Appendix: Government response |
1. The Government is committed to effective, proportionate
evidence-based emergency management, which draws on advice from
a range of sources, including science. It welcomes the Committee's
conclusion that "science is used effectively to aid the
response to emergencies", and believes this is testament
to its planning and preparations. Significant steps have been
taken to ensure scientific advice informs decision making at all
stages of crisis management (see below) and the Government is
committed to continuously improving the way in which this advice
is coordinated and used in emergencies. We welcome the efforts,
time and thought invested by the Committee, and the open way in
which it conducted the inquiry.
Scientific evidence and advice in the risk assessment
2. Evidence for planning for emergencies in the UK
is provided by the National Risk Assessment (NRA) which has been
cited by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development
as an example of 'best practice...for producing tools to help
high level policy makers compare multiple risks"'.
Although the NRA process is coordinated by Cabinet Office, its
production relies upon extensive expertise from within and outside
government, including scientific advice. The NRA aims to provide
a well-rounded evidence base which can be used to inform decisions
about building UK resilience.
3. To ensure scientific evidence is given due consideration
during the NRA process, departments across Whitehall are expected
to draw upon their Scientific Advisory Groups and Chief Scientific
Advisors when reviewing, updating and identifying new risks, and
we continue to encourage Lead Government Departments do this.
To ensure quality is maintained, a number of review mechanisms
are built into the NRA process. These include:
- a cross-government Risk Assessment
Group comprising of key advice providers, which provides a mechanism
for peer review;
- an interdepartmental Risk Assessment
Steering Group which provides oversight and direction to the NRA
process as a whole and an additional internal challenge function;
- the National Security Council's
Threats, Hazards, Resilience and Contingencies sub Committee (NSC(THRC))
and its official level group which sign-off the whole process.
Scientific evidence and advice during planning
4. During the planning phase, Lead Government Departments
use their own Scientific Advisory Groups to commission new research
and draw on a range of experts to ensure their planning is informed
by science. In circumstances where the lead has not yet been identified
(i.e. because it is unclear where the majority of impacts would
fall or because impacts are evenly spread across a number of sectors),
Cabinet Office fulfil this role, working closely with the Government
Office for Science, and Government and external experts as appropriate.
Scientific evidence and advice during response
5. During emergencies requiring cross-government
coordination, a Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE)
is activated to coordinate scientific advice to inform decision-making.
The effectiveness of this group is testament to the Government's
planning and preparations as SAGE draws upon existing advisory
groups and builds upon and adapts existing advice.
6. SAGE built on and benefited from advice formulated
by the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Advisory Committee (SPI),
whilst the volcanic ash SAGE used existing departmental Scientific
Advisory Groups to coordinate advice, and benefited from significant
atmospheric modelling work already undertaken by the Met Office.
In both events existing Scientific Advisory Groups were supplemented
by appropriate external experts and some bespoke arrangements
to ensure the best available advice was provided.
7. As part of continuous improvement, the Government
is reviewing and further refining SAGE operations, reflecting
lessons learnt from recent emergencies and exercises. "Amplified
Science Guidance" on SAGE has been developed in consultation
with a range of scientific advice providers and tested in Exercise
Watermark (a cross-government flooding exercise in March 2011).
It is now being revised to reflect the lessons learnt during this
exercise and the Committee's recommendations. The Amplified Science
Guidance will be published in summer 2011.
Actions taken since the publication of the Committee's
8. On 11 March (9 days after the Committee's report
was published) one of the largest earthquakes on record occurred
off the coast of Northern Japan, triggering a tsunami and the
destabilisation of one of the Fukushima nuclear power plants.
On the 13 March SAGE was activated to coordinate advice on potential
scenarios for events at the power plant and inform UK policy decisions.
Despite the short gap between the publication of the Committee's
report and the earthquake in Japan, the Government has been able
to act on many of the Committee's recommendations. In particular,
the membership of SAGE and transcripts of teleconferences have
already been published online. SAGE also worked with international
experts to ensure everyone was working to the same assumptions
and built on scientific advice developed during the planning phases.
9. The Government response to each of the Committee's
recommendations and an outline of progress to date against each
is outlined below. For ease of reference, these are presented
in the order in which they appear in the report.
Lead Government Departments (LGDs)
One of the Cabinet Office's first tasks in an
emergency should be to review whether the pre-identified choice
is most appropriate. During a long-running crisis where the emergency
evolves and the focus of the response may change (for example,
from the initial response to recovery phase), COBR should review
the lead periodically. (Paragraph 38)
10. The Government agrees that emergency response
and recovery arrangements should be both flexible and periodically
reviewed. The Cabinet Office maintains the list of Lead Government
Departments for both
response and recovery and reviews this in light of the precise
circumstances of any emergency. In many cases, the Lead Government
Department for response is different to that for recovery. For
instance, during both the 2007 floods and the more recent 2010
Cumbrian floods, the Lead Government Department role transferred
from Defra during response to DCLG during the recovery phase.
This reflected the shift from flood forecasting and management
to recovery. During the volcanic ash disruptions of 2010, the
Lead Government Department changed from DfT, where the focus was
on managing disruptions to airspace, to the FCO when the focus
shifted to repatriating British Nationals stranded abroad.
We recommend that, in responding to this report,
the Cabinet Office clarify how it makes the decision to appoint
the first LGD if one has not been pre-identified. (Paragraph 39)
11. In circumstances where the Lead Government Department
is unclear, the Cabinet Office, in consultation with the Prime
Minister's office, identifies a lead. This decision is based on
where the majority of the impacts fall, with the department normally
responsible for that area being identified as the lead. If impacts
are evenly spread across a number of sectors it may be difficult
to designate a Lead Government Department. In these circumstances,
the Prime Minister may appoint a Minister to lead in a non-departmental
capacity, or a department to lead on an issue which might not
normally fall to them. In these circumstances the designated lead
Minister would chair relevant meetings and lead on parliamentary
and media handling with support from other Ministers and departments,
as necessary. Support for the lead minister would normally be
provided by their department and the Cabinet Office.
12. It is important to note that whilst the Lead
Government Department is responsible for providing leadership
it is not necessarily responsible for all aspects of delivery.
For this reason, the Lead Government Department will in many emergencies
need to work closely with other government departments and agencies
to ensure a coordinated response and/or recovery. Further details
on the process for appointing Lead Government Departments can
be found in the: "Responding to Emergencies, the UK Central
Government Response - Concept of operations"
We recommend that a LGD/LGDs for a space weather
emergency be identified alongside the publication of the 2011
National Risk Register. (Paragraph 42)
13. The Government agrees that for known risks a
Lead Government Department should be identified. Currently, it
is difficult to determine which department should provide the
lead for space weather. This is because although the range of
potential impacts is known, it is unclear which sector will be
most affected. Work is currently underway to further define the
impacts of space weather and this will inform the next iteration
of the NRA and public facing NRR. Once this work is completed
a Lead Government Department will be identified and the Government
will update the designated Lead Government Department list accordingly.
If the impacts of space weather are evenly spread across a number
of sectors and departments, a lead Minister would be identified
and the Cabinet Office would continue to coordinate space weather
We are surprised and concerned that the Government
Chief Scientific Adviser (GCSA) had no direct involvement with
the National Risk Assessment (NRA) process until recently. In
addition, we are concerned that the GCSA's oral evidence appears
to be at odds with the Government on an issue that is a matter
of facteither GO Science and the GCSA are involved with
the NRA process or they are not. We consider that science should
be at the heart of the NRA process and ask the Government and
the GCSA to clarify this matter. (Paragraph 54)
14. The Government agrees that science is an important
element of the NRA process. Science is one of a number of core
components that inform the NRA and the consideration of scientific
advice is important to ensuring the NRA is a well-rounded assessment
process which informs decisions about building UK resilience.
15. In the first instance, risk owners (Government
Departments) are responsible for ensuring that appropriate scientific
advice is included in the assessment and identification of any
new risks. This should include the departmental Chief Scientific
Advisors and their officials, departmental Scientific Advisory
Groups, Heads of Analysis and external advice where appropriate.
