Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1
WEDNESDAY 16 JANUARY 2002
1. Mr Granatt, welcome to you and your colleagues.
You may be wondering why the Defence Committee is undertaking
this inquiry, that is another question you can ask us in a private
session. This is a very important subject we are looking at because
we are examining the military security consequences of September
11 and we want to be in a good position to undertake an inquiry
which cuts across departmental boundaries and, I might add, probably
prejudices, and we look forward to the inquiry. You will see we
have five advisers, which is an indication of how seriously we
are taking the subject, and we are grateful you have come along
to this first public session. Would you like to introduce your
colleagues for the shorthand writer?
(Mr Granatt) By all means. On my right is Brigadier
Ian Abbott, who is on secondment to us from the Ministry of Defence.
He is the Director of Capabilities Management within the Secretariat.
On my left is Mr Kevin Wallace, who has been involved with the
work of the Emergency Planning Division of the Home Office and
local authorities for a great many years and has a lot of experience
in that area. We thought these two colleagues would be helpful
to your inquiry.
2. Thank you. If there is anything you prefer
to say in private, Mr Granatt, please indicate to us and at the
end of our public session we will go into private. We do not like
doing it very often but because this has a high sensitivity about
it, we will do just that. Is there anything you would like to
say by way of opening?
(Mr Granatt) We have sent you a brief memorandum which
explains what we do, I think probably the best use of everybody's
time is if we invite your questions.
3. In the memorandum you refer to, you said,
"there was a fundamental re-examination of contingency planning
arrangements". Can you tell us how radical you and the Cabinet
Office are prepared to be in reality? Does your re-examination
include, for example, the CCS itself, the lead role of local authorities
in emergency planning, the constitutional doctrine under which
military assistance is provided to civil powers? Maybe you can
give us some indication of the ethos within which your re-examination
is proceeding and the way in which your office has been structured?
(Mr Granatt) I think the best way to start is to give
a bit of the history.
(Mr Granatt) The Government looked back at the events
since, for instance, the millennium period and the number of crises
which have been dealt with. The Prime Minister came to the conclusion
that he wished to see better arrangements for making sure that
government itself was resilient to the handling of crises. The
role of the Secretariat is essentially to do that. It is to help
ensure that government, and indeed the United Kingdom, is more
resilient in the face of the sort of disruptive challenges which
can lead to crises. So in terms of the difference between the
way things were done and the way things are being done now, I
think we are looking as much now at ways of pre-empting crisis
as well as emergency planning, and emergency planning is still
a very important part of the work which is going on. That is the
reason why, of course, the emergency planning responsibility moved
from the Home Office to the Cabinet Office, and it is now placed
at the centre of government where we can influence more easily
the way in which the machinery of government operates and reacts.
We are looking at a number of activities which we hope will contribute
to greater resilience, to a greater ability to withstand disruption.
Apart from our classic secretariat role, which is to make sure
the centre and all relevant departments are aware of an issue
which might be breaking and are involved in any collective decision-making
or contribution, we will have a role in a major emergency of making
sure that information is properly co-ordinated. I think one of
the things which has emerged from the handling of recent crises
is the need very quickly, if problems are widespread across the
country, to make sure that the information from a great number
of sources is properly reconciled so decision-makers can make
their decisions effectively. We are setting up a horizon-scanning
process to look across the economy, to see if we can spot trends
which may need departments to think about whether they might be
facing disruption, and to see whether there are cross-cutting
issues or issues which combine to form cross-cutting problems.
We are also developing some capability packages to help departments
who might be facing a crisis, and clearly it is a time of great
stress if the department does not usually get involved in emergencies.
