Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Home Affairs Committee
(a) Commission Communication: Action Plan to support the protection of public spaces
(b) Commission Communication: Action Plan to enhance preparedness against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear security risks
(a) (39158), 13489/17, COM(17) 612; (b) (39159), 13484/17, COM(17) 610
19.1Security remains at the top of the European Union’s political priorities. The Commission has presented two Action Plans to support its wider efforts to establish “an effective and genuine Security Union” in which “the internal security of one Member State is the internal security of all Member States”. The aim is to reduce fragmentation and increase the capacity of Member States to respond to threats to their own internal security and to the collective security of the EU by providing a framework and tools to enhance cross-border cooperation and information sharing and to prevent intelligence gaps.
19.2The first Action Plan—document (a)—sets out a series of actions to improve the physical protection of public spaces and reduce their vulnerability to terrorist attack. The actions envisaged include:
19.3The second Action Plan—document (b)—identifies a range of measures to tackle the threat posed by chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) materials by:
19.4Both Action Plans envisage a pooling of resources and expertise to develop “innovative, sustainable and effective solutions” to evolving security threats. Neither is legally binding and no legislation is proposed—the measures contained in the Action Plans depend on the voluntary cooperation of Member States. The Commission will review the first Action Plan by the end of 2018 and the second no later than October 2019. Introducing the Action Plans, the Commissioner for the Security Union (Julian King) comments:
“Sadly, there can never be zero risk of terrorism, but we are continuing to cut the space terrorists have to prepare and carry out their crimes. As terrorist tactics change, we are stepping up our support to Member States in meeting these threats: helping protect the public spaces where people gather, while cutting off terrorists’ access to dangerous bomb-making materials and sources of finance.”
19.5The Security Minister (Ben Wallace) is generally supportive of both Action Plans. Although it is unclear whether the Government would wish to access EU funds to improve the protection of public spaces—the Minister says that the UK would “support European partners to consider accessing these funds”—he makes clear his support for practitioner networks, the exchange of information and best practice, and greater engagement with the private sector and local and regional government. The Minister agrees that Member States should continue to exchange information on CBRN at policy and operational level and that the EU should engage more closely with key regional and international partners on the CBRN threat. He supports the creation of “an expert cadre and hub” to improve coordination on CBRN risks at EU level as well as efforts to ensure that EU security research keeps pace with emerging threats. He says that the UK “has already prepared a robust response to CBRN incidents” but “will work closely with the EU as they strengthen their response capability and training products” and will share best practice “wherever possible”.
19.6As the Action Plans contained in these Commission Communications are non-binding, include no proposals for new EU legislation and impose no obligations on Member States, we would not as a rule draw them to the attention of the House. We do so on this occasion because the Action Plans are likely to remain in place beyond the UK’s departure from the EU. The Minister’s Explanatory Memoranda on the documents contain the now standard paragraph stating that:
“Until exit negotiations are concluded, the UK remains a full member of the European Union and all the rights and obligations of EU membership remain in force.”
19.7Regrettably, whilst supporting much of the content of the Action Plans, the Minister provides no assessment of the implications of the UK’s exit from the EU for continued cooperation with EU partners on CBRN security threats and the protection of public spaces. We therefore ask him to indicate:
19.8Pending the Minister’s response, the Commission Communications remain under scrutiny. We draw this chapter to the attention of the Home Affairs Committee.
(a) Commission Communication: Action Plan to support the protection of public spaces: (39158), /17, COM(17) 612. (b) Commission Communication: Action Plan to enhance preparedness against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear security risks: (39159), /17, COM(17) 610.
19.9Our Reports listed at the end of this chapter provide a comprehensive overview of earlier Commission Communications proposing a European Agenda on Security and setting out a roadmap of measures to develop “an effective and genuine Security Union”.
19.10Open public spaces have been a frequent target of terrorist attacks. Recent examples include pedestrian precincts, shopping malls, tourist sites, transport hubs, places of worship, concert halls and outdoor markets where there is a high risk of mass casualties. Member States bear primary responsibility for protecting their public spaces but the Commission considers that the EU could do more to support their efforts. It envisages two types of support: targeted funding to encourage the exchange of best practice across borders, develop networks of practitioners and produce guidance material; and greater engagement with stakeholders across the public and private spheres to ensure a more “joined-up” approach. The Commission recognises that there can never be “zero risk” but says that the operational measures it is proposing “will support Member States in detecting threats, reducing the vulnerability of public spaces, mitigating the consequences of a terrorist attack and improving cooperation”.
