Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20
WEDNESDAY 16 JANUARY 2002
20. In terms of the general duties of the Secretariat,
can you clarify for me how you work with the Scottish Parliament,
particularly the Scottish Parliament but also the other devolved
(Mr Granatt) We have close, continual contact with
both the National Assembly for Wales and with the Scottish Executive.
Ministers from those devolved administrations are represented
on the CCC. On the working parties, we invite the devolved administrations
to join us whenever possible and we exchange information on our
arrangements. I am not afraid to steal their good ideas, and I
am sure they are not afraid to steal mine.
21. Would we have to replicate the structures
you established in London and the equipment you purchased north
of the border? Has that been sorted out yet?
(Mr Granatt) The Scottish Executive has very good
arrangements in hand for itself. If something happens north of
the border, they would take the lead in a civil emergency context,
and I would say that I am envious that their facilities are in
place whereas some of mine are not yet.
22. You are not going to have competing IT systems
which do not talk to each other, which tends to be a Home Office
(Mr Granatt) I do hope not. The major exchange of
information could happen over the government secure intranet which
is common to all of us. Where we have IT problems, we are looking
very hard to make sure things are compatible, but I am not aware
of any particular significant IT problems we have come across
so far. Ian is reminding me that the Ministry of Defence have
their own systems and they are separate.
23. Having taken a long interest in communications
within the Army and within the Ministry of Defence, I would not
like to see the MoD as a role model for any other organisation.
You are talking to a sceptic when it comes to MoD radio sets and
(Brigadier Abbott) In which case, Chairman, you will
realise my comment to Mike Granatt. The answer to Mr Howarth is
that actually the MoD has a different system from that which we
have within the government, and the government secure infrastructure
does not extend to the MoD, therefore we have to have separate
CHOTS terminals if we are to communicate. The point is though
that those terminals do exist in the Cabinet Office briefing room
where we are wont to do it, and we have secure communications
in terms of telecom and fax which are available on our desks.
24. But work is being done on reconciling the
(Brigadier Abbott) That is correct, and the gateway
is being established so we can transfer across.
25. Are you exercising scenarios to test that?
(Brigadier Abbott) Most certainly so. To give you
an analogy, what we are all faced with post-11 September is an
iceberg. What you are dealing with here is just that above the
water, because the size of this problem goes across not only central
government and the capital but also the nation and the devolved
administrations. When one wrote the papers over the resilience,
we looked at the resilience of government, the capital and the
nation, and the Scottish Executive had their own input into that.
On the aspect of exercising, in this coming week alone we have
two exercises, one of which is actually Exercise Capital Spring,
which is about London. There we are looking at the boroughs, the
emergency services. We have MoD input. We are then taking it up
to central government so we are able to play it at central government
level. That is this next weekend, which is not unusual. In addition,
we also have an exercise which is taking place with British Telecom.
If we capture British Telecom and one other user, effectively
we have 80 per cent of the crucial infrastructure. When one asks
questionsand I come back to my point about Y2K"Do
you have independent systems, do you have resilience in your structure",
they will say yes, but when they are asked about their service
providers, they will say, "Yes, we sub-contract it"
and you find it will be two sub-contractors using the same piece
of fibre-optic cable on the same side of the road. So there is
an awful lot of detailed work we have to continue with. These
two exercises this week, both of which are national and central
government, are an indication of the degree of the work which
is on going.
26. Are they command post exercises or field
training exercises? What is the equivalent?
(Brigadier Abbott) One is a field training exercise,
as we would know it. The BT one, which is at the centre, which
is not here in London but outside of London, is establishing the
resilience of their systems by flicking switches off and making
sure that contacts and circuits are in place. I would describe
that as a field training exercise. It is a full deployment, it
is for two days, and this is a considerable risk to them but it
shows that is the degree of work they are prepared to do. That
is the degree of investigation we need to undertake if we are
to pursue this in a pragmatic way. The exercise over the weekend
is more of a table-top exercise, a command post exercise, and
in fact it involves all the emergency planning officers from London,
plus the chief executives, plus the arrangements for emergency
services, plus central government players, and the intention is
that that is the initial culminating point of a series of workshops.
So far one has done over 33 workshops on "business continuity
planning", an expression which came about with Y2K, and frankly
if it lets people orientate themselves to it, let's keep with
that brand name. That is the work which will continue this weekend,
and it is about scenarios which have been worked out by the London
Metropolitan Police, which is Operation Wardell, and that is looking
at the resilience of London against incidents, which gives us
an opportunity of bringing together this mutual arrangement. It
will be tested again in May or June, which is where we will do
a command post exercise. where we will ensure that messages can
be passed simultaneously to London, to Cardiff, to local authorities,
to the emergency services. Then one is left with the size of an
exercise which was held last year, and possibly you are familiar
with, and that was Exercise Trump Card. This was a chemical exercise,
or scenario with a chemical element, which involved MoD as well
as other players in London. So, I think, fundamentally there are
three levels, and we have an example this week of two of them.
We do not have the massive one, althoughback to your questions
earlier about the integration of counter-terrorist activitiesmyself
and one of my staff, and another from another part of CCS, will
actually be away, three weeks from now, up in Scotland when we
do one of their counter-terrorist exercises. This reinforces the
point that once an incident or explosion has gone off, the consequence
management is exactly the same.
27. When you look at your list of meetings,
conferences, perhaps you could look to us sending somebody alongone
of the advisersbecause this is not something we are going
to produce a report on, put in a pigeon hole and forget about.
Would you mind?
(Brigadier Abbott) Of course not.
28. Also with the Royal College of Defence Studies,
perhaps you could look at whether somebody could come along as
(Mr Granatt) Happily.
Chairman: When you talked about central communications,
I was mindful of the fact that during the Cold War one of the
major routes of transmitting information, part of our defence,
went right in front of the Soviet Embassy, so the task of digging
that up was probably fairly simple! I hope you are not making
29. Could I follow that up by one about communications?
We were told by one of our advisers that there is a new radio
communication system being introduced for the police and other
emergency services called TETRAit is an acronym, I do not
know what it stands forand we were advised that the Army
had made a bid to be included in this programme and was awaiting
a response. This is an expensive system. Currently the military
are relying on mobile phones. Perhaps the Brigadier can indicate
to us whether there is a likelihood that the MoD will be included
and whether he thinks it is essential the military should be on
this communications net?
(Brigadier Abbott) TETRA is a form of technology.
It is a label which goes on it, it effectively allows digital
communications over a wide area. I think we all enjoy, although
they are switched off at the moment, our own mobile phones. If
you have digital technology, then you are allowed to use it as
a mobile phone. And you are allowed to use it, as we may have
experienced in the military and you will have seen, as what is
commonly expressed as "the all-informed net". So often
when the message needs to go out, you want to inform the majority
quickly. These types of phoneand in particular the system
the police are going for which is known as Airwaveallow
this technology and allow you to interface it either as a phone
or as an all-informed net. This is exceedingly useful. Although
again I cannot speak for the Ministry of Defence, it is my understanding
that the MoD wish to be aligned to this technology, and that their
communication system of choice is that it is exactly the same
as the police. From the view of the CCS, this would of course
be very prudent and make sense, so we would of course support
it if we were to be asked. I would see that the joint planning
staff, which I think reside currently at Headquarters and at Wilton,
and also elements of counter-terrorism, and also those elements
which are involved in planning possibly in the regional structure,
would be amongst the vanguard of those we equipped with this tool.
You may also say it would be a logical extension for something
on the emergency communications network, for once the technology
is in place and the network is in place, you have a degree of
robustness. You have a system of technology in terms of HPT. Which
is where the system, if it loses one part, tries to find its own
way round. This is useful because switches can be taken out and
the switches are very vulnerable points. So if we have a software
system, an algorithm, which says, "I cannot go this way,
I will try and find another", and that again gives us a resilience.