16. Officials from the Government Office for Science
and its predecessors have been engaged in the NRA process, through
the interdepartmental Risk Assessment Group and Risk Assessment
Steering Groups (see paragraph 3), since the first NRA was produced
in 2004. This group provides a mechanism for all departments to
challenge and inform current NRA risks and highlight any emerging
risks. The presence of the Government Office for Science on these
groups provides an opportunity for them to challenge assessments
and propose potential new risks. Consequently, the GCSA, as head
of Government Office for Science, has a pivotal role in the scrutiny
of the scientific evidence that informs the NRA (see below).
We recommend that the GCSA should be formally
involved in the NRA process at a high level. The NRA should not
be signed off until the GCSA is satisfied that all risks requiring
scientific input and judgements have been properly considered.
17. The Government agrees that the GCSA should be
formally involved in the NRA process, in addition to the Government
Office for Science's presence on the interdepartmental groups
which provide a review mechanism (see paragraph 3). As noted above,
the Government Office for Science is involved at all stages of
the NRA process and this means that the GCSA is fully engaged
in the scrutiny of the scientific evidence that informs the NRA
through the involvement of his staff in the interdepartmental
review groups. Work is underway, via the NRA interdepartmental
groups (see paragraph 3) to identify ways to strengthen scientific
scrutiny within the NRA process and consider how best to more
fully engage the GCSA in the process of approving the assessment
of risks requiring scientific input and judgement. Given scientific
evidence is one of several types of evidence feeding into the
NRA, the Government remains of the view that overall sign-off
of the NRA should remain with the National Security Council Threats,
Hazards, Resilience and Contingencies sub-committee (NSC(THRC)).
We recommend that the Government Office for Science,
while remaining a semiautonomous body, be located within the Cabinet
Office. (Paragraph 61)
18. The Government believes that, although there
may be benefits of locating the Government office for Science
within Cabinet Office, it should remain located within the Department
for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS). We believe that the
Government Office for Science location in BIS does not inhibit
close and effective cooperation between the staff of the GCSA
and the Cabinet Office. The co-location of the Government Office
for Science and BIS facilitates close working between the Government
Chief Scientific Adviser with the Minister for Universities and
Science and the Director General for Knowledge and Innovation
in BIS. The Government Office for Science works closely and effectively
with the Cabinet Office and other departments.
We recommend that the Government clarify why no
review of the risk of disruption to aviation caused by a natural
disaster, including volcanic eruptions, was undertaken in 2009;
and provide the evidence behind the decision. (Paragraph 65)
19. For a number of years, the Department for Transport
had identified a risk of disruption to air travel from natural
hazards occurring overseas. The possibility of volcanic ash causing
such disruption was an example. The risk of a volcanic hazard
abroad caused by a combination factors such as type of volcano,
content of ash cloud and prevailing wind conditions as was witnessed
last year, and resulting in significant and prolonged ash incursions
over UK airspace, and was perceived to be unlikely. A more serious
risk of disruption to airspace was assessed to arise from other
hazards, for instance severe winter weather, and UK resilience
capability and resilience planning for disruptions to airspace
were driven by these other risks.
20. During production of the 2009 NRA, the Department
for Transport (DfT), as the risk owner for the disruption to aviation
from natural hazards, examined available historic data and found
no evidence of previous instances of prolonged disruption to aviation
in the UK arising from volcanic activity abroad that would warrant
identifying this as a qualifying risk for the NRA. DfT proposed,
and the cross-government Risk Assessment Group agreed, that this
risk should be removed from the list of NRA risks to be reviewed
that year. Following the events of April / May 2010, the Government
recognised the need to review this assessment. The SAGE mechanism
was used to draw upon advice from experts across a range of scientific
specialities and their advice was used to inform the identification
and assessment of the risks associated with volcanic hazards abroad.
This included disruptions to aviation, resulting from volcanic
ash plumes (added to the 2010 NRA) and wider disruptions resulting
from gas-rich volcanic eruptions (to be added to the 2011 NRA).
It appears that there may have been a breakdown
of communication between the earth sciences community and Government.
We recommend that the GCSA assess whether this was the case and
improve the mechanisms by which scientists can engage with the
Cabinet Office. (Paragraph 66)
21. The Government disagree with this assessment.
Paragraphs 19 to 20 outline the reasons why the volcanic ash hazard
was not in the NRA. We do not believe this to be because of a
breakdown of communications. However work is underway to consider
how scientific scrutiny within the NRA process can be improved
and how to strengthen the input of the scientific community to
Government risk management. For example, the Government has worked
closely with the Earth Science community to develop and assess
a number of NRA risks (e.g. severe space weather).
We are pleased that the Government is assessing
the risks posed by space weather ahead of the next solar maximum.
This is vital given that the Government believes the National
Grid could be at risk. The Government should take all possible
action to put in place and coordinate resilience measures across
different sectors. (Paragraph 69)
22. The Government agrees that the next stage following
the assessment of the risks posed by severe space weather is to
consider if the type and level of capability to deal with power
and telecommunication impacts needs to be revised, and whether
any additional resilience measures are needed to respond to this
particular risk. However, we seek to reassure the Committee that
the UK is prepared for the consequences of a severe space weather
event. The Government's approach to preparing for civil emergencies
is to plan for the consequences of risks, regardless of the cause.
The NRA contains a number of risks which result in a loss of power
(e.g. as a result of bad weather) and / or a loss of telecommunication
(e.g. as a result of a localised incident such as fire, flood
or gas incident). These other NRA risks have set the type and
level of capability needed to deal with loss of power and telecommunications
and has informed preparations in these sectors.
23. The Government has identified a risk of emergencies
of this kind as a consequence of severe space weather, and is
continuing to consult expert opinion on both the likelihood of
severe space weather occurring over the next five years, and on
the potential impacts.
We are disappointed that the GCSA has little involvement
with the Domestic Horizon Scanning Committee in the Cabinet Office.
We recommend that GO Science and the GCSA consider ways of assessing
the quality of the Domestic Horizon Scanning Committee's work.
24. The Government can confirm that officials from
the Government Office for Science have been engaged in the Domestic
Horizon Scanning Committee's (DHSC) since 2002. This Committee
provides all members of it an opportunity to peer review the DHSC
assessments that are undertaken by individual departments, drawing
on relevant expertise and data. Although some of these assessments
are scientific in nature, many focus on operational issues and
readiness. The Government Office for Science will continue to
work closely with the Cabinet Office to ensure that Departments
fully engage appropriate scientific experts and considering science
at an early stage in their assessments where appropriate. This
will include encouraging departments to draw on the expertise
of their Departmental Chief Scientific Advisors and relevant officials.
We recommend that, in replying to this report,
the GCSA clarify why SAPER was abolished and to what extent its
functions, particularly in planning for emergencies, have been
retained and by whom. (Paragraph 73)
25. Although SAPER no longer exists, its functions
are retained by:
- the Scientific Advice Group
for Emergencies (SAGE) which advises Ministers during emergencies;
- Scientific and Technical Advice
Cells (STACs) which advise local emergency responders during emergencies;
- Scientific Advisory Groups
(SAG) and the departmental Chief Scientific Advisor (CSA) network
which coordinate scientific advice to inform planning and preparations.
For example the Home Office run SAG that focuses on the handling
and preparation for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear
(CBRN) Counter Terrorism events.
26. There was general agreement across Whitehall
that, whilst SAPER panel members were selected for their expertise
and experience across a broad range of fields, relevant subject
matter experts would be required for particular emergencies both
for response and preparations. Building upon the concept of SAPER,
the SAGE, STAC and SAG concepts were developed. SAGs and the CSA
network, allow departments to access subject matter experts for
their emergency planning and preparations, whilst the SAGE and
STAC concepts are designed to be flexible so that once activated,
they allow coordination of advice from relevant subject matter
experts, drawing on existing SAGs and the CSA network to do so.
