Examination of Witnesses (Questions 440
WEDNESDAY 6 MARCH 2002
HOUGHTON, CBE AND
440. So you have to have a message for those
people who are trying to recruit.
(Mr Mann) Yes. May I go on to the consultation process?
This goes through in two stages, which also gets to the size of
the reserve forces and their footprint within the UK. The first
issue is one of consultation about the point of principle. Is
this a role, in terms of the reserve forces, for which you would
join the reserve forces? In terms of employers, is this a role
which you would regard as being a legitimate role of the reserve
forces for which you would release people in times of emergency?
It is consultation on that point of principle. We plan to go down
the chain of command, to consult units down the chain of command
as well as consulting associations and employers through the National
Employers Liaison Council. That would be consultation about the
point of principle. On the practicalities, which gets us into
issues of size and footprint, we would have to look separately
at the distribution of reserve forces in the UK, including and
against areas where incidents might arise. That is the conversation
we had right at the beginning of this session. The existing distribution
of reserve forces in this country, the degree to which we were
turning people away already from the reserve forces and if we
increased the size of the reserve forces there was the potential
to go out and recruit. We also have other issues of practicality
about training, about equipment and so on, which we need to work
through in developing the package of proposals which we would
announce later this year.
441. Are you actually saying that you do not
believe you would have a problem recruiting because currently
you are turning more people away?
(Mr Mann) I am not saying we would not have a problem
recruiting. First of all we would have to be clear why reserve
force people join the reserve forces. This may be unattractive
to them. At the moment the reserves are reasonably well recruited,
as you will probably know.
442. Let us assume you have made the decision
that this is going to be an expanded role of the reserve forces.
You then have to seek to recruit them. Do you suspect that you
would have no problem in recruiting people for these expanded
tasks, or do you think that might create some difficulty?
(Mr Mann) It will vary from area to area of the country.
We are very well recruited in some areas of the country and as
long as this was a role which people agreed in principle was a
legitimate role of the reserve forces and for which they joined,
I would not see a difficulty there. There are other areas less
well recruited and it may therefore be difficult even to get the
recruits in through the door.
(Brigadier Houghton) You are asking a question which
it is probably impossible to give an answer to in advance. There
is no doubt that there is a division of opinion and certainly
we have managed so far to do a certain amount of consultation
as to whether or not the motivating ethos of a chap or lady who
wants to join the Territorial Army is to go to Heathrow Airport
or Sellafield, or something like that, or is their motivating
ethos that they want to be a part of deployed forces going away
on overseas operations. Depending on the individual and their
circumstances, some would see the potential within their Territorial
service to be called up for guarding tasks would put them off
doing it. Others will not have a difficulty with that.
443. There is a problem, is there not? Once
you have made that decision, if you do not get the recruits, an
awful lot of time will have gone by before you can establish this
expanded force. So your other option is to go down a new force
altogether. Is any serious consideration being given to an establishment
of a similar corps to the National Guard in the United States,
that these people could be used for these guarding roles and for
civil emergency roles? Is any serious consideration being given
to that as another option?
(Mr Mann) We have looked very closely at the National
Guard. There is a range of issues in respect of the National Guard
which covers more than just their role. So you have to be careful
about drawing absolute conclusions from that. A lot will depend
on what we are told when we finish the consultation process. If
there is no appetite for this out there, then we will draw one
set of conclusions. If there is a very large appetite for this
out there, we will draw a separate set of conclusions. I am afraid
I simply cannot predict where we will come out until we know what
444. I am slightly unclear, and I am sure the
rest of the Committee are, where this appetite out there is being
sought. You said if there is an appetite out there for this particular
solution. I am interested to know where you would go to canvass
the alternative to the reserve force as a solution.
(Mr Mann) That is what we would intend to do through
the consultation process.
445. With the same people.
(Mr Mann) With the groups of people I mentioned before,
that is the reserve forces, employers and anybody else who has
an opinion to offer.
446. In a remarkable statement to us in response
to our report on terrorism the Government have suggested that
they share our Committee's sense of urgency and priority on these
issues. Seven months has already gone by and in answer to nearly
every question so far you are suggesting that even more time will
need to be taken because the thinking process is still not clear.
Do you not have a problem with that?
(Mr Mann) I think that although there is a potential
role for the reserve forces here, what I would not want to downplay
is the capabilities that we have already to execute these tasks,
capabilities which we have already enhanced in ways which have
been described to the Committee. We have put one package of enhancements
in, so have the civil police and other authorities. What we are
discussing here is a second package of potential enhancements.
447. My final question relates to what has happened
already in Scotland with regard to the responsibility for law
and order being devolved down to that administration and similar
responsibility for some of the new tasks to do with home defence
have also been delegated to them. Where do you feel the roles
of the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales
fit in with what you are trying to do and how are you going to
link the reserve forces, the police and other bodies in that area?
(Mr Mann) This moves us into issues about the control
and co-ordination arrangements which would apply. In terms of
the consultation process, clearly they will need to be involved,
if I might just clear that issue out of the way. The broader issue
about co-ordination and control of the response to an incident
is an issue which we are exploring in conjunction with the Civil
Contingencies Secretariat because powers do vary across the United
Kingdom. We have to be conscious of that in the arrangements we
put in place so that we can fit within those-co-ordination arrangements.