19.11Turning first to funding, the Commission says that it will dedicate €18.5 million from the policing component of the EU Internal Security Fund to support transnational projects on the protection of public spaces. It envisages using this funding to support operational cooperation on the ground and enhance coordination between first responders in the aftermath of a terrorist attack. In addition, the Commission intends to release up to €100 million from the European Regional Development Fund in 2018 for “urban innovative actions” which increase security and promote public safety through better design of public spaces. The Commission also intends to encourage greater use of EU research funding (from the Horizon 2020 programme) to improve the detection of explosives, firearms and other hazardous materials being brought into public spaces as well as possible mitigation measures. It underlines the importance of disseminating research results and supporting their take-up.
19.12EU support will be made available for the following initiatives:
19.13To foster cooperation with a wide range of stakeholders, the Commission says it will set up an Operators’ Forum to ensure that private sector organisations operating in public spaces are involved in discussions on security challenges and planning to improve the protection of public spaces. It will also seek to strengthen the involvement of local and regional authorities in the sharing of expertise and best practice.
19.14No chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) materials have been used in terrorist attacks within the European Union but Europol considers there are “credible indications” that terrorist groups wish to obtain them and are developing the knowledge and capacity to use them. Although the risk of a terrorist attack involving CBRN material is considered to be low, the impact would be high. The purpose of this Action Plan is to strengthen cooperation between Member States in preventing, preparing for and responding to the CBRN threat. It builds on an earlier EU CBRN Action Plan covering the period 2010–15 but seeks to take a more targeted approach, focussing on “a selected number of key priorities with clear EU added value and tangible outcomes”. It sets out four objectives and a series of cross-acting actions to implement them, supported by various EU funding programmes, which are intended to cover a wide range of actors involved in law enforcement, crisis management, protection of critical infrastructure and public spaces, public health, and the private sector.
19.15The Commission’s first objective is to reduce access to CBRN materials and improve detection. It proposes actions to:
19.16The Commission’s second objective is to enhance capabilities within the EU to prepare for and respond to security incidents involving CBRN materials. The actions it proposes seek to:
19.17The Commission’s third objective is to mainstream CBRN security in its external relations with third countries and strengthen cooperation with strategic partners (such as NATO) and specialised international organisations (such as the International Atomic Energy Agency, Interpol).
19.18The Commission’s fourth objective is to enhance knowledge of CBRN risks by setting up an EU-wide CBRN security network and harnessing the benefits of CBRN research. The CBRN security network would seek to reduce fragmentation of effort by bringing together a wide range of policy and operational experts. It would have an Advisory Committee of national CBRN Security Coordinators and representatives of the Commission, relevant EU agencies, the European External Action Service and other public and private stakeholders. Their task would be to review and analyse evolving CBRN threats and risks, identify gaps, advise on new policy initiatives and map existing sources of expertise. The Advisory Committee would be supported by a network of existing CBRN centres of expertise and a CBRN “knowledge hub” based in Europol’s European Counter-Terrorism Centre.
19.19The Commission underlines the need to improve the dissemination and take-up of research outcomes in the CBRN field and ensure that EU-funded research projects address emerging CBRN threats. It intends to encourage the development of European standards and certification for CBRN detection equipment.
19.20In his Explanatory Memorandum on the Action Plan to support the protection of public spaces, the Minister says that the Commission’s focus on fostering the exchange of best practice between Member States and enhancing cooperation is “an appropriate and proportionate level of EU action in response to the threat to public spaces”. He continues:
“The UK has a well-developed approach to the protection and preparedness of crowded places to terrorist attack under the Counter Terrorism Strategy CONTEST. In light of recent attacks against these locations in the UK and the rest of Europe, and the need to consider how and where we can improve our approach, we agree that there should continue to be an exchange of information with EU Member States—both at a policy and operational level.”
19.21The Minister describes the work underway to protect public spaces in the UK:
“The Government funds police Counter-Terrorism Security Advisers (CTSAs) to provide advice and guidance to crowded places sites throughout the UK, to train staff in counter-terrorism awareness, and encourage managers to develop response plans to a range of threats. CTSAs work in partnership with owners and operators to consider vulnerabilities to a wide variety of attack methodologies, and to advise on appropriate and proportionate protective security improvement activity to mitigate, prepare or respond to these threats. Advice and guidance is also provided by the National Counter Terrorism Security Office and the Centre for the Protection of the National Infrastructure.