We recommend that a new independent scientific
advisory committee be set up to advise the Cabinet Office on risk
assessment. This committee should review the NRA, setting up temporary
sub-committees as appropriate. Having an independent scientific
advisory committee for risk assessment to review the NRA would
improve public and parliamentary confidence in a necessarily unpublished
document. The committee should inform the judgement of the GCSA
in ensuring that all risks requiring scientific input and judgements
have been properly considered in the NRA and support his greater
involvement with the Domestic Horizon Scanning Committee. (Paragraph
27. The Government welcomes the Committee's recommendation
on improving scientific scrutiny in the NRA process as we are
always keen to strengthen the process and existing mechanisms
for ensuring scientific evidence and advice is considered and
28. The Government is committed to continuing to
encourage risk owners (Government Departments) to draw on the
advice of their Scientific Advisory Groups and their Chief Scientific
Advisors when reviewing, updating and identifying new risks to
be assessed. Given their personal knowledge and strong links with
academia and industry, CSAs are able to draw on a large pool of
internal and external experts.
29. The Government is also committed to continuing
to host cross-government Risk Assessment Groups and Risk Assessment
Steering Groups which provide an opportunity for peer review and
challenge. These groups include all risk owners and other relevant
departments and agencies and the Government Office for Science.
30. The Government Chief Scientific Advisor has established
a 'Blackett Review' group which has provided independent scientific
scrutiny of the NRA process. Once the Blackett Review report is
completed the Government will carefully consider how the independent
advice of this group can be used to augment the NRA process.
31. The Government Office for Science and Cabinet
Office are working to identify suitable options for strengthening
scientific scrutiny in the NRA process. This will include providing
opportunities for experts to provide a fresh perspective on the
scientific inputs to the process and to comment on potential high
impact, low probability risks and/or cross-cutting risks which,
by their nature, are difficult to identify.
Reasonable worst case scenario
We are concerned that the word "reasonable"
appears to be influenced by the need to find a reasonable level
of public expenditure for contingency planning rather than outlining
the worst scenario that might realistically happen, based on the
best available evidence. (Paragraph 87)
32. Judgements on reasonable public expenditure levels
are not used to define the reasonable worst case scenarios included
in the NRA. The level of expenditure that the Government and industry
spend upon mitigation and contingency planning is a separate judgement
which is made by the Government based upon the NRA. The "reasonable
worst case scenario" of a particular risk is based upon historical
and scientific data, modelling and trend surveillance and the
professional judgments of experts. The justification for the phrase
'worst case scenario' being preceded by the word 'reasonable'
in the NRA is to prevent scenarios being formulated that are considered
so unrealistic or unlikely that they are implausible.
33. From Cabinet Office's previous experience, without
a reasonable worst case scenario, departments and agencies would
be likely to adopt differing approaches to identifying risks.
For instance, some might identify hypothetical but implausible
scenarios with sometimes extreme consequences. Others might be
excessively optimistic and identify a 'best case' scenario that
does not present a 'plausible yet challenging' manifestation of
the risk. The 'reasonable worst case scenario' is designed to
steer a course between these two extremes.
34. The 'reasonable worst case scenario' relies on
judgments, informed by scientific expertise. For each NRA risk,
the Lead Government Department is responsible for ensuring that
appropriate science advice is incorporated into the risk assessment.
We welcome the fact that the GCSA is reviewing
the concept of a reasonable worst case scenario. We request that,
if possible, the results of this review are sent to us and published
before any policy change is adopted. (Paragraph 88)
35. The Government can confirm that it will ensure
the Committee receives a copy of the Blackett report once it is
The National Risk Assessment and Register
We conclude that it should be clear what criteria
are used in developing risk comparisons, particularly when they
cut across Government Departmental responsibilities. We recommend
that the Government clarify the common methodology and scale for
assessing the likelihood of risks that are used in developing
the NRA and NRR. (Paragraph 95)
36. An outline description of the criteria for developing
risk assessments and comparisons was published in the National
Risk Register of Civil Emergencies in 2010, which is an unclassified
presentation of the main groups of risks assessed in the NRA.
All risks within the classified NRA are evaluated using comparable
likelihood and impact scoring criteria. The overall impact score
for each risk is the average of the five separate impact criteria:
the number of fatalities, the number of casualties, the economic
cost; the level of social disruption and the psychosocial impact
upon the public. Social disruption is subdivided into 10 further
categories including interruption to essential services such as
transport, energy and food supplies, as well as access to healthcare
and schooling. All impact categories are scored using clearly
defined impact scales which describe orders of magnitude differences
in the level of impact.
37. The likelihood of a hazard is scored using a
5 point logarithmic scale, starting at a 1 in 20,000 chance and
going up to a 1 in 2 chance of occurring in the next five years.
Threat likelihood assessments are conducted by the security services
on behalf of Civil Contingencies Secretariat (CCS) and take into
account the vulnerability of a target and the capability and intent
of potential perpetrators.
38. The public NRR gives a summary of the assessment
of risks contained within the NRA, and is based on the same methodology.
Details of the scores for specific risks which underpin the NRA
assessment are not included in the public facing NRR because of
the potential to comprise the safety and security of UK citizens.
Instead, individual NRA risks are categorised into 14 main groupings
and placed upon the NRR matrix in terms of likelihood and impact
relative to other risk groups.
We are concerned that the development of the NRA
and NRR appears to be a "topdown process hindering the involvement
and influence of local authorities. This situation is unsatisfactory.
We recommend that the Cabinet Office review its procedures to
ensure that the input of local authorities is given full consideration
and appropriate weight. (Paragraph 97)
39. The Government is confident that the NRA process
and the public-facing NRR do not hinder the involvement and influence
of Local Authorities in risk assessments. The NRA responds to
the provision in the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 that the government
may issue to Category 1 responders guidance and assessments of
the likelihood of a particular emergency occurring, and the assessed
impacts if it did. This is for the purpose of informing and assisting
local risk assessments which Category 1 responders are required
to undertake under the Act. Therefore it is important that local
and UK risk assessments are both complimentary and synchronised.
For this reason the Government is committed to ensuring that local
and UK assessments inform each and to the principle of subsidiarity.
Wherever possible identification and assessment of risk, the planning
of response and the subsequent recovery are locally led, drawing
on the expertise and knowledge of the community. Local Resilience
Forums (LRFs) which are made up of emergency responders, including
Local Authorities, are encouraged to highlight local risks by
publishing a Community Risk Register.
40. The Government is committed to ensuring that
local emergency planners are adequately supported to fulfil their
duties under the Civil Contingencies Act and this includes supporting
them in assessing risks locally. The National Risk Register, annual
Local Risk Assessment Guidance and guidance on assessing the impacts
of specific risks (e.g. flooding and pandemic influenza) provide
emergency planners with a basis from which to perform their risk
assessments and guidance on how to translate national risks into
local risks that can inform their planning.
If it is the case that access to the NRR alone
is insufficient to allow local authorities to assess the potential
impacts of risks to local areas, and access to the classified
NRA is necessary, then we question the operational value of the
NRR. We recommend that the Government conduct a consultation with
Category 1 emergency responders, including local authorities,
to evaluate how useful the information on the NRR is for risk
assessment and emergency planning. (Paragraph 98)
41. The National Risk Register (NRR) which was first
published in 2008, is intended to provide guidance on the risks
of civil emergencies, primarily for businesses and other organisations
not in the public sector, and for individuals, families and communities.
A secondary purpose is to assist local responders in producing
Community Risk Registers which provide assessments that reflect
42. The NRR is reviewed on a regular basis to reflect
changes in the National Risk Assessment and continual feedback
on the document is encouraged via the Cabinet Office Webpage.
In early 2010, CCS undertook a series of consultation workshops
with a cross section of NRR users. This included business representatives,
a range of specialists (e.g. media representatives, business continuity
experts), community representatives and cross-departmental experts.
Category 1 and 2 responders (which include Local Authorities)
were consulted via the Government resilience online network. The
general response from these consultations was very encouraging
with a wide-range of NRR users stating that they considered the
NRR to be a well-written, informative and valuable document.
43. The Government is committed to seeking feedback
on its guidance, from target audiences and it will continue to
consult Category 1 and 2 responders, following each publication
of the NRR. The feedback received will be used to develop the
guidance that the Government publishes.
