Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120 - 126)



  120. Was this pre or or post 11 September?
  (Mr Granatt) This is post 11 September. We had assumptions and we decided to validate them through research. What the public clearly had a requirement for, and said so, was that if there was an attack or a credible threat of an attack they would want good information very quickly, and that is the arrangement we have put into place.

  Chairman: We have to move on quickly now. Rachel Squire?

Rachel Squire

  121. We have touched already on the issue of training key people and key groups and I understand that there is an Emergency Planning College near York which has been there since 1939, but I am confident it has substantially changed the programme of training that it offers since then. How do you intend to enhance the facilities offered by the Emergency Planning College to meet the increased need for emergency planning and civil contingencies training? In particular, there is the issue, if that is going to be boosted, of are you going to lobby or are you lobbying for additional resources to be made available to the College to meet what you seem to have identified as the increased demand for that kind of facility?
  (Mr Granatt) There are resources which have been provided and a substantial sum has been made available to improve the accommodation at the college which is sadly lacking. I think this will help them to accommodate the large number of people that do flow through the door and we do expect to flow through the door, particularly in the light of events of 11 September. We want to enhance the role of the College, not simply to do what it does now; which is largely to bring people in for courses that take place for a half week or a week on various aspects of emergency planning, but to look at their role, because they have expert staff, in helping to assess circumstances and do reviews of the way incidents were handled, distance learning, and for co-operation with other public sector partners like the Civil Service College and perhaps partners beyond that inside the private and public sector to improve the way in which the need for resilience and training for it is promulgated and developed. We think the Emergency Planning College is a vital part of the operation that we have. We think it has got great potential for improving the spread of knowledge and best practice, and I think the resources that we have been provided with to improve the accommodation is a mark of the commitment that the Government has put into it.


  122. I have a question which I shall not ask you now because it will take too long to answer. It was raised by the question that Mr Roy asked and perhaps you could drop us a note on it4. There is a dilemma over how far you inform the public of what is going on, how you inform them in as much detail as you can about the threat, without making everyone totally paranoid. I am sure there has been thought given to this and if you have a few minutes in the next two or three weeks perhaps you could drop us a note to give us some indication of what you think the parameters should be and how far you can go in reassuring people.
  (Mr Granatt) We will give you an idea of what we have put into place and who we have been working with.

  Rachel Squire: Chairman, can I add on to that the measures in place to try and better inform and educate the media in how it deals with these issues. Speaking, I admit, as somebody who has had a minor incident at a dockyard reported on the front page of a tabloid newspaper as a "near Chernobyl-type incident", I have paid some attention to the difficulties of balancing information to the public without causing undue alarm.

  Chairman: This is the very last question, I promise you. Mr Jones?

4 See Supplementary Memorandum appendix 1.

Mr Jones

  123. We have talked about the role of local authorities in emergency planning, but what is their role in terms of informing the public? First of all, has any guidance been issued to them and has that changed since September 11? As Mr Howarth just reminded me, do they still use church bells to warn of impending disaster or is there some other new method which they are using or a standard that they are using?
  (Mr Granatt) I come back to the organisation I mentioned before, which is the National Steering Committee for Warning and Informing the Public, which includes local authorities and has been looking at a whole range of ways in which this might be done. Do you want to add to that, Kevin?
  (Mr Wallace) That is the way that it has been taken forward. I do not think that they use church bells.

  124. Can I have the first question answered, what is their role at the moment?
  (Mr Granatt) It depends on the circumstance. If it was a matter of immediate urgency normally the police would take a role in informing the public and they would do that in a range of ways. They would go round door to door, they would go round with loudspeaker vans, they would take the appropriate action to do that. Whether local authorities get involved would depend on the circumstance.

Mr Hancock

  125. I think we should know if the police have them.
  (Mr Granatt) The ability to—

  126. Whether they have loudspeaker vans.
  (Mr Granatt) My understanding is that a lot of them do, yes.

  Mr Hancock: I think you would be very surprised to see how many have.

  Chairman: On that cynical note from Mr Hancock we will terminate. May I say thank you all very much, it was very, very interesting, very relevant, and we will be in touch further. Thank you very much.

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