“Government is also expanding its thinking and work to see what more can be done, including through more/better use of technology, to develop protective security and to promote preparedness at crowded places. This includes Government funded work to: research new technology, systems and behavioural science projects designed to keep people safe in crowds; develop understanding and awareness of how threats can be detected more easily through proportionate and cost-effective screening solutions; and considering whether more innovative, cost effective and flexible solutions can be designed to assist mitigate vehicle threats.”
19.22The Minister adds that the vulnerability of crowded places in other EU Member States is “a key concern” in protecting UK interests overseas and “a priority” in the UK’s bilateral relations and in its “priority country CT strategies”:
“Where appropriate we would support European partners to consider accessing these funds to deliver improvements in their response.”
19.23The Minister supports the Commission’s proposals to improve the exchange of knowledge and best practice “at policy, practitioner and specialist levels”. He continues:
“The UK has already developed such fora involving private sector expertise. We are supportive of sharing best practice to complement our bilateral engagement with priority countries, as well as drawing on the experience of other Member States to support our own ongoing assessment and policy development; however, this work would need to be prioritised against the ongoing considerations to ensure that our domestic approach to mitigate threats is appropriate and proportionate.”
19.24He also supports the Commission’s proposals to engage the private sector and local and regional government in the exchange of best practice on the protection of crowded spaces:
“Most crowded places are owned and/or operated by private companies, whilst there are also private sector interests in ‘low tech’ methodologies (for example, the sale of knives and use of hire vehicles in attacks). The UK has invested significantly in public-private engagement on the protection of crowded places and we would look to share our experiences to support greater public-private cooperation across Europe. Local/regional government is usually the responsible authority for public spaces (bridges, squares, busy thoroughfares). As such, we support the Commission’s proposals to involve the private sector and local/regional government in this work, and would look to share UK experience and best practice.”
19.25In his Explanatory Memorandum on the Action Plan to enhance preparedness on CBRN security risks, the Minister notes that the UK “has a well-developed response to dealing with the accessibility of CBRN materials” but agrees that “there should continue to be an exchange of information with EU Member States—both at a policy and operational level—on CBRN”. The UK has also developed “a more robust preparedness and response to CBRN security incidents” which the Government continues to review and update in light of emerging threats. The Minister continues:
“We have conducted training with first responders on how best to react when responding to a CBRN incident in order to maximise response times and their safety and minimise public alarm. We will work closely with the EU as they strengthen their response capability and training products, sharing best practice wherever possible.”
19.26The Minister supports the Commission’s proposals to engage more closely with key regional and international partners on the CBRN threat “and will provide support wherever possible”. He notes that CBRN “is a technical and rapidly evolving area” and expresses support for the Commission’s efforts to create “an expert cadre and hub that will be able to improve coordination at an EU level” and to “exploit better EU security research to ensure we are up-to-date with the emerging threat”.
None on these documents, but earlier Reports on the Commission Communication, The European Agenda on Security and the Commission Communication, Delivering on the European Agenda on Security to fight against terrorism and pave the way towards an effective and genuine Security Union are relevant: Third Report HC 71–ii (2016–17), (10 February 2016) and First Report HC 342–i (2015–16), (21 July 2015).(25 May 2016), Twenty-third Report HC 342–xxii (2015–16),
260 See p.3 of the Commission Communication: Delivering on the European Agenda on Security to fight against terrorism and pave the way towards an effective and genuine Security Union; Third report, HC 71–ii (2016–17), (25 May 2016).
261 See p.16 of the second Commission Communication on CBRN security risks.
262 See the issued by the European Commission on 18 October 2017.
263 See paras 10–14 of the Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum on the Action Plan to support the protection of public spaces.
264 See paras 9–12 of the Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum on the Action Plan to enhance preparedness against CBRN security threats.
265 See p.2 of the Commission Communication.
266 See p.2 of the Commission Communication. The Commission makes clear that a chemical, biological or radiological attack by a non-State actor is more likely than a nuclear attack.
267 See p.4 of the Commission Communication.
268 The Commission mentions Horizon 2020 (research and innovation), the police component of the EU Internal Security Fund, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism and a wide range of external financing instruments.
269 See para 6 of the Minister’s .
270 See para 9 of the Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum.
271 See paras 10–11 of the Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum.
272 See para 12 of the Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum.
273 See para 13 of the Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum.
274 See para 14 of the Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum.
275 See paras 9–10 of the Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum.
276 See paras 11–12 of the Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum.
1 December 2017