We recommend that the Government review whether
those with appropriate security clearance outside of Central Government
have difficulties accessing the NRA, and put in measures to resolve
the problem. (Paragraph 99)
44. The Government is committed to releasing as much
information on the risks of civil emergencies as it can, consistent
with the requirements of national security, and with the need
in some cases to preserve confidentiality. To facilitate access
to those that require the NRA, the assessment was shared with
all UK police forces for the first time in 2010. As well as informing
police work, this move was intended to increase direct access
to the NRA for Local Resilience Forums (LRFs), the majority of
which are chaired by the police. LRFs are made up of Category
1 and 2 responders and may include other relevant parties such
as charity organizations.
45. In particular, we recognise that much of the
hazard information in the NRA is not sensitive and have therefore
released the reasonable worst case scenarios for natural hazards
through the publication of a guide to improving the resilience
of infrastructure and essential services, currently out for consultation
until 6 May 2011. The planning assumptions for Pandemic Influenza
have also been released in the Government's Influenza Pandemic
Preparedness Strategy which was launched for consultation on the
22 March 2011.
We are disappointed at the lack of focus on social
and behavioural sciences in Government to date. We expect the
newly established Cabinet Office Behavioural Insight team to provide
input to risk assessment for emergencies. (Paragraph 108)
46. The Government agrees that scientific advice
should draw on evidence, analysis and assessments from a wide-range
of appropriate scientific specialities, including both the social
and natural sciences. In response to the Committee's report, the
CCS has discussed with the Cabinet Office Behavioural Insights
team how it can usefully inform the risk assessment process and
further promote the importance of social and behavioural considerations
in risk assessment, planning and response, to risk owners.
47. In addition, as part of its work to develop further
guidance on SAGE, the Government has identified a set of principles
for defining SAGE membership. These include statements that SAGE
- include representatives from
a wide-range of appropriate scientific and technical specialities,
to ensure well-rounded advice is produced; and
- include the most appropriate,
rather than the most accessible experts (i.e. those experts that
are best placed to provide high quality, trusted, well-respected
strategic advice rather than those that are the easiest to contact).
48. Following the publication of this new Amplified
Science Guidance on SAGE, the Government will promote the importance
of scientific evidence in emergencies and this will include considering
evidence and advice from both the natural and social sciences.
Existing good practice includes the Behaviour and Communication
sub-group of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Advisory Committee
(SPI) which has been used by the Department of Health to inform
its preparations since 2008 and was used through-out the 2009
H1N1 pandemic to inform decisions and provide briefings on a range
of topics, including aspect of vaccination and principles of effective
49. The Government will continue to encourage departments
to publish the evidence and advice which underpins their policy
decisions. For instance, the Department of Health developed a
series of 12 scientific evidence base papers to underpin the UK
Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Strategy, which was published
for consultation in March 2011. Five of these papers covered social
and behavioural science issues including:
- factors associated with the
uptake of vaccination;
- demographic and attitudinal
determinants of protective behaviours during a pandemic;
- principles of effective communication;
- healthcare workers willingness
to work; and
- respiratory and hand hygiene.
These have been published on the DH website.
We would like to know whether and when a Government
Chief Social Scientist will be appointed to replace Professor
Wiles. (Paragraph 109)
50. Following the departure of Professor Wiles in
March 2010, Jenny Dibden (based at the Department for Work and
Pensions) and Richard Bartholomew (based at the Department for
Education) took over as joint Heads of Service for the Government
Social Research Service.
If, following the GCSA's Blackett Review, the
concept of a reasonable worst case scenario is retained, we recommend
that the Government must make continual efforts to establish the
concept of "most probable scenarios" with the public.
While the Government should be open about the worst case scenarios
being used by emergency responders, it should use the experience
of the 2009 pandemic to emphasise the range and likelihood of
various possibilities. While we do not expect this to remove all
the problems associated with communicating risk and uncertainty,
we consider that it may provide the public with a better sense
of the likely risks.(Paragraph 123)
51. The Government agrees that more can be done to
improve the way in which risk is communicated and believes that
targeted approaches are needed for different audiences. We are
committed to ensuring that evidence is drawn from a wide-range
of scientific specialities, including behavioural sciences (see
52. The Government will carefully consider the recommendations
of the Blackett Review once it is completed. The 'reasonable worse
case scenario' concept is essential for both Government and local
planning and preparations. Identifying the consequences of a range
of scenarios allows the Government and local planners alike to
identify capability requirements and the comparison of risks allows
those that require specific preparations to be identified. Describing
challenging yet realistic scenarios ensures that decisions about
capability and resilience planning are robust yet proportionate.
53. The Government recognised in its response to
the 2009 influenza pandemic and the 2010 volcanic ash episode
that the 'reasonable worst case scenario' may not always the best
way to communicate risk to the general public as it can raise
unnecessary alarm. During response, communication of the best,
most probable and worst case can be a helpful way of communicating
uncertainty and the range of possible scenarios. Work is already
underway in many Government departments to understand how risk
can be better communicated to both planners and the public. The
Government is committed to ensuring that this work continues and
it will ensure that the Committee recommendations are fully considered
as part of this work.
We recommend that there should be a single portal
of information for every emergency, along the lines of flu.gov
in the USA. This should be of use to members of the public as
well as emergency responders and should be the primary source
of all information, linking to other websites as necessary. We
consider that maintaining this portal should be the responsibility
of the Lead Government Department, and should be located within
its departmental website. (Paragraph 128)
54. The Government agrees that information should
be easily accessible in one place, on departmental websites as
this helps improve transparency. Work is currently underway to
promote the need to publish the scientific evidence and advice
which underpins key decisions. The Lead Government Department
Guidance which is currently being revised and the new Amplified
Science Guidance on SAGE will both emphasise the need for openness
and transparency. Both documents will be published in summer 2011.
55. Recent emergencies have demonstrated the importance
of effectively communicating with the public and the value of
using scientists to communicate scientific messages, where appropriate.
For instance, during the H1N1 (2009) pandemic the Chief Medical
Office gave regular media briefings on the pandemic. Dame Deidre
Hine in her independent review of the Government's response to
the pandemic reported that she had heard that the use of a "single
authoritative voice" throughout the 2009 swine flu pandemic
had worked well and built on learning from previous emergencies.
She also reported that she felt that access to a wider range of
experts may have helped further boost credibility. Building on
this the Department of Health is currently working with professional
bodies and the Devolved Administrations to explore how it can
best communicate the latest clinical advice via a single portal.
This will include consideration of what can be released and to
whom (in line with the FOI Act); ensuring communications are targeted
at both GPs and the general public and consideration of the ownership
of data, and who should publish it.
The Government should carefully consider the public's
assumptions about swine flu (or any new flu strain) when communicating
the risks of that strain in the context of seasonal, rather than
pandemic, outbreak. (Paragraph 132)
56. The Government agrees that consideration of the
public's assumptions about Swine flu (or any new strain) is important.
The Welsh Assembly Government is currently conducting a piece
of research to assess the impact of swine flu on attitudes to
the seasonal vaccination programme. This work is due to conclude
shortly and the Department of Health will build the findings of
this work into their planning for 2011/12.
We recommend that the JCVI conduct a comprehensive
review of the benefits and risks of extending influenza vaccination
programmes to all children under five, drawing on the experiences
of countries, such as the USA, that already have policies of vaccinating
under fives. (Paragraph 133)
57. At the request of JCVI, the Health Protection
Agency is conducting a comprehensive study to assess the impact
of the seasonal influenza programme and possible extensions to
it, including the routine vaccination of all children between
six months and under five years of age. The study will draw on
international knowledge as appropriate but as the epidemiology
of influenza differs between geographic regions, it is important
to consider the impact of any potential changes to the vaccination
programme in the UK context. JCVI plans to consider the completed
study in October 2011.
We ask the Department of Health to clarify how
the gap caused by the lack of a statistician on the swine flu
SAGE was addressed. (Paragraph 150)
58. The balance of expertise on the swine flu SAGE
covered a wide range of scientific disciplines. Although the swine
flu SAGE lacked a member whose primary area of expertise was statistics,
many of the SAGE members, in particular those with a background
in mathematical modelling had extensive expertise in statistics
and statistical analysis.
