Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum from the Civil Contingencies Secretariat (9 January 2002)


  Since 11 September the Government has been scrutinising every one of our arrangements for protecting the public.

  There is extensive contingency planning in place in Britain. Experience has shown that emergencies and crises do not follow departmental boundaries. Hence Government responsibility for civil contingencies is exercised through a Cabinet Committee, the Civil Contingencies Committee which has three sub committees. The CCC draws together the key government departments, the devolved administrations, the police and the security service. The sub committees have been carefully constituted to ensure all the relevant organisations and stakeholders are involved.


  The CCC and its sub committees are supported by the Civil Contingencies Secretariat in the Cabinet Office. The CCS was set up by the Prime Minister after the General Election to bring together a range of responsibilities which had previously been dispersed across a number of different Departments.

  Its wider role is to improve the resilience of Central Government and the UK. Resilience is defined as the ability to handle disruptive challenges that can lead to, or result in, crisis. The CCS has co-ordinated the civil contingencies response in the UK to the terrorist attacks of 11 September.

  Those attacks required a fundamental re-examination of the assumptions underlying our contingency planning arrangements, at all levels. The CCS is co-ordinating the work now underway to identify where it is necessary to revise and enhance our arrangements.

  CCS resilience work is focused on central government, London, and the essential elements of the UK's infrastructure. Its work covers both conventional and unconventional threats.

  CCS's tasks are to identify potential crises; to help departments pre-empt them, or handle them; and to manage the central co-ordination machinery. For this wider work, the Head of Secretariat is responsible to the Prime Minister through the Cabinet Secretary.

  The Secretariat's work includes some of the Home Office's former emergency planning responsibilities, but goes considerably beyond them. It has five divisions: assessment, capability management, communication and learning, the national resilience framework, and programme co-ordination.

  The Secretariat was originally due to be fully operational by early 2002. It is currently concentrating on post-September 11 reviews, but is still on target for full operation.

  Assessment division scans the horizon for potential disruption. It also undertakes specific assessments. This work will inform the priorities of the Secretariat and its work with departments and others.

  Capability management division will work with departments facing disruptive challenges. It will advise on how to prevent or manage crisis; provide knowledge of where to find expertise, experience and resources; and help with planning when a challenge or crisis is faced. In the longer term, it will develop a resilience standard and manage an audit process for Government.

  Communication and Learning division includes the News Co-ordination Centre in the Cabinet Office and the Emergency Planning College at Easingwold, near York. The News Co-ordination Centre co-ordinates information for the public during a cross-departmental emergency. It is also responsible, for example, for the central source of official information in an emergency at web site.

  The Emergency Planning College was first established in 1937 as an anti-gas training school. More than 11,000 people a year now attend various courses on different aspects of emergency planning. CCS plans to develop its programme as a key means of driving resilience and best practice across all sectors. Course directors are expert in their fields and CCS draws on them for research and advice.

  The National Resilience Framework is the division which works to develop key partnerships between all the communities of interest that can deliver resilience. These include local authorities, voluntary agencies, local communities and private sector groupings. The division is also overseeing the review of emergency planning in England and Wales launched by the deputy Prime Minister.

  Programme co-ordination division provides secretariat support for CCC and its sub committees; delivers programme and risk management for the whole of CCS's work; and runs the operations centre which co-ordinates the work of CCS, particularly during an emergency.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 7 March 2002