Some do obviously; departments like International Development
are handling crises and emergencies as part of their business
but other departments do not handle them regularly. But it is
clear from recent experience that help with augmenting their staff,
advice on planning, help with ensuring communication works well
across government, are functions we should put in place at the
centre to help departments face these sorts of things. Those capabilities
are the business of Ian Abbott's directorate. Part of the operation
which we have inherited, and which has been in place for some
time, is news co-ordination, which is the ability to make sure
that departments co-ordinate what they are saying in terms of
public communication. Of course, in a crisis effective public
communication is extremely important; resolving any crisis requires
good communications with the publictimely, effective, continual
and thorough. We are also looking at the way the Emergency Planning
College does its work. It is a very, very important asset that
we have. It was part of the Home Office arrangements, it has been
involved in helping to train people involved in emergency planning
since 1937 in one guise or another. We think it has great potential
to not only do the training work which is done, the learning work
which is done, but also get involved in more research into the
way crises have been handled, to help spread best practice, to
help with distance learning. We are looking with our colleagues
at the Centre for Management and Policy Studies in the Cabinet
Office at the way in which we might help improve the training
of senior civil servants who might have to face crisis circumstances
more often than perhaps they did in the past. We are looking at
developing a framework for national resilience. By that I mean
looking at the partnerships in the community, both communities
of interest and geographical communities, to improve the way that
organisations work together in planning and also in reaction to
a crisis. This will require partnership between ourselves and
a great number of organisations, not least local organisations,
who of course will make up the bulk of those organisations, and
we have a major project which will look at mapping the infrastructure
to make sure we can do that. Last, but certainly not least, we
are looking at the aftermath of September 11. Our brief history
is that I and my fellow directors were actually up at Easingwold
at the Emergency Planning College on September 11, looking at
how we would structure the Secretariat to take its work forward.
We were looking originally for a set up date of February this
year, but on September 11 circumstances changed for us. We have
been involved in a great deal of work since then, looking across
a number of areas at the resilience of the UK in the face of new
assumptions which have to be made about threats.
5. Has September 11 meant that you are merely
somewhat changing gear? Is September 11 resulting in an incremental
change or has it really shaken the system up, which will mean
you have to make some fairly fundamental changes to the ones which
had been envisaged before September 11?
(Mr Granatt) I think it has been a fundamental change
in terms of getting people together to look very quickly at their
plans for business continuity, at their resilience. It has been
an opportunity for us to get involved with a large number of organisations,
not least most of central government, all of central government,
in looking at the resilience of the government machine. It has
focused minds, I think, across the public and private sector on
what organisations should do to protect their businesses and,
perhaps more importantly, protect the public. So September 11
has had a fundamental change in that respect. It has not changed,
I think, the way we are approaching building the work of the Secretariat
in the longer term, that I think continues. To an extent it has
proved one of our major assumptions, which is that we live in
a very complex society now, that at any one time daily life is
subject to changes which take place across all sorts of boundariestransnational
boundaries, among networks which are often not fully understood
or mapped; and crises can arise from disruption to supply chains,
for instance, which were not envisaged in the past because the
nature of business has changed, the nature of society has changed,
the nature of the interaction between nations has changed.
6. Who is doing the head-knocking? You have
a lot of vested interests involved in this area of competence.
Are they fighting their corners? Is it very difficult to break
down old habits?
(Mr Granatt) I think people have responded positively
across the piece to what has happened. Our experience has been
that when we have come to people and say, "Let's consider
what your plans are and how they mesh with other plans",
and I am talking about central government particularly, we have
had a very receptive audience and people have wanted to get engaged,
and that is also true of the community outside central government.
In terms of chief head-knocker, to be fair I think that is the
Home Secretary, as chairman of the Civil Contingencies Committee,
which has been very active since its first meeting at the beginning
of October. It has gone through a number of meetings since then;
its sub-committees and the working groups who support them have
gone through dozens of meetings, they have considered a large
number of issues and that work will continue for some time.
7. There are powerful vested interests, the
Home Office and the Ministry of Defence, to name just two, with
the Treasury as the biggest of the lot. Perhaps Brigadier Abbott
might like to answer this question. We have been operating under
the traditions of military relations with civilian society going
back at least to 1688, in terms of the theory of civilian relations
with the military is it envisaged that the MoD is undergoing any
form of change? The MoD normally comes out pretty well in major
crisesfloods or foot and mouthis there any reappraisal
of the role of the military? We will come on to this in more detail
later but have you anything to say by way of introduction?
(Brigadier Abbott) In this particular case, obviously,
I do not speak for the Ministry of Defence, I speak for myself
within the CCS, and therefore I can give you the view as an outsider
on what the MoD are engaged in at the moment and how I perceive
it. First of all, one has to realise that 11 September has enabled
all of us to have to re-calibrate our thinking. The ability to
have synchronised and consecutive committed suicide bombers means
you will have to look at incidents which are much wider than they
have been in the past. Mike Granatt has already alluded to the
business of central government's own resilience plans and although
we have had Y2K, and that planning gave us the opportunity of
looking at a particular problem within our business continuity
planning, it was only one item. What we have found since 11 September
is that the plans for one particular department may well be sound
but the problem is they are not synchronised with the other departments.