59. In line with the Code of Practice for Scientific
Advisory Committees, the Department of Health periodically reviews
the balance of expertise on the Scientific Pandemic Influenza
Advisory Committee (SPI) and will continue to do so. It is also
working with the Government Chief Scientific Adviser to ensure
that there is an appropriate balance of expertise on SAGE for
any future influenza pandemic outbreaks.
In line with the Code of Practice for Scientific
Advisory Committees, which states that SACs should operate from
a presumption of openness, we recommend that SAGE members and
their declarations of interest are published once initial membership
has been established. (Paragraph 152)
60. The Government strongly agrees that SAGE should
operate from a presumption of openness and agrees that SAGE membership
and their declarations of interest should be published, with the
permission of SAGE members. It is also committed to ensuring that
SAGE members are not preventing from saying so. The Government
respects the privacy of the external experts involved in SAGE,
all of whom participate on their own good-will. It is therefore
committed to appropriate timing of the publication of SAGE membership
lists. Some members may prefer to keep their SAGE status quiet
during the emergency to, for instance, avoid heavy media attention.
61. SAGE membership lists and their declarations
of interest are now published online for all recent SAGE's (i.e.
the Swine Flu, Volcanic Ash and Japan nuclear SAGE's).
We recommend that GO Science, working with Departments,
develops and maintains a directory of scientific experts who can
be called upon in emergencies. The directory should include information
on expertise area, current security clearance and previous experience
advising Government. We anticipate that focus should be placed
on the risks identified in the NRA, although not exclusively.
We conclude that having a SAC for risk assessment in the Cabinet
Office, as we recommended above, could also assist GO Science
in identifying members for this directory. (Paragraph 155)
62. The Government strongly agrees with this recommendation.
For known risks potential SAGE members should be identified and
believes that Lead Government Departments should include procedures
for the activation of SAGE and identification of potential members
in their preparations for emergencies.
63. The new Amplified Science guidance on SAGE will,
when published, recommend that Lead Government Departments consult
their Chief Scientific Advisors (CSAs), Heads of Analysis and
if appropriate their Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) and/or Chief
Veterinary Officers (CVOs) to identify and maintain lists of potential
SAGE members. CSAs will consult their own networks (such as from
academic, National Academies and societies and international networks)
and the Government Chief Scientific Advisor (GCSA). Any list
of potential SAGE members should include an appropriate range
of scientific and technical specialities and the best available
rather than most accessible experts. These lists should be flexible
and resilient, avoiding reliance on specific individuals in case
they are unavailable in the event of an emergency (e.g. because
they are affected by the emergency, sick or otherwise engaged).
International sharing of scientific data and expertise
will often be pivotal to the resolution of an emergency. We recommend
that the GCSA clarify how he ensures that SAGEs draw on international
expertise and what formal role SAGE members may play in this.
64. The Government agrees that there is a need to
establish and maintain international links to draw on international
expertise where required in emergency situations. Many of these
networks already exist through bilateral or multilateral cooperation
between countries or through international governing/scientific
bodies. Lead Government Departments and/or SAGE will be able to
draw upon these resources, where confidentiality considerations
allow. If existing links with international data sources or expertise
are not immediately apparent, the lead CSA (or GCSA) will seek
advice from the CSAs network, relevant departments and SAGE members
for assistance in identifying and contacting appropriate international
partners. SAGE members are selected for their expertise, (in many
cases world leading) and it is expected that they will be able
to offer sound advice on which international experts to approach.
65. For example, on the recommendation of the British
Geological Survey and the Met Office, international geological
and meteorological experts were invited to join the volcanic ash
SAGE. Paragraphs 117 to 118 provide details on international data
sharing during the 2009 influenza pandemic. In addition, the Japan
nuclear SAGE has engaged with a broad range of international experts,
including those that have knowledge of the specific reactor systems
at Fukushima. This SAGE has also received regular materials from
the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) and regular updates
on the status of the Fukushima Nuclear Plant from the British
Embassy in Tokyo. Since the start of the emergency in Japan, the
GCSA has been engaged with his counterparts in the US and Europe
and key agencies have worked closely with their international
We recommend that GO Science and the Cabinet Office
develop an appropriate remuneration policy for future SAGE members
by September 2011. We recommend that they also consider whether
compensating SAGE members' employers would be appropriate. (Paragraph
66. The Government agrees that it is important to
develop an appropriate remuneration policy for future SAGE members.
We are committed to ensuring that appropriate personal expenses
are paid to non-government SAGE members as a matter of course
and that other costs are reviewed on a case by case basis using
a business case approach. Where there is a clear Lead Government
Department, it is their responsibility to ensure SAGE is adequately
funded. Work is underway to develop bespoke arrangements for circumstances
where the Lead Government Department is unclear or the responsibility
for SAGE is split. These arrangements and principles will be published
in the new Amplified Science Guidance on SAGE, in summer 2011.
SAGE: transparency and openness
We recommend that if GO Science provides the secretariat,
details of members and minutes of meetings should be published
on the GO Science website. If information on a SAGE is best sourced
through the LGD, we consider that GO Science's website should
link to the relevant Departmental webpage. It should be clear
from GO Science's website where information on the SAGE is published,
and how the secretariat can be contacted. (Paragraph 166)
67. The Government agrees with the Committee that
SAGE advice and information should be published in a place where
it can easily be found. In circumstances where the Government
Office for Science and Cabinet Office jointly provide the SAGE
secretariat, details of members, minutes and papers will be posted
on the Government Office for Science website. Where there is a
Lead Government Department, SAGE information will be published
on their website, with links to this provided on the Government
Office for Science website. To maximise transparency, the Government
also believes that links to SAGE scientific advice should be provided
on the Cabinet Office website, given they own UK crisis management
and their website might be considered an obvious place to look
We recommend that all SAGE meeting minutes and
other documents which would be made public following a FoI request
are published immediately, in full or redacted form as appropriate.
68. The Government strongly agrees that SAGE should
operate on a principle of openness and transparency and that those
SAGE papers which would have been made public following a FoI
request are published. For most emergencies, it is likely that
a number of FoI exemptions will apply to SAGE scientific advice
(e.g. national security, pre-empting policy decisions and personal
information). For this reason some SAGE advice will need to be
redacted and/or not released until the decisions which it informs
have been taken.
69. The Government is also committed to ensuring
that SAGE members are not prevented from publically stating that
they are a member of SAGE or from talking about their own opinions
and work. They will however be asked to protect sensitive information
(as defined by the FOI Act) in doing so.
70. The membership of all three recent SAGE activations
(i.e. the Japan nuclear, volcanic ash and Swine Flu SAGE's) is
now published online. The minutes and key papers from the Swine
Flu and Volcanic Ash SAGE's and key transcripts from the Japan
nuclear SAGE are
also now published. Minutes and key scientific advice papers from
the Japan nuclear SAGE will be published once the decisions that
the advice informs, have been made.
We recommend that SAGE and its secretariat have
a responsibility to identify and support SAGE members willing
to communicate scientific issues to the public during an emergency.
We further recommend that the GCSA and GO Science, in consultation
with Cabinet Office and external centres of expertise such as
the Science Media Centre, develop suitable protocols, procedures
and guidance for SAGE members. (Paragraph 172)
71. The Government strongly agrees that the way in
which SAGE advice is communicated is crucial. In response to lessons
learned from swine flu and volcanic ash responses, the GCSA took
a much more prominent role in briefing the media on SAGE scientific
advice on events at the Fukushima power plant in Japan. Through
the UK embassy in Tokyo, the GCSA held several teleconferences
with UK nationals in Japan providing them with an opportunity
to discuss their concerns about the nuclear incident. In doing
this, the GCSA was supported by a number of SAGE members. The
transcripts from these teleconferences are available online at
the embassy website.
72. In addition, the new Amplified Science Guidance
on SAGE which the Government is developing, will emphasise the
need for effectively communicating scientific advice and emphasise
that LGD should consider this as part of their emergency preparations.
This guidance will be published is summer 2011.
While we do not doubt Sir Gordon Duff's independence
from Government in his role as SAGE co-chair, it is still not
clear to us how independence of the swine flu SAGE as a whole
was maintained, particularly as it included Government officials.
