Examination of Witnesses (Questions 33-39)|
Assistant Commissioner David Veness and Chief Constable
27 OCTOBER 2004
Q33Chairman: Good morning gentlemen. It is always
a great pleasure to welcome old friends to the Committee. You
are very welcome, Mr Veness and Mr Tomkins. Before we start, could
you give us your full titles so that we have that on the record?
Mr Tomkins: I am Paddy Tomkins, Chief Constable
of Lothian and Borders Police, representing the Association of
Chief Police Officers in Scotland.
Q34Chairman: What is your role within ACPO?
Mr Tomkins: Today I am representing the Chief
Constables' Council. We are constituent members of the ACPO Standing
Committee on terrorism and allied matters.
Q35Chairman: You are responsible for that within
Mr Tomkins: Yes.
Q36Chairman: You do not have another title within
Mr Tomkins: No, we do not have a separate or
parallel structure for terrorism and allied matters. We are members
of ACPO in that regard.
Q37Chairman: That clarifies a question we had.
Mr Veness: I am David Veness. I have effectively
three roles that are probably of relevance. I am the Secretary
of the Association of Chief Police Officers, ACPO, Terrorism and
Allied Matters Committee, known as ACPO-TAM. Unusually within
British policing, that is a body that encompasses England and
Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, so we speak with one voice
on counter-terrorism. I am also the Chairman of the group known
as the ACPO Advisory Group, which acts as the operational co-ordination
mechanism dealing, as it were, with quick time issues and immediate
operational responses, and again that function is across the United
Kingdom. The third function of relevance is as Assistant Commissioner
Specialist Operations in Scotland Yard, because there are certain
functions of that command which historically have been attached
to it, particularly protection, security and anti-terrorism, because
of the absence of national policing structures for counter-terrorism
within the United Kingdom.
Q38Chairman: Thank you very much indeed. That
has been enormously helpful and members will have much appreciated
the fact that we have such experience with us today. Could I then
begin by welcoming you and thank you very much for coming and
for your evidence, which has been very full and we will be asking
questions based on that. We have all read avidly the evidence
that you have put before us. I wonder if I could register, for
the benefit of members of the public who are now sitting behind
you, the subject of the inquiry, which is an examination of a
number of proposals designed to strengthen EU counter-terrorism
activities, particularly through much more extensive data exchange.
These proposals raise important issues relating, among other things,
to data protection and the institutional arrangements within the
EU for combating terrorism. I hope that has been helpful. Members'
interests relevant to the inquiry are being deposited at the back
of the room. I wonder whether, before we start questioning, you
would like to make any opening statements?
Mr Veness: My Lord Chairman, there are some
very brief points which may be helpful in terms of context. The
first point is to understand the nature of counter-terrorism,
because I think sometimes there is a danger that it is perceived
as only focusing on effective intelligence and detection of individuals,
whereas I think, particularly in the 37 months since 9/11, it
is as important to recognise that dealing with community issues,
dealing with the handling of crises, and indeed dealing with the
consequences should dire terrorist events unfold are equally important.
In many ways those issues have tended to be dealt with separately,
both nationally and internationally. Our view is that the cohesive,
as it were linear, approach to all of those issues in many ways
defines the agendas both as to which nations can contribute and
particularly which supra-national bodies can contribute. The strategic
challenge would be the first point. The second point is that the
way that our world has changed in counter-terrorism in the last
37 months can be summed up in the one word "global",
in that hitherto we dealt with an issue which was regional; here
within the United Kingdom we understood a threat that emanated
primarily from the island of Ireland that was aimed at the GB
mainland. That is transparently no longer the case. Every instance
that we are engaged in, almost however minor, in this new dimension
involves a range of nations, and indeed a range of nations much
broader than the European Union. Thirdly, our view is that the
gap internationally on the global scale is in relation to national
capability and capacity. In our judgment, the key building block
is to ensure that each individual country, particularly those
which understand that they are afflicted by this new dimension
of threat, is responding appropriately and is building effectively
from the national level upwards. The fourth issue, very briefly,
if we are to reflect on and be critical of where progress has
not been achieved, particularly over the last 37 months, would
be the growth of the support networks. This is dubbed the radicalisation
debate. I think probably more accurately for radicalisation read
extremism because of the nature of the origins of the issue, and
indeed the support networks, if anything, sad to relate, are growing
rather than diminishing. We would regard that as almost the key
strategic challenge in halting that development and ideally reversing
it. Those would be the four brief points that I would make.
Mr Tomkins: The only thing I would add, in addition
to the points you have already clarified in your kind introduction,
is that from Scotland's perspective, we are part of the ACPO structure
and therefore we recognise ACPO policy development in this area
and the pre-eminence of the Metropolitan Police. There are jurisdictional
issues, obviously, as has been referred to, between Scotland and
England and Wales, and those, in some ways, govern the operational
constraints. That might offer a microcosm of some of the issues
that are being explored by this Committee in terms of EU interoperability.
Q39Chairman: Thank you very much indeed. I think
that leads us very nicely into the first question. As I said,
we are most grateful for the papers you were both able to send
us. My first question is about the Police Working Group on Terrorism.
You have given us quite a lot of information about that. I am
very grateful for that because you stress the importance of the
role of that group where it deals with counter-terrorism operations
in Europe. I just wondered if, for the sake of our report, you
would be able to tell us a little bit more about how it operates
and whether its members have powers to exchange personal data.
How does it link in to other databases? Is there a need for it
to do that sort of thing?
Mr Veness: If I may paint the skeleton, this
is an unusual body in that it pre-dates most of the other institutions
to which we will probably refer. It was born out of tragedies
during the 1970s. There were the beginnings of an understanding,
particularly when the activities of the Provisional IRA were manifest
on the continent of Europe during the 1970s. You will recall that
the attacks upon NATO institutions at that time, the Red Brigades,
the Baader Meinhof era, were very much novel challenges. There
was recognition amongst operational police chiefs of the need
to have an effective communication method that dealt with issues
at the operational level that was swift, effective and non-bureaucratic.
That was the intention. It was formally established in 1979. It
now links, in terms of EU membership, the Baltic States plus Malta,
the most recent to join.