord West of
Hancock: But the overwhelming number
of ships coming into the
Lord West of Spithead: I have not been down there sailing for a while, but all I would say is that TRANSEC are responsible for the security of the UK port and the ships in that port and the ships leaving that port, so, if there was a feeling that there was a security risk, they should make sure that they establish the right security checks to ensure that does not happen.
Q171 Mr Holloway: If there were a major incident, presumably one would need additional hospital beds, ships or helicopters, whatever it is, from the private sector or wherever which was needed in that period. Is there any sort of legal framework for taking over assets that do not belong to the State and using them in an emergency?
Lord West of
Q172 Mr Holloway: In the aftermath of this hopefully unthinkable sort of 10,000-plus casualties, have you got any sort of legal basis where you could take over a private hospital and have every private helicopter in the country working towards the effort or whatever it is?
Lord West of
Q173 Mr Hamilton: Chairman, the last question will maybe put some light on that and you have to respond about the coverage we have in British seas and the Royal Navy's role in that and the other agencies which would be involved, but can I say that one of the things that concerns me is that there is not an accountability as far as I can see from all the evidence we have taken today and it worries me that, if a disaster did happen, I could imagine one phrase being used all the way through this, "Not me, guv! I'm not responsible". Now, somehow or other it is about public communication and people having public accountability. I have been in this Parliament for seven years and I did not realise that we were not aware of what was going on around the waters of the UK and that a certain department had one identification and another department had another identification, so could I plead with you that, when you have these discussions which are taking place, the communication position to the public, and there are 60-odd million people out there, that that be looked at very seriously and that you should really consider someone taking the responsibility, and not necessarily your Department, but someone taking responsibility for co-ordination. It seems to me like a patchwork quilt we are looking at here.
Mr Ainsworth: You need to think about whether or not you actually divvy up those responsibilities in terms of the land environment, the maritime environment and the air environment or whether or not you divvy them up in terms of particular areas of responsibility because, if you talk about particular areas of responsibility, then people do have responsibilities, do they not, but it is just that we have not divided them up in that geographical way. Her Majesty's Customs and Excise have their responsibilities, the Department for Transport have their responsibilities, we have responsibility to deliver particular capabilities and, if we do not deliver those capabilities and if there is not that force ready as promised, then we are responsible, so there is responsibility, it is just not divided up in that way. It is not divided up in that way in the land environment either. The Department of Health have certain responsibilities, the Department for Transport have certain responsibilities and we have our own responsibilities with regard to the protection of nuclear establishments, so we do not divide it up by land or maritime or anything else.
Q174 Mr Hamilton: Minister, I do understand that. What I am saying is that, on the communication level, I think it leaves a lot to be desired and I do think that consideration should be given to some person or a number of people who take responsibility to make sure that that communication can go through.
Mr Ainsworth: For every threat in the maritime environment?
Mr Hamilton: Not for every threat, no. It is not just a responsibility of the last man standing, the Prime Minister, he often is responsible and everyone understands that he will be the person who comes in, but I seriously believe that the Prime Minister needs one line of communication to get that information to him rather than a whole host of organisations, which seems to be the case that is coming through, and at some point in the future I am just asking if you can consider that.
Q175 Chairman: Further on David Hamilton's question just now, getting back to the first question I asked of who owns the National Security Strategy, the impression seems to be, "Well, it's the Prime Minister", but, if it is the Prime Minister who owns it, then in reality nobody does. Is that not the problem because, in order to get up to that level, you have got to have an extraordinary catastrophe to bring in the Prime Minister?
Mr Ainsworth: Each contributor, each department, each organisation owns its own area of responsibilities and they are laid out.
Q176 Mr Holloway: But it does feel like no one is in charge.
Lord West of
Q177 Chairman: If that is not right, in what respect is it not right?
Lord West of
Q178 Mr Holloway: But you are the Security Minister, and this is no reflection on you, this is the position you are in, but I am staggered that the person that I thought, in my ignorance before today's meeting, was in charge actually does not know roughly how many beds we can generate in the event of a mass casualty attack. It really surprises me.
Mr Ainsworth: But the Department of Health will.
Q179 Mr Holloway: Yes, I know, but that is my point.
Mr Ainsworth: COBRA will form in a particular format based on the circumstances.
Q180 Mr Holloway: Well, that is reactive, but who is actually joining it up? If we go back to unity of command and unity of purpose, the comprehensive approach, joined-up stuff, it all sounds very good, all this process and paper-pushing, but who is actually in charge?
Lord West of
Q181 Mr Holloway: It is an easy answer, it is not complicated.
Lord West of
Q182 Mr Holloway: But who is in charge?
Lord West of
Q183 Mr Jenkin: My question follows on from this which is that we all know from the polling evidence that the public does not really like being stirred up about this subject. It makes politicians get accused of trying to frighten the public for some sort of political reasons and it is regarded with great suspicion. Is there a danger that, because we all want to avoid doing that, we are actually not giving this the profile in government that it really deserves and that we do not want to have a national security minister in the Cabinet because that would add to the anxiety of people and raise people's suspicions more, but have we actually not got to face it and have we also not got to recognise that the public need to be made aware of these dangers because, the more aware the public is of these dangers and risks, the more alive they are to those risks and in fact the safer we will be?
Mr Ainsworth: And that is the whole reason for publishing the National Security Strategy and all of the work that will flow from that in order to put the necessary departments in place and then to take that out, as appropriate, into the public domain and to warn people appropriately so that they could help and contribute.
Q184 Chairman: I also think that we have perhaps been pursuing a question of whether there should be a Cabinet minister involved in national security which is beyond your and our pay grades.
Lord West of
Chairman: Not beyond ours, but probably beyond yours!
Q185 Mr Jenkins: Based on Lord West's answer, in a pandemic we plan for maybe 40 per cent illness.
Lord West of
Q186 Mr Jenkins: So we have got a situation with 40 per cent non-shows in our strategic and vital industries of health, water and power. Do we have power or will we need to create power for the direction of labour so we can put people in, and maybe this is civil contingency?
Lord West of
Q187 Mr Jenkins: But do we have the authority within the Civil Contingencies Act to redirect labour in this country?
Lord West of
Q188 Mr Hancock: You need to say that your plan takes account of the possibility of 40 per cent not turning up so the 60 per cent can operate the plan. Otherwise, the wrong message goes out again to the public when you have built in the contingency of 40 per cent.
Lord West of
Chairman: Well, thank you very much indeed all of you for giving us evidence and helping, even those of you who did not speak; it is much appreciated. This has been a very interesting, in some ways reassuring, in some ways alarming, morning's evidence, but I think that is the end of it.