It is difficult to evaluate the independence of scientific advice
when the operation of SAGE is confidential. (Paragraph 175)
73. The Government is committed to ensuring that
SAGE is effectively organised and focused on providing well-balanced
advice that is independent. The new Amplified Science Guidance
on SAGE that Government is developing places the responsibility
for ensuring independence on the SAGE chair or co-chairs. It will
also clarify that SAGE should operate in accordance with the Code
of Practice for Scientific Advisory Committees providing advice
to Government and the Principles for Providing Scientific Advice
74. The principles for providing scientific advice
to the Government applied during Swine Flu and SAGE members were
fully aware of these. The role of Government officials on the
Swine Flu SAGE was, in addition to contributing their own relevant
scientific expertise, to improve the liaison between SAGE, the
Department of Health and the Civil Contingencies Committee and
the rest of COBR. This liaison function is essential to ensuring
that SAGE can:
- provide scientific pros and
cons to policy options under consideration;
- suggest alternative options,
as appropriate; and
- provide timely advice.
75. The minutes from the 22 swine flu SAGE meetings
were published on 14 October 2010.
These detailed documents should enable the independence of the
scientific advice to be evaluated.
SAGE and other sources of scientific advice
While there will be scientific advice to Government
from sources other than SACs, we see benefits in coordinating
advice from SPI and JCVI for future pandemics. Given that the
SPI advisory committee was effectively drawn upon to form the
basis of SAGE membership, we consider that a future pandemic influenza
SAGE should include members of the JCVI (in addition to the JCVI
Chair) either as core members of SAGE or a sub-committee. This
could speed up the process by which ministers receive advice on
vaccination strategies while retaining the crucial challenge function.
76. The structural arrangements for the provision
of scientific advice during a future pandemic are currently under
review by the Department of Health. They will carefully consider
this recommendation as part of this review. The Department of
Health will develop a Concept of Operations which will outline
the arrangement for a future pandemic influenza SAGE, and build
on the Amplified Science Guidance on SAGE that will be published
in summer 2011. The review will also take into account the establishment
of Public Health England and its advisory bodies.
Because of the CAA's groundwork and the relatively
late formation of SAGE during the volcanic ash emergency, it appears
that SAGE contributed little to scientific understanding of the
key issue: the ash tolerances of engines and aircraft. We question
how much additional knowledge SAGE added to enable airspace to
be reopened. (Paragraph 182)
77. The Government disagrees with the conclusion
on SAGE's contribution to the scientific understanding of the
emergency. The volcanic ash SAGE made significant contributions
to the understanding of the risks associated with volcanic hazards
and how this coupled to the prevalent meteorology. It provided
a mechanism for peer review of the modelling that underpinned
the operational decisions regarding flight operations within the
ash plume, and the changes that were made to the Volcanic Ash
Advisory Centre (VACC) output during the emergency. As explained
in paragraph 103 these operational decisions on tolerable limits
of ash and the closure of airspace were the responsibility of
the CAA in the UK. The CAA were represented on SAGE and provided
regular progress reports on its work.
78. While SAGE is not formally established until
requested to do so by COBR, the GCSA, key CSAs and experts from
within and external to Government were providing advice to Cabinet
Office and other key Departments as soon as Central Government
were alerted to the issue.
79. SAGE made significant contributions to reviewing
the Met office NAME model and refining the understanding of what
was happening at the source of the eruption, one of the key uncertainties
at the outset (see paragraphs 108 to 110). Advice from SAGE enabled
the fluctuations in activity at the volcano and on the layering
of ash in the atmosphere to be understood and factored into real-time
modelling and operational decision-making.
80. SAGE also provided a useful mechanism for ensuring
the robustness of modelling and forecasts. Empirical data from
a range of ground and remote sensing measurements (e.g. ground
and airborne ash samples and measurements from LIDARs which use
lasers to detect and measure airborne particles) were all used
to validate the model. More details on the suitability of the
model used can be found at paragraph 108 to 112. This work was
vital to provide the confidence in ash concentrations and behaviour
to inform both CAA and National Air Traffic Services Decisions.
Empirical data from a range of ground measurements in Iceland
and the UK, remote sensing (e.g. using lasers) and air-borne samples
were all used to validate the model.
81. On 13th May, at the request of the CAA, the GCSA
chaired a half-day meeting in central London to brief senior executives
from the aviation industry and regulatory bodies (including representatives
from international regulatory bodies). The meeting was organised
to communicate the key scientific issues behind the emergencyparticularly
that the combination of the nature of the volcano and its proximity
to the UK added complexity to the knowledge of the source terms
used by the NAME model and the subsequent modelling of ash concentration
and dispersion. Several SAGE members with expertise in volcanology
and meteorological modelling (including the Chief Scientist from
the Met Office) spoke to the industry representatives, and answered
specific questions relating to the incident and the science behind
it. Other members of SAGE were present to describe their work
to provide the validation that ash was present in the atmosphere
and to provide validation of the source terms used.
The SAGE mechanism has been used twice, and is
therefore relatively new. We expect the Government to have evaluated
the impacts that both SAGEs have had and whether SAGE's ways of
working need improvement. We recommend that, in responding to
this report, the Government provide us with its evaluation on
the effectiveness of both SAGEs. (Paragraph 184)
82. SAGE has now of course been activated for a third
time in relation to the Japan nuclear situation. As standard practice
following all actual emergencies and exercises, lessons and good
practice are identified. This includes identifying lessons for
providing, coordinating and using scientific advice and evaluating
the effectiveness of SAGE (if active).
83. For the 2009 influenza pandemic, an independent
review of the UK response was carried out by Dame Deirdre Hine.
For volcanic ash, an internal evaluation of SAGE was coordinated
by Cabinet Office and the Government Office for Science. This
review involved asking SAGE members for feedback and evaluating
their responses. A report outlining the lessons and good practice
identified will be published on the Government Office for Science
website. Both reviews praised the efforts of the scientists on
SAGE and of the secretariat. However, as would be expected both
reviews highlighted a number of areas for improvement, including
some of those indicated by the Committee. These lessons are being
reflected in the current work to develop enhanced guidance for
SAGE and we will continue to ensure we refine the SAGE processes.
84. The Government does not plan to undertake a further
evaluation of the effectiveness of the swine flu or volcanic ash
SAGE activations. It will evaluate the effectiveness of the Japan
nuclear SAGE once its work is complete.
The Government should explain who provided the
secretariat for the volcanic ash SAGE. (Paragraph 187)
85. The secretariat for the volcanic ash SAGE was
jointly provided by the Government Office for Science and the
Where the LGD is unclear or yet to be identified,
we consider that GO Science should by default provide the secretariat
to support a SAGE. (Paragraph 188)
86. The Government agrees that where the Lead Government
Department is unclear, the Government Office for Science should,
together with Cabinet Office, provide secretariat support to SAGE.
To ensure SAGE is focused on key policy questions, the SAGE secretariat
should, in these circumstances be jointly led by the Cabinet Office
and the Government Office for Science, supported by other government
departments as appropriate.
87. The Government considers that the effectiveness
of SAGE secretariat is crucial for ensuring Minister's receive
the best available, well-rounded advice in a timely fashion. The
SAGE secretariat has a responsibility for seeking assurances on
the quality of the advice provided and for ensuring it is focused
on key policy questions. In circumstances where there is a Lead
Government Department, this department is best placed to lead
on ensuring SAGE is effective. In circumstances where the Lead
Government Department is unclear, the Government Office for Science
is best placed to seek assurances on the quality of the advice,
whilst Cabinet Office, is best placed to ensure advice is focused
on key policy questions. During the response phase to emergencies,
resources across Government are inevitably stretched. For this
reason, the Government is keen to encourage other Government Departments
to consider their role in SAGEs for circumstances where they are
not the Lead Government Department.
88. The new Amplified Science Guidance on SAGE will
clarify the purpose of the SAGE secretariat and who is responsible
for it, emphasising the points highlighted above. This guidance
will be published in summer 2011.
We recommend that the GCSA either clarify what
guidelines/codes of conduct apply to SAGE or, if no existing ones
apply, produce guidelines governing how SAGEs should operate.
