Select Committee on European Union Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80-85)

Assistant Commissioner David Veness and Chief Constable Paddy Tomkins

27 OCTOBER 2004

  Q80Chairman: Could I encourage you, Mr Veness, if you have not already read it, to read this Committee's report into Eurojust and the workings of Eurojust, which I would commend to you as the sort of definitive view of what Eurojust does. That might be helpful at some point.

  Mr Veness: Yes indeed, thank you, I am grateful.

  Q81Earl of Listowel: How important is training in the developments of an EU wide counter terrorism capability? Perhaps before putting this question, I might just ask you if you have any further comments you would like to make about how existing European Union structures might be better streamlined in their counter terrorism work or do you feel you have already covered that particular point?

  Mr Veness: I think in broad terms, if I was asked to reduce it to a nub, my Lord, it would be less of them, more effective and I think that is the agenda that beckons for the European coordinator.

  Q82Earl of Listowel: Thank you. Then to return to the question of training: how important do you think this is in the development of the EU wide counter terrorism capabilities and what role can CEPOL play?

  Mr Veness: In operational terms, it is probably close to the top of the agenda. I would not demur from keeping extremism as the one trans-national area that deserves to be at the very top of everybody's agenda, but training is almost as critical because it is the engine by which we are going to deliver capability and capacity. Particularly when one looks at the movement from the eastern borders of Europe down into the Mediterranean of the problems that are linked with traditional drugs trafficking routes, traditional routes whereby people are smuggled and the extent to which they are exploited by terrorists as well, our ability at a European level to contribute through training to the effectiveness of operations and the ability of officers across a range of agencies to make counter terrorism more effective on the ground is enormously important. It is one where those western European nations in particular, who sadly have had more developed counter terrorist agendas, have got something meaningful to contribute. The development of CEPOL is welcome—it is good that its home is here in Hampshire and that it has its heart at Bramshill—and we want to encourage its development. I think we are in early days, we have got a small number of permanent staff, it is a virtual network. It has made good progress in 2004, I think 2005 beckons in terms of delivery of courses across a range of areas—and back to my strategic challenge—covering everything from intelligence all the way through to putting the city back together when some disaster has occurred. I think it is well placed to make that broad contribution.

  Q83Earl of Listowel: Has the training been targeted? Should it be at senior officers or at various levels throughout the EU? CEPOL concentrates on the senior officers, do you feel that more needs to be done at other levels?

  Mr Veness: Yes I do. You have got to begin with an organisation understanding why it needs to be engaged in a particular problem, I think you have got to leave problem recognition to the bosses and then the rest of the pyramid hopefully will come into place. I think the importance of the training effort being across the span, as you suggest, is that one of our key judgments would be this dimension of terrorism is going to take years and years to contain, let alone to reverse the position that we occupy today. That being the case, I think collectively the leadership of British and European policing should be investing very heavily in our young men and women, in their analytical skills, in their understanding of the background of the problem, their ability to use language in a more effective way. That is in many ways an invaluable contribution because, sad to say, they will need those skills not only next week but in five years' time and in 10 years' time. I think a broad span of a rather more radical and innovative approach to training across the agencies is again a great opportunity.

  Q84Earl of Listowel: May I put one further question, if I may. Do you feel that the temporary exchange of senior officers is justifiable given the obvious disadvantages to that and would you say exchanges of lower ranking officers should be encouraged? Is much of that taking place already?

  Mr Veness: Yes, I think it is very valuable. The example I know best in recent times was after the tragic murder of our own defence attaché in Athens in June 2000. We worked very closely together with the Greek authorities doing precisely that, not only exchanging people who deal with recovery of bomb scene clues, dealing with fingerprint activity, dealing with analysis, all the way up to the senior officers who set the strategy and that proved to be a practical example of working together. It led to the benign outcome that a terrorist group that had defied detection for 25 years, N17, was, thanks to the energies of our Greek colleagues, successfully prosecuted. I could point to a recent practical example, including the UK, where that has worked across the span.

  Q85Chairman: If Members have no further questions I think that probably concludes our morning session with you. You mentioned learning in an effective way, I think people could have been no better placed than coming in here this morning and listening to both of you give your evidence to us. It has been the most informative morning that we have had and we have enjoyed it very much indeed. We have learned an enormous amount. We have been very fortunate to have you both giving your evidence. You have answered with great clarity and openness all of our questions. We are very grateful to you. Thank you again for coming.

  Mr Veness: Thank you, my Lords, for your time.

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