Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1000 - 1005)

WEDNESDAY 17 APRIL 2002

MR GRON ROBERTS OBE AND MR PETER BRADLEY

  1000. Do you think the CCS is making a difference? That it really is doing what it was set up to do?
  (Mr Roberts) It is early days yet but I think it is certainly acting as a catalyst or an irritant to make sure that things are being done and we are addressing the problem. Our experience thus far, and as I say it is limited, is, yes, it is making a difference.

  1001. It is good if it is an irritant because we have had other witnesses who have never heard of it, so there you are. One other question. One of the bodies which has given us evidence has said, "This is a necessary body but we do not think the CCS is the one to do it. What we need is a sort of free-standing agency." Is that something you are thinking within your Association? Do you have a view about it?
  (Mr Bradley) I have a London view, while Gron is thinking. Certainly we have to be careful we do not get duplication. We have had the CCS and also the London Resilience Team and I think there is an issue around the potential duplication of work. We also have in London the LESLEC (?) Forum, the London Emergency Services Liaison Panel, so we have to be careful we do not get too many committees. I attended the first London Resilience Team meeting, which was chaired by Nick Raynsford, I think it was, and there were 65 people there talking about preparation for terrorism. I think if we are not careful, we will have too many people and it gets too complicated to try and get any results.
  (Mr Roberts) Much of this is unfortunately about the fact you have to invest. We have not invested in civil defence in this country for many, many years and therefore we do need a fairly powerful forum. If the Cabinet Secretariat is not it, then you would have to put it somewhere else. If you are in spending departments you are always arguing one thing against the other, and in the NHS in particular we tend to be terribly focused on some short-term targets.

Mr Howarth

  1002. We were talking earlier on about the radio system and the police decision to procure airwaves. I understand the NHS believes unlike the fire service that there ought to be a national system for the ambulance service's 15,500 individual units. You mentioned the question of inter-operability earlier. Do you believe it is essential that there should be that inter-operability with the other two emergency services and what involvement are you having in the procurement of this radio system?
  (Mr Roberts) Absolutely. We believe that it is really important, particularly for this type of incident, that people on the ground are able to speak to each other. The national procurement for the NHS is going ahead. As I say, we have just drawn up what does inter-operability mean kinds of agreements between the three emergency services. The philosophy for the fire service is a little bit different in that they want to communicate with fire teams so a lot more of their focus is on communicating through the control rooms. We want to be able to speak to people directly at the scene a lot more than they do, it is just a role difference really. We believe 100 per cent in fact that you have to have the inter-operability to get the level of resilience and operational capability for big incidents.

  1003. You have a good involvement in the decision making process, do you?
  (Mr Roberts) Absolutely.
  (Mr Bradley) I think the focus is not a day to day requirement, it is more around for the major incidents. The day to day requirement to speak to ambulance, fire and police is not there but it is for this major incident scenario.

Chairman

  1004. We have a copy of the National Audit Office report. If you would not mind, if there is any additional documentation you could send to us because you have gathered the drift of our questions, we would be really grateful to receive it.[1] When you look at the National Audit Office report, it is a bit worrying, it suggests that the Ambulance Service will opt out of a mode of enhanced communication that a lot of other public bodies are investing in. It would seem rather ludicrous having different emergency services operating different communication systems. When you read the report, Mr Bradley and Mr Roberts, it might be quite helpful if you consult your colleagues and give us an indication as to how things are emerging. Really, lastly, absolutely lastly, if I might add this final question on funding. The increased level of terrorist threat does not seem to have been met by an increase in resources, certainly not through the Civil Defence Grant mechanism. The Ambulance Service states that "The ability to organise and then maintain the capability to respond to such incidents, ie large scale terrorist attacks, will require initial and ongoing investment, particularly in staff training". Can you put an ever so rough figure on what additional investment might be needed? We are not going to hold you to any commitments