The guidelines should address independence, transparency, confidentiality
and the conduct of members, the Chair and the supporting secretariat.
We recommend that the guidelines be published. (Paragraph 189)
89. The Government Office for Science's owned "Code
of Practice for Scientific Advisory Committees" and the
"Principles of Scientific Advice to Government"
apply to all scientific advisory committees that advise government.
As SAGE is designed to advise ministers in COBR during emergencies,
it should in principle comply with the Code of Practice for
Scientific Advisory Committees and in line with the Principles.
90. The Government is currently developing new guidance
on SAGE. This will include a link to both the Code of Practice
for Scientific Advisory Committees and the "Principles
of Scientific Advice to Government". The new guidance
on SAGE will be published in summer 2011. In addition the Government
is committed to reviewing and revising the SAGE Terms of Reference
and Confidentiality Agreements to ensure that they clearly reflect
the Government's commitment to transparency and ensuring that
decisions are evidence-based. The Confidentiality Agreement will
need to clarify what is meant by sensitive information, as defined
in the FoI Act, and explain why this needs to be protected.
Changes to the Health Protection Agency and Joint
Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation
We recommend that the Government sets out how
the independent advisory functions of the HPA and JCVI will be
maintained. If any function of the HPA or JCVI is cut, we consider
that a justification should be published. (Paragraph 193)
91. The Government recognises the importance of ensuring
that the scientists and other public health professionals who
currently work for the HPA and who will in future work in Public
Health England as part of the Department of Health, demonstrably
offer impartial scientific advice. Public Health England, whilst
a part of the Department, will have a distinct identity within
the Department of Health and an operational focus. Members of
Public Health England will continue to be bound by professional
codes and, as with other civil servants, by the Civil Service
Code, which requires civil servants to act with integrity, honesty,
objectivity and impartiality. All Scientific Advisory Committees
(SACs) will be expected to abide by the Code of Practice for SACs.
Work on designing the new national arrangements for public health
will continue over the coming months.
92. During 2011/12, JCVI will be reconstituted as
an independent committee of experts to the Department of Health.
The reconstituted committee will have a similar remit to that
of the current committee, retain its independence and continue
to consist of independent experts.
93. The Government is committed to ensuring that
the scientific research it funds is transparent and independent.
The Department of Health and the National Institute for Health
Research are partners in the initiative to create UK PubMedCentral
(UKPMC) which was launched in January 2007. This initiative provides
a permanent and free-to-access digital archive of the full text
of peer reviewed research publications (and datasets) arising
from research funded by the Department of Health, the National
Institute for Health Research and other members of the UKPMC Funders
Group. In addition, the Department of Health are committed to
creating a Chief Medical Officers Public Health Advisory Board
which will bring together Public Health England with its lead
partners. This Board will provide a means of ensuring that Public
Health England not only provides the high quality services we
expect, but that it also abides by the highest possible standards
for scientific advice.
Use of Research Council resources
We are concerned that the delayed reimbursement
to NERC for use of the Dornier 228 aircraft has damaged trust
between the Government and the research community, with the danger
that there may be reluctance to make such resources available
in future. We recommend that the Met Office, whom NERC supported,
and the Department for Transport, the LGD, take responsibility
for ensuring that NERC is reimbursed in full immediately. (Paragraph
94. During the volcanic ash disruptions of April/May
2010 NERC made an important contribution by allowing its Dornier
228 aircraft to conduct some atmospheric test flights in UK airspace.
The claim for the use of the aircraft was submitted on 18 February
2011. Following discussions with the Civil Aviation Authority,
the Department for Transport wrote to NERC on 28 March requesting
further information. The Department for Transport also indicated
that, subject to the receipt of satisfactory evidence to substantiate
the claim for the use of the Dornier 228 during the volcanic ash
disruption, it is willing to reimburse NERC for the use of this
aircraft. DfT will discuss with NERC the wider issues around NERC-supported
programmes related to the use of the Dornier.
Security and scientific advice
We consider that the Government must actively
ensure that requirements for security clearance do not deter academics
from providing scientific advice to Government. (Paragraph 202)
95. The Government is committed to ensuring that
security clearances do not prevent the coordination of scientific
advice that could inform decisions. There is however a need to
protect sensitive information and there is some information that
experts without security clearances will be unable to access.
Experts with appropriate security clearances (i.e. many Government
advice providers) can be used to manage sensitive information
flows. Working with the owners of sensitive information they can
determine how best to share sensitive information.
Office of Cyber Security and Information Assurance
In its response to this report, we recommend that
the Government clarify the powers and funding of the Office for
Cyber Security and Information Assurance. (Paragraph 210)
96. The Office of Cyber Security and Information
Assurance (OCSIA) was established in September 2010 within the
National Security Secretariat in the Cabinet Office. The team
supports the Security Minister, Baroness Neville-Jones and the
National Security Council in determining priorities in relation
to securing the UK's interests in cyberspace.
97. The OCSIA is responsible for producing a new
Cyber Security Strategy for the UK to be published in Spring 2011.
This will put the £650 million National Cyber Security Programme
announced as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review
on a formal footing and set out the broader UK response. The strategic
approach relies on growing our knowledge and understanding of
cyberspace, including insight into human behaviour, as well as
building our capacity and capability to act in cyberspace.
98. The National Cyber Security Programme (NCSP)
which is overseen by the OCSIA will move towards a step change
in UK cyber capabilities in the next four years. The NCSP will
be delivered by relevant departments such as Home Office, MoD,
GCHQ, CESG, CPNI and BIS, working with the private sector and
international partners and will help the UK get the most out of
cyber space by:
- enabling a cyber environment
that underpins economic growth and prosperity, including tackling
- improving the security and
resilience of the UK's infrastructure that relies on cyber space;
- using cyberspace to protect
our way of life and promote our values internationally.
99. Funding for specific elements of the NCSP for
2011/12 and beyond will be allocated by the OCSIA following the
submission of comprehensive business cases and formal approval
by HM Treasury. The minimum resources required to place OCSIA
on a sustainable basis will be included in the programme; they
will comprise a very small part of the overall funding (<2%).
Regular progress reports and reviews will ensure that the NCSP
is being delivered as approved in business cases and that it continues
to reflect cyber security priorities.
Space Situational Awareness
We recommend that the Government review the need
for the UK to increase its participation in, and contributions
to, ESA's Space Situational Awareness programme, following the
outcome of the 2011 National Risk Assessment. (Paragraph 216)
100. The UK Space Agency recognises the opportunities
that broader engagement with ESA's Space Situational Awareness
programme would bring, both in terms of exploiting UK expertise
and in terms of gaining access to regional capability offered
by European partners. The UK contribution to the Space Situational
Awareness programme is currently the minimum level at which Member
States can be involved. There is no direct UK participation in
the optional elements which include space weather. There will
be an opportunity to redress this situation at the ESA Ministerial
Council in late 2012 when Member States will subscribe to the
next three-year phase of the Space Situational Awareness programme.
101. An increased level of subscription for the UK
in the Space Situational Awareness programme would need to be
balanced against other calls for funding within the UK Space Agency's
programme and existing commitments. Alternative mechanisms which
would enable the UK science community to contribute to emerging
Space Situational Awareness and space weather international programmes
- supporting other ESA programmes
such as the General Support Technology Programme (GSTP); and
- supporting a possible national
programme which could be coordinated through the International
Space Innovation Centre at Harwell and in particular its Security
and Resilience Unit.
102. Prioritisation for funding of such activities
will be influenced by factors including the 2011 NRA assessment
and the developing National Space Security Strategy.
Regulations on flying through volcanic ash
We are concerned that, when asked why the UK was
unprepared for volcanic ash disruption, the former Secretary of
State for Transport chose both to distance himself from, and to
pass responsibility to, the CAA, a body for which he had ministerial
oversight. This is unsatisfactory. (Paragraph 222)
103. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is the UK's
independent aviation safety regulator. The initial decision to
impose airspace restrictions was based on the International Civil
Aviation Organisation's European Region Volcanic Ash Contingency
Plan which used established
guidance based on experience (i.e. that aircraft should avoid
encounters with volcanic ash). As it became obvious that this
was an unprecedented situation where it was not possible to fly
around the volcanic ash plume, it was entirely appropriate that
the CAA took the lead in international work with airlines, regulators,
and aircraft and engine manufacturers supported by scientists
and other aviation experts to develop a new approach to reducing
airspace disruption. The Department for Transport supported these
concerted efforts which led to the iterative establishment of
wider areas in which it was safe to fly. This work was based on
tolerable limits agreed by the aircraft and engine manufacturers
developed from new research and analysis on evidence gained from
the Eyjafjallajökull and previous ash encounters.