In particular, in respect of the enhancements we are making to
liaison arrangements at the regional brigade level, we are making
specific enhancements which will allow us to undertake that with
national assemblies and national executives in Scotland, Wales
and Northern Ireland.
Chairman: I am sorry, but we have to
throw people out now. We have some questions now on chemical,
biological and nuclear incidents.
448. The CCS guidance to local authorities on
chemical and biological incidents assumes military involvement
in dealing with such incidents. What would be the procedures for
co-ordination between the military and civil authorities during
such an incident? Would the operational command of such incidents
be with ***?
(Brigadier Houghton) May I say as a general point
that the nature of the command very definitely is incident specific.
I therefore have to give you a couple of examples of the way in
which it might be played. I go back to the point that the policy
framework within which we provide military support to the civil
authority in resolving these is the MACA framework and it is under
MACP, military aid to civil power, that we do this. The armed
forces have a number of specialist capabilities. In relation to
CBRN, it is worth commenting specifically on two. The first is
that nationwide at any time of the day, we have elements of 11
Regiment EOD, who are the bomb disposal experts of the armed forces.
They have responsibility, other than within the Metropolitan Police
who have their own capability, for being the first line to go
to any improvised explosive device. ***. There will be other ways
in which a device might be CBRN related in the way that is reported
back to the civil police. It might come as a result of intelligence,
it might come as a result of a terrorist incident when the nature
of the device is reported to the civil authority. If there were
no terrorist involvement with the device that involves ***, then
there would be no time at which dealing with that device is passed
over ***. If it were such that, for example, terrorists were holding
hostages and a CBRN device might be in the proximity, then it
could be that the *** until the time when it can be handed back
to the civil authority or the police.
449. He would have command and he would hand
(Brigadier Houghton) Hand it over and then under police
authority the actual rendering safe of that device would proceed.
If there is no terrorist involvement, and therefore ***, then
at no stage would the command of the incident pass out of the
responsibility of the police commander. The last time I gave evidence
I talked about the various levels of police commander, the bronze,
the silver and the gold. The commander for the incident is the
gold level of command within the police.
450. Are the armed forces widely spread around
the country for any such incidents?
(Brigadier Houghton) Two things. I mentioned the EOD
because our ***. The render-safe procedures are done by another
***. This is under an operation called ***. This has the capability
of ***. The nature of the of the device if it is a chemical or
biological device, ***. If it is nuclear or radiological device
, ***. The core military elements of it involve to two specialist
451. Where are they?
(Brigadier Houghton) ***. The military commander of
452. I suppose one of the problems is that if
there were an incident involving something locals have not come
across before, you could not hang around until somebody ***. What
method is available for very swift movement from *** so that the
emergency services have the ability to move and do their job?
(Brigadier Houghton) Much depends on the nature of
the way the initial device is made known, whether or not it is
a response to an IED. There is a nationwide coverage of EOD capability
which has the ability to *** They can call off hoaxes, dummies,
*** there will probably be no render-safe procedures and they
can just advise on the way it can be handled before it is sent
away for analysis. We would stand to the *** if there were any
thought that it could be a nuclear, radiological or chemical device.
***. There are different ways of getting the capability there.
Clearly it would deploy in a fashion which allows us to get the
most important people there first, *** That entails a certain
element of the technical response force and therefore ***.
453. Has this been exercised?
(Brigadier Houghton) Indeed; yes.
454. Is it swift? Where is the nearest airfield
(Brigadier Houghton) It would probably go from ***.
455. How far is that?
(Brigadier Houghton) Twenty miles up the road, perhaps
456. Could you give us some indication on transit
times? That would be really helpful because ***.. Would you give
us some indication in a note please?
(Brigadier Houghton) Yes.
(Mr Davenport) The *** is a very large outfit of several
hundred people, depending on the *** . It is on a staged process
of standby notice to deploy with the ***.
457. I was wondering about saturation. If there
were more than one device and they were assessed to be dodgy and
further action needed to be taken, what number of devices could
we get to before we run out of people to deal with them? There
has to be equipment and specialists at the front end and I just
wondered, if there were a multiple raid of some sort, how many
we would have to face before we ran out of sufficient bodies or
equipment to deal with them. That is obviously a risk you have
to work out and balance. Is there an estimate?
(Mr Davenport) Together with the Home Office we beefed
up that capability for dealing with CBRN incidents and we are
satisfied we have a capability for dealing with *** incidents
at once. ***, but we have nevertheless beefed up the capability.
458. What if some disaster occurs whilst these
forces are deployed abroad? Would these guys be deployed abroad?
(Mr Davenport) No.
(Brigadier Houghton) The *** capability *** is specifically
for domestic contingency in this respect. *** The fact is that
this is a quite manpower intensive ***, it draws on expertise
which is ***. That is why since 11 September a lot of early effort
has gone into *** so the correct level of prioritisation can be
done and all the hoaxes and false alarms ruled out, so we apply
the capability to a system of priorities in the most ordered fashion.
It is not the sort of capability ***.
459. Are you telling us that team is spread
evenly throughout the United Kingdom?
(Brigadier Houghton) Correct. Yes, in terms of the
EOD assets, though clearly, depending on the nature of the local
infrastructure, there are bits of Scotland it would take some
time to get to. Perhaps not everywhere is within the same time
frame but in terms of geographic coverage, we do have it.
Chairman: When you are giving this indication
of time frames you might work out which constituencies we represent
and tell us how long it would take.