It is the ability to synchronise not only central government and
the elements of central government but also down in the nation
at local level, whether it be authorities, boroughs or the police,
which is important. I think this message has been taken on board
by the MoD. Their work which is involved in both post-11 September
and the work they are doing in terms of the potential for the
new chapter in SDR has engaged us fully. If I am correct, there
are five sub-strands of work they are taking forward and our members
have been actively engaged in three of those.
8. We did ask the MoD the awkward question about
who Mike Granatt was, so now we are reciprocating, can you drop
us a note on what these five committees are?
(Brigadier Abbott) Most certainly. In particular with
these pieces of work, we are joining them with joint sponsorship
of a seminar or workshop which is taking place next month at the
Royal College of Defence Studies. Furthermore, in the work of
taking forward both the threat and the reaction, because whatever
happensand I think this is the crucial ingredientcruel
though it may seem, although an aircraft may fly deliberately
or accidentally into an obstacle or the ground, the consequence
management aspects are exactly the same.
9. If you have an historical concept of a lead
department, and Mr Granatt, you alluded to this a few minutes
ago, some departments were not designated as lead departments,
does that mean they all have to go through the same process of
training, that they all have to have new sets of computers and
new rooms in which to operate on the off-chance they will be designated
the lead authority? Or, in a crisis like that, will your Secretariat
now be substituted as the lead authority by-passing the departments?
Maybe the crises in the future will not simply involve one department,
and therefore the concept of one department taking the lead might
have gone out of fashion.
(Mr Granatt) I think the arrangements we have in place
allow for that now. There are essentially, in government terms,
two stages where central government takes a particular role. One
will be where it is purely a departmental matter and we will move
to reinforce the department, offer help to them particularly if
they do not have a particular capability of handling emergencies.
We will help them augment their staff, help them look at their
planning processes, help them look at the information flows they
need. If we need to move to something more central, that would
move into the realms of a collective decision-making body, and
I would expect then for the Civil Contingencies Committee to meet
under the chairmanship of the Home Secretary and for that to support
the work of the lead department. If there is more than one department
involved, I would expect that committeeand I am sure the
Prime Minister wouldto make sure the decisions and other
work which needed to be done were implemented effectively. Those
arrangements are in place now. In terms of the physical infrastructure,
which I think you referred to, some departments have well-worked-up
arrangements for handling emergencies, for example, the DTI has
arrangements which it inherited from the old Department of Energy
years ago when I was there, for handling civil nuclear emergencies.
It has well-practised systems, it has arrangements in place, it
has a built control room
10. Above ground or below ground?
(Mr Granatt) I do not know, to tell you the truth.
11. Perhaps you could find out.
(Mr Granatt) That is a very good point.
12. If I recall, New York's arrangements were
actually in one of the twin towers, which seemed quite helpful
in a major crisis.
(Mr Granatt) We have taken on board the fact that
we need to look at alternative arrangements, we should not create
a bottle-neck, which is the point I am getting to, I suppose.
Where a department has not got those sorts of arrangements, we
would move to support them. The outcome we would look for is a
co-ordination point where information can be properly assembled
for decision-makers and from which advice, guidance and instructions
go out. If that was not available in the department, we would
use our own facilities to do that, which should be ready in the
near future. As you have rightly said, we are concerned to make
sure we are not reliant on just one single facility which itself
could be taken out of action.
13. Has your Secretariat received additional
funding as a result of your enhanced role since 11 September?
Have you taken on additional staff as a result of the heightened
terrorist threat? Have you significant gaps you would need to
fill? Are you going to expand further, as I would anticipate,
bearing in mind the increased threat this country is under? Should
your Secretariat be significantly enhanced?
(Mr Granatt) The main extra resource which has been
applied has been the people who have been taken on to look at
the new work I have described, and indeed to help with the work
which has flowed from 11 September. We inherited from the Home
Office, excluding a set of people who look after green fire engines,
about 80 people who do a lot of work in various areas whom we
could let you know about.
14. That would be helpful.
(Mr Granatt) We have added about 30 people to that
who have brought skills from across a range of departments. Some
teams are teams which will, having done their work, contract again.
There is a team which has looked at London's resilience, for example,
which includes a lot of secondees from across London and various
organisations. When the bulk of their work is done and we move
into a position where we are reviewing and up-dating rather than
developing new areas, I expect that to contract to a certain extent.
