Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80 - 99)



  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.

Mr Jones

  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 phrase—I 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.

Mr Howarth

  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.

Mr Hancock

  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.

Mr Jones

  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 best—this model in London—surely, 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 you—and I am not sure it will make you any happier—is 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 cost implication?

  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 pressure.

Mr Jones

  90. But there is a cost implication in what you are trying do?
  (Mr Granatt) I understand exactly the point you are making.

  Mr Cran: So the answer is yes.

  Chairman: Some easy questions now for the Brigadier on the role of the Ministry of Defence.

Patrick Mercer

  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.

Mr Cran

  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 police officers.

  99. You will give us a note?
  (Mr Granatt) Yes.

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