Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80
WEDNESDAY 16 JANUARY 2002
80. There is a difference between flexibility
and prime responsibility.
(Mr Granatt) Yes, I agree. I could not give you an
answer to that yet. I would be pre-empting discussions that have
to be had with Ministers.
81. Mr Granatt, we understand the timetable
for introducing new emergency planning legislation is two to three
years. Has it been speeded up since the events of 11 September
with the changed circumstances?
(Mr Granatt) The focus on it has certainly heightened
although I think the time to get the legislation in place is not
greatly different to what it was. I can trot out the usual phraseI
cannot pre-empt what might be announced by the Queen in the Speech
at some point. We are looking at a process of putting this legislation
together that will involve further consultation and bringing forward
something to Parliament that reflects a consensus, and I think
the investment in time for doing that would be worth it. It certainly
may take a year or two to do that properly. I cannot give you
a firm timetable; it depends on how we do it. What we are looking
to do is to set up a project team as soon as we have got through
this particular phase of looking at the consultation to take forward
how proposals might be put together and to include in that process
the stakeholder group that advised us before the consultation
document was issued.
82. So the message for any potential terrorist
is hang on until we have got our legislation in place and the
civil servants' slow wheel is turned?
(Mr Granatt) With great respect, I think that is a
bit unfair. We do have a lot of arrangements in place at the moment,
they are practised, they are being up-dated, and our response
to terrorism does not rely on this piece of legislation entirely.
83. Mr Webb could not even name you a few weeks
ago, so I am grateful for that. Do Ministers feel that post 11
September there are some things that should be brought in now,
some gaps filled?
(Mr Granatt) I think Ministers have not shown any
lack of urgency over seeing this move forward. They have asked
us to make sure consultation is in place, they have asked us to
see how quickly we could get the consultation in front of them.
I think they will move forward quickly and appropriately on what
we put before them. There are a lot of things going on, a lot
of different priorities being considered here, and this is just
one of them. The best I could say is that there is no lack of
urgency by Ministers to get measures in place, of which again
I stress this is just one.
84. Obviously if the situation merits it, then
legislation will have to be introduced as speedily as the terrorism
legislation very shortly after 11 September, which was an amazing
rapidity for the machinery of government, although we all know
that swift legislation is not always necessarily the best legislation.
In due course we will ask Ministers further whether the information
they have so far acquired would encourage them to accelerate any
timetable for legislation, but that will come out as a result
of your enquiries and perhaps any recommendations from us. A question
which perhaps has a greater degree of urgency is the question
of funding for local authorities, which have quite a great deal
to do and a lot will be imposed upon them. Any new system of funding
local authority expenditure on emergency planning will obviously
take time to put in place, but 11 September places a greater financial
burden on local authorities now as the lead agency for emergency
planning. What plans are there to provide additional funding for
local authorities to undertake those specific responsibilities
in the financial year 2002-2003? I have not served on a local
authority but I am pretty much aware that they are considering
what is going to be in their budget now. Will they get any extra
dosh or will they not? If they will not, can you really expect
them to do anything if there is going to be no funding for something
which is apparently seen as rather urgent?
(Mr Granatt) There is funding available at the moment,
as you know, through the Civil Defence Grant and I could not add
to what Mr Leslie has told the House about the fact that negotiations
are going on at the moment about the level of grant for the year
after the current year we are sitting. I do not think it is lost
on anybody that if a duty to carry out these duties were imposed
by legislation, then clearly one would have to look at what resources
were available to do that. I could not pre-empt that consideration.
85. But there is a Bill currently before Parliament
which is seeking to overturn the judicial review which had denied
the Government the right to cash limit this budget and that is
why this Bill has been introduced, the Civil Defence Grant Bill,
and it is our understanding that it is going to be used to reduce
the level of funding back to what it was, which is £14.5
million down from £24.5 million in 1991-92. Surely this is
the wrong message the Government should be sending out?
(Mr Granatt) I think Mr Leslie has told the House
that he continues in negotiations about the level of funding.