I would expect us to maintain a level of staffing perhaps of around
100 people, given that that includes a lot of work which goes
on as a legacy of emergency planning, plus the people at the Emergency
Planning College. If you would like a note on how these things
sit, I will certainly provide it.
15. Please. Are the staff in the College, which
we hope to visit, all being retrained? There is not much point
having people who think in old civil defence terms if the world
has moved on. Is there some package of training for them?
(Mr Granatt) I think the package we need to give people
is an understanding of the work of the Secretariat as a whole,
and a clear and common understanding of what the purpose is. It
has been quite difficult to maintain momentum on that because
we have been evolving in a sense since 11 September. Because of
the way things have flowed, we have not set up structures which
are immutable, because as the problems have arisen we have dealt
with them. You are right, I am not happy yet we have everybody
understanding how the Secretariat works in every corner, and I
think following the good principles of Investors in People mean
we will do that as part of our business planning process. Yes,
where people need to be retrained or made familiar with new processes,
we will do that.
16. How many times has the Civil Contingency
Committee and its sub-committees met since it was set up? If you
cannot give us the full detail, maybe you can drop us a note.
(Mr Granatt) I have it here, I can dig it out for
(Mr Wallace) While Mike is looking for that, perhaps,
with your permission, having been on both sidesI was in
Home Office emergency planning and then moved over into the CCSI
can just pick up on retraining in civil defence? Certainly since
the early 1990s, the Home Office emergency planning has not been
totally engaged with civil defence, it had moved much more to
emergency planning in the more general sense, so it did not come
as a huge shock after 11 September to move from civil defence,
ie war, to peacetime.
(Mr Granatt) We have provided secretariat support
for 21 meetings which includes four of the Civil Contingencies
Committee, five of the UK resilience sub-committee (a committee
chaired by Mr Leslie) five of the London resilience sub-committee,
chaired by Mr Raynsford, and seven of the committee chaired by
Mr Denham, which looks at problems of chemical, biological, radiological
and nuclear incidents. For all those committees, if it is of any
interest, nearly 100 different papers have been produced for consideration
by officials and ministers collectively.
17. I think you have got the best job for bureaucracy!
It is very challenging and very interesting.
(Mr Granatt) I have some very able staff.
18. Mr Granatt, have you been able at this stage
to assess whether there are any wider resource implications in
this work that you are carrying out beyond the immediate confines
of your own Secretariat? If you do, in the course of your assessments,
identify a need for more people or systems to promote security
in a particular area, have you been told that the Treasury will
be forthcoming with the necessary central funding to provide it?
(Mr Granatt) I think it would be a change in the nature
of the world if the Treasury automatically said it would be forthcoming.
The process the CCC has been going through has identified a number
of areas where there might be a need for investment, and the Treasury,
as you might imagine, has put into place a process to make sure
that priorities are properly assessed for this and that they are
considered carefully. There have been some immediate requirements
which have been identified that the Treasury have taken on board.
There is a raft of other things which people have seen, not simply
through the work we have done but through the work of departments
themselves, and that is going to go through a process of prioritisation
which takes account of the nature of the threats which might be
faced. I am not really expert on this, as you might imagine, I
cannot give you too much more detail on that, I am not sure it
is for me, but, as you might imagine, the Health Service have
some priorities they want to look at, for example, and those have
taken a high priority. Other longer-term investments might involve
looking, for example, at equipment, and they will take a little
longer to sort out. My observation of the way the Government has
worked is to want to get to grips very quickly with significant
areas of susceptibility and to make sure that what is needed to
deal with them is investigated properly and fully and then to
move quickly to work out what investment should be made.
19. While we are on the generality of how the
Secretariat works, clearly it would be inappropriate if you were
to comment in any detail on counter-terrorism but I am interested
in the relationship between the Secretariat and the work that
is done and your confidence in it. By its very nature, counter-terrorism
work has secrecy attached to it, quite rightly, but are you still
confident that the relationship is strong enough between your
Secretariat and that activity?
(Mr Granatt) We are fully engaged with the work of
the Home Office and others involved to make sure our work meshes
with theirs effectively. My own background includes periods with
the Home Office and the Metropolitan Police, so it is with others
in my Secretariat; we have regular meetings, we sit on each other's
committees, and we share all the information necessary. When arrangements
are exercised, we work as a team. So I do not have any doubts
about that at all. Ian is pointing out that the Home Secretary
is chairman of the arrangements for civil contingencies through
his responsibility for security.