104. We welcome the Committee's recognition that
"it found little disagreement with" the view of Manchester
Airports Group that: "the crisis was solved by the CAA demonstrating
clear leadership and using scientific evidence to derive a workable
solution to the problem of closed airspace."
105. The 2008 independent Strategic Review of the
the 2010 ICAO audit of the UK's safety oversight system
both confirmed the CAA's status as a world-class safety regulator.
The Government is confident that the CAA continues to demonstrate
world-leading abilities, as evidenced in the immediate response
to and subsequent developmental work on the volcanic ash crisis.
Government will need to resolve the following
three policy and process issues (paragraph 224):
i. the CAA's contribution to EASA's decision-making
106. The Government supports the independence of
the CAA as the specialist aviation regulator in the UK. The Secretary
of State for Transport, who is accountable to Parliament for the
overall performance of the CAA, has set out his current priorities
for the CAA. These
priorities include "maintaining and developing the CAA's
good reputation and influence, both in Europe and internationally,
on those matters in which it has regulatory and technical expertise"
and specifically that CAA "support[s] and develop[s] the
effective management of EASA" where it is recognised that
"there is still much important technical work to be done
following the volcanic ash incident last year to ensure we are
better prepared for any future incidents of this nature".
107. The Government can reassure the Committee that
the CAA has been and continues to work in partnership with EASA,
actively supporting and engaging the Agency on a broad range of
activities related to volcanic ash and the Agency's responsibilities
for airworthiness, including continuing engagement with manufacturers
on developing understanding of engine tolerances to ash.
ii. the suitability of the Met Office's computer
108. The Met Office atmospheric dispersion model
NAME, is a versatile model developed for use in a diverse range
of incidents to predict the dispersion, transformation and deposition
of a wide range of airborne materials. It is underpinned by world
leading meteorology, and it is continuously being developed and
validated against other models as well as being used for a wide
range of situations, including providing real-time modelling for
the dispersal of radioactive materials, in Japan.
109. For instance, in October 2010 an international
meeting of experts found the Met Office NAME model performed as
well as, if not better than, the other leading transport and dispersion
models from around the world, at predicting the dispersion of
the volcanic ash plume from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano.
110. The accuracy of NAME model predictions depends
upon the accuracy of the source data inputted into it. During
volcanic eruptions it is difficult to tell precisely what is happening
at the source of the eruption, this is because scientists cannot
get close and instead estimates have to be made, using a range
of remote measurements (including analysis of ash deposits nearby,
airborne samples and measurements taken using lasers). During
the volcanic ash disruptions of 2010, the Met Office and SAGE
recognised that uncertainties about what was happening at the
volcano, as the key uncertainties in the NAME model.
111. Since the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull, the
Met Office has helped to secure a loan between Italy and Iceland
with Italy loaning Iceland a mobile, state of the art Doppler
radar. A permanent version of this radar, funded through ICAO
is due for deployment in Iceland in late 2011. This Doppler radar
will provide a continuous and more accurate assessment of eruption
source characteristics and can be deployed to monitor any Icelandic
112. In addition these improvements the Met Office
is already working to further enhance the NAME model outputs to
ensure they are suitable to meet revised operating procedures;
enable more involvement of the airlines in decision making; and
ensure the UK remains prepared for future volcanic eruptions.
113. A number of science papers specifically reviewing
the Met Office model performance during the Eyjafjallajokull eruption
are expected to be released for open review later this year. An
independent review of the NAME model has been commissioned by
the CAA which is expected to report in early summer.
iii. the involvement of airline operators in
114. The Government welcomes the Committee's recognition
that airspace restrictions were a necessary response to the immediate
volcanic ash threat to aviation safety and were imposed as a direct
consequence of international guidance current at the time of the
crisis. Substantial progress has been made in the UK, Europe and
internationally across a number of areas since the events of last
April to minimise future disruption in the event of further incidents.
115. Significantly for airline operators, ICAO's
International Volcanic Ash Task Force has published preliminary
which enables aircraft operators to operate in areas which may
be contaminated by volcanic ash, provided an appropriate safety
risk supplied to the supervising aviation authority is acceptable.
Such safety risk assessments must take account of airframe and
engine manufacturers' recommendationsit remains the responsibility
of manufacturers to determine what level of ash their equipment
can safely tolerate.
116. In addition, the European Aviation Crisis Co-ordination
Cell (EACCC) which was established by EU Transport Ministers in
May 2010, will play a vital role in coordinating and supporting
a harmonised and consistent response in the event of any future
Europe-wide disruption to aviation. The EACCC members include
the European Commission, European Aviation Safety Agency, Eurocontrol
and nominations from airspace users, air navigation service providers
and airports, supplemented by representatives from ICAO, national
regulators, the military, aircraft manufacturers, MET offices
and Volcanic Ash Advisory Centres.
International data sharing during the swine flu
We conclude that there needs to be a better mechanism
of data-sharing, particularly sharing of raw epidemiological data.
We recommend that the UK, as a member state of the WHO, propose
the formation of an international working group under the WHO
to discuss how to share effectively epidemiological data between
countries in the run-up to a new pandemic. (Paragraph 228)
117. The Government agrees that international data-sharing
is important. The UK has strong bilateral relationships with the
World Health Organization, the European Centre for Disease Prevention
and Control (ECDC), Australia, Canada and the USA. During the
2009 influenza pandemic, these links facilitated rapid sharing
of new epidemiological and clinical data. However, the Government
recognises that more can be done to improve and that lessons can
be learnt from the response to the 2009 influenza pandemic.
118. Following the 2009 pandemic, the WHO convened
an epidemiological working group to look at, amongst other things,
the development of an influenza surveillance manual and influenza
reporting requirements to the WHO. The Department of Health and
Health Protection Agency are currently working with the WHO to
discuss the development of a protocol for sharing raw epidemiological
information during any pandemics.
2 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
report 'Innovation in Country Risk Management': http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/33/18/42226946.pdf?bcsi_scan_F8D0BFE83951C3DA=XCi/RNOHcVvWqmHlbFfI/FEAAAAUQEdd&bcsi_scan_filename=42226946.pdf
Subsidiarity, defined in the Central Government's Concept of Operations,
refers to the process whereby decisions should be taken at the
lowest appropriate level with coordination at the highest necessary
level. Local responders should be the building block of response
for an emergency of any scale. http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/resource-library/central-government%E2%80%99s-concept-operations
Swine flu SAGE minutes available on the DH website at: http://www.dh.gov.uk/ab/SPI/DH_120535;
key advice from this SAGE can be found at: http://www.dh.gov.uk/ab/SPI/DH_118862 Back
Volcanic Ash Contingency Plan ICAO EUR Region (DOC 19), Issued
by theICAO EUR/NAT Office, Paris http://www.paris.icao.int/documents_open/files.php?subcategory_id=63 Back
Report of the Strategic Review of the CAA, Sir Joseph Pilling
(2008) http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/aviation/domestic/pillingreview.pdf Back
Final Report of the Safety Oversight Audit of the Civil Aviation
System of the United Kingdom, ICAO (2010) http://www.icao.int/FSIX/AuditReps/CSAfinal/UK_Final_%20Audit_Report.pdf Back
Letter from the Secretary of State for Transport to the Chair
of the CAA on current priorities, February 2011, http://www.caa.co.uk/docs/286/Feb2011Objectives_signedfinal.pdf
Guidance material on management of flight operations with known
or forecast volcanic cloud contamination http://www.paris.icao.int/documents_open/files.php?subcategory_id=63Guidance
regarding flight operations in the vicinity of volcanic ash,