That is one of the principles we would be after. To summarise,
I think it is very sound, the police are going for it, my understanding
is that MoD seek this also. I would support that. It makes eminent
sense for all those who work in conjunction with the MoD supporting
the police on deploymentsMACA et ceterato use the
(Mr Granatt) I think the key thing to focus on here
is the outcome, what is required in terms of interworking and
inter-operability. I think the advantage that digital technology
gives one is the means to link systems are not confined to having
one common infrastructure. There are different systems, there
are ways of making sure those infrastructures can be linked. There
is also a need to consider how widely that needs to be done, and
Ian Abbott's outfit is looking with others at what level of interaction
is required between the services, because that of course will
determine what is necessary. There are different forms of interworking
and inter-operability. There is quite a difference between making
sure that control rooms know what each other are doing or whether
you foresee something like talking from one service's vehicle
to another, which has its own problems if training is different,
if procedures are different, if terminology is different. So the
issues are not simply technical, but the outcome is something
we have to focus on first to make sure those things mesh.
30. I think, Chairman, that leads us very naturally
to the next aspect of our question, which is to look at alternatives
to the present emergency planning structures. Your document, Dealing
with Disaster, in 1997 said that the Government review in
1989 concluded that, "disaster response would not be helped
by the creation of anything in the nature of a national disaster
squad; prime responsibility for handling disaster should remain
at the local level where the resources and expertise are found."
You have just indicated that there are different standards and
regimes of training within different organisations. Can I put
it to you that in the light of the events of 11 September there
is perhaps now a question mark over whether responsibility for
emergency planning should remain with local authorities?
(Mr Granatt) Let me clarify the differences you have
just referred to. I was not talking about differences within organisations,
such as within the police service, within the fire service
31. No, between the organisations.
(Mr Granatt) Between the organisations there are different
procedures, so the radio procedure and the use of radio by the
police and fire service is different, and you have to take that
into account. That is what I was referring to. I think we are
very fortunate in this country in having organisations which are
locally based but which are trained, equipped and exercised to
national standards, and often exercise those plans and procedures
at very large scale where necessary. I think we would need to
think very hard indeed before we undermine those arrangements.
One of the things that is sitting on the table next to Brigadier
Abbott is the ACPO Emergency Manual. That is a tribute
to the fact that the emergency services under the leadership of
the police have worked very hard to make sure that their systems
and planning are integrated. The role of government in this circumstance
has been for many years to ensure that when national resources
need to be deployed, national decisions have to be made, the government
stands ready to do that. To think about a national emergency squad
which would parachute in on top of well-understood, well-practised
local arrangements would need thinking through very carefully
indeed. I hope what we are doing in making sure there is an efficient
and effective interface between local arrangements and national
arrangements goes a long way down the road of making sure they
do add up to a good national response.
32. How many people would you say are currently
employed by local authorities specifically on emergency planning?
(Mr Wallace) It is in the order of 500, I would say.
33. Throughout the country?
(Mr Wallace) That is those whose specific job is concerned
with emergency planning. What we have tried to do since the early
1990s is to make sure it is not just emergency planners who are
writing plans which are not known by anybody else, but it is involving
social services, transport people, in writing their own plans
and training for them. It is difficult to say how many more but
it is a wider span, but I would think in the order of 500.
Chairman: Could you say, hand on heart,
career on the line, should there be a major, major incident in
one of 20 local authorities that they would have all the kit necessary,
all of the ability to communicate with neighbouring authorities
if the incident took place on the borders of two authorities,
that all of the staff engaged have got some kind of diploma or
been through a form of training? I speak with some experience.
My authority today, Walsall, has just had an appalling report
published by the Audit Commission where virtually every single
service of the town has been seen to be grossly unsatisfactory.
I am sure emergency planning is good. Authorities, as Gerald said,
vary in quality from the excellent to the very good to the frankly
lousy. If there was a terrorist who wanted to find a lousy authority
it would be a very easy job going through local government journals
or talking to councils.
Mr Hancock: Absolutely.
34. Or writing to the Audit Commission. We will
explore this further. If, as Mr Granatt has said, all institutions
of local government are perfectly able to deliver we would want
in our report to be able either to endorse or question that assessment
that emergency planning is competent if largely remaining in local
(Mr Granatt) If I can clarify what I was talking about
with the Emergency Planning Manual. I was talking about the emergency
services, the blue light services. The Emergency Planning Review
which started in February 2001, and was the subject of a consultation
paper issued just after the General Election, made it clear that
the Government's view was that the Emergency Planning Response
among local authorities was, indeed, patchy and something needed
to be done to improve that arrangement.
35. The component parts might be in reasonably
good shape but the central co-ordination still needs a lot of
(Mr Granatt) The front line services, I think, are
in very good shape. I think the next response along the line is
something that the Emergency Planning Review recognises needs
36. What special attention are you giving it?
(Mr Granatt) If I ask Kevin to outline what the Review
(Mr Wallace) The main problem that we have at the
moment, I think, is that we are working under Civil Defence Legislation
and the main thrust of the Review is really to examine to what
extent new legislation should be brought in to require local authorities
to undertake emergency planning. At the moment, save for particular
circumstances of a chemical site or a nuclear site, there is no
general duty on a local authority to plan to deal with an emergency.
37. That is incredible, is it not?
(Mr Wallace) That is what the Review is seeking to
38. I hear what you say about local authorities
and the value but has it not radically changed since the inception
of emergency planning. Even as a force to civil defence the early
days were largely concentrated on the aftermath of nuclear war
and the natural boundary for that is obviously the local authority.
Is it not very different now? Are not the boundaries very different?
The truth is that even in those early days some people in the
cities wondered about the sort of emergency planning procedures
and the aftermath of nuclear war and whether there would be anything
to plan for in certain parts of the country but now we are into
a very different business. Some of the certainly city local authorities
have very small geographical boundaries. Does it make sense in
these changing circumstances, after September 11th, to still work
on that old fashioned basis?
(Mr Granatt) I would like Kevin to explain what happens
about co-operation between authorities and mutual aid, which may
(Mr Wallace) I would agree with you on the nuclear
planning when it was all very difficult and a number of authorities
did not see the point, frankly, in doing that. That led to the
reviews in the early 1990s when we were planning for an Armageddon,
if you like, but not Lockerbie, Herald of Free Enterprise and
that sort of thing. There has been a huge shift, I think, in local
authorities' planning for emergencies now. They see the relevance
of it and they recognise that nobody can have all the resources
to deal with any problem that comes along. They would have in
place mutual aid arrangements with neighbouring authorities, as
indeed the blue light services do, so that the police come in
behind forces under pressure, so do the fire service and the ambulance,
and I would expect local authorities to do the same. What we lack
at the moment, I think, is a clear leadership from the centre
backed by legislation in order to ensure that is in place. It
is in place in the better authorities but I agree there are some
authorities who are not in that category.
Chairman: We will come on in a bit more
detail, if we may, to local authorities but certainly I think
this Committee ought to go and look at an authority you think
is exceptionally good and then we will get ourselves invited along
to a local authority that falls into the other category. That
should be quite stimulating, interesting and embarrassing.
Syd Rapson: Walsall.
Chairman: It would be quite easy to meet
the staff in Walsall, there are only one and a half of them.
39. Just on this integrated plan that exists.
I would be interested to know if you could explain whether there
is a single local authority in the country that can communicate
to the blue light brigadesambulance, fire and policewithout
having recourse to a telephone system?
(Mr Granatt) It is an interesting question. One answer
would be that our emergency communication network provides a link
outside the public switched telephone network, for example.