Clearly the level of funding of £14 million was the level
that was in place before the judicial review. I think the fact
that negotiations are taking place should be an indication of
what his intentions might be in that respect, but I could not
go any further than that.
86. There is another element, there is the civil
defence and preparedness budget, which local authorities can bid
for, but there is the on-going commitment under a state of readiness.
Gerald and Rachel and I represent areas where there is a high
concentration of military activity and, by its very nature, the
local authority has to beef up its own security, and that has
very great cost implications for local authorities, many of whom
are strapped for cash anyway. Will you be making recommendations
about the way in which local authorities can assist their constituents
by taking greater measures of security but which will also need
greater elements of funding? My own city council, for example,
have had considerable problems relating to security, there has
been a widespread tightening of that but there have been very
huge cost implications, none of which so far has been funded by
Government and there appears to be no intention by Government
to help local authorities which have vulnerable targets within
their area. It is a bit like the foot and mouth epidemic. People
started to talk about the effects on the tourist industry in those
areas because it had knock-on consequences and people were looking
for funding. In areas like mine the historic dockyard is very
much part of the tourist industry and it is vulnerable at any
moment to being closed down because of its close proximity to
naval vessels anchored in the harbour.
(Mr Granatt) I am not completely familiar with it
because it is not my area, but I believe the Local Government
White Paper did express the fact that there was a proposal to
look at how funding for handling contingencies might be resourced
beyond the Bellwin scheme.
87. But no indication of money.
(Mr Granatt) The running of the local authorities
themselves and the services they provide are not really the subject
of what we do, so I do not feel equipped to give you a full answer
to that. If local authorities come to us and talk about their
arrangements for handling contingencies then we are certainly
in the business of talking to them and, as Mr Abbott has said,
we are making sure we meet them regularly and whenever they want
to. In terms of what they are providing in the context of local
circumstances, I think that area of funding is outside the remit
of what we are looking at.
Mr Jones: I do not think it is.
Mr Hancock: Neither do I.
88. Because some local authorities clearly have
high standards of local emergency planning, I refer again to Tyne
& Wear, but with pressure on budgets, because it is non-statutory,
there is going to be a lot of pressure on councillors and treasurers
to cut that back. The other point is if you are trying to roll
it out to bring some of the other authorities up to the standards
of the bestthis model in Londonsurely, there is
going to be a cost implication to that? I do not expect you to
make a comment directly but, surely, the logical implication of
this is that the Treasury will have to come up with more money
to bring those local authorities up to standard? There is no way
I would say the local council taxpayers in Walsall are going to
be asked to fund this or would find it politically acceptable
to fund this.
(Mr Granatt) I think the best answer I could give
youand I am not sure it will make you any happieris
that in the context of the emergency planning review this is clearly
a point to consider in that. I cannot give you a better answer
than that at the moment.
Mr Jones: You do accept that to bring
some of these authorities up to scratch there is going to be a
Mr Hancock: Absolutely.
89. I know the Treasury is normally impervious
to external pressure but if you could bring our concerns and I
am sure the concerns of every local authority to their attention
we would be grateful. I am sure they are aware of it. When we
send you a transcript perhaps you could
(Mr Granatt) They are pretty impervious to internal
90. But there is a cost implication in what
you are trying do?
(Mr Granatt) I understand exactly the point you are
Mr Cran: So the answer is yes.
Chairman: Some easy questions now for
the Brigadier on the role of the Ministry of Defence.
91. We have intruded a little bit into this
already but when the Secretary of State gave evidence to the Committee
in November, he raised questions about how far should the armed
forces play an increased role in security; what sort of forces
are best suited for these tasks; and should the reserve forces
have a different or enhanced role. Are you involved in any capacity
in co-ordinating the response to possible air and sea-borne attacks
on the UK or is it simply an MoD matter?
(Brigadier Abbott) I think in this particular case
it is an MoD matter. Post 11 September when the current crisis
team was established within the Ministry of Defence in the Defence
Crisis Management Organisation, we were invited to form part of
the membership of it. In the same way, we invite representatives
from MoD in the Secretariat for Home and Special Forces and the
Director of Military Operations areas to join in our meetings
in the CCS. In that way we have this conduit and so one's position
is seen as being a catalyst within the CCS and the conduit exists
between CCS and MoD and MoD and CCS.
92. Thank you. Therefore, will you have an input
into the "new chapter" of the Strategic Defence Review?
(Mr Granatt) We have been invited to join in consultations
that have been offered by the Ministry of Defence and, indeed,
to help them exercise some hypothetical scenarios which will allow
them to look at how their capabilities might best be aligned to
help civil authorities, if necessary.
93. I would be particularly interested, and
you may not be able to indicate this, in things like key point
defence. Again, we have touched on the use of reserve forces already
but do you have a view on what you might propose?
(Mr Granatt) Key point defence is not for us.
94. What about the more general use of reserve
forces; will you have a view?
(Mr Granatt) Our position is this: the primary role
of the armed forces is to deliver the defence of the realm. Our
job is to help the MoD align their capabilities, as they wish,
to what might be required if they are called in to help by a civil
authority. That is the way the cart and horse sit, the defence
requirement first and then the ability of that capability, if
necessary to be used in support of the civil community. That is
where our work with them really sits. I suggest how they actually
deliver that is a matter for them because it is their capability.
So whether it is reserved forces or somebody else is, in a sense,
not a requirement that comes from us. If in their deliberations
they believe they want to be able to produce something at a certain
speed, at a certain level, in circumstances where it is available,
it is for them to make that decision.
95. Probing a little further specifically on
that on nuclear, biological, chemical warfare, both defence and
the recovery, again what do you see the armed forces' role being
in that and how much will your views impinge?
(Mr Granatt) They have very specific expertise and
some of that lies outside the scope of my Secretariat's work and
it is a subject that if we wanted to probe further I would respectfully
request that we do it rather more privately.
96. Absolutely, that is no problem. We are also
doing an inquiry into missile defence that maybe we will ask your
views on. That is probably outside your scope.
(Mr Granatt) The only rockets I know about, Chairman,
are about this big.
97. Mr Granatt, in answer to my colleague, Mr
Mercer, you indicated that there were means by which you would
help the MoD and you outlined the means that there were. Looking
at it the other way, we assume that the MoD has input into your
work and, if that is so, is it possible for you to outline that?
If you cannot do it publicly, in a paper.
(Mr Granatt) In terms of consequence management work,
as Ian has said, we keep them closely informed as to the work
that we are doing. They are invited to be members both on the
official committees, which are chaired by ministers, the sub-committees
of CCC, and of course the Secretary of State for Defence is a
member of CCC. We have complete transparency with the MoD over
the work that we are doing, for very good reasons. Firstly, they
need to know obviously what we might be looking for at some point
and, secondly, a very important point, we have to make sure when
we advise other parties when advice comes forward to departments
or from local authorities, we have to make sure in partnership
with the MoD that those expectations that those people have are
actually accurate. Sometimes I think there is a belief out there
that the armed services can deliver practically anything and,
of course, as you know better than most, it is not true, they
have commitments elsewhere, they have particular expertise, it
takes time to deploy it, and an important part of our work with
the MoD is to make sure that expectations and capabilities are
aligned. Ian perhaps might want to comment.
(Brigadier Abbott) The reality of life, these not
being force drivers, is picked up in the Emergency Procedures
Manual so that the police forces are also informed. It is also
elsewhere in the MoD manuals and, furthermore, MoD representatives,
particularly from the home and special forces area, do brief on
the Emergency Planning College courses which are attended by the
emergency and planning officers in the boroughs.
(Mr Granatt) Besides Ian we have another four people
from the armed services among the current staff of the Secretariat.
98. That was exactly my next question. If it
is possible, could you let us know who and what they do?
(Mr Granatt) Yes, of course. We also have two serving
99. You will give us a note?
(Mr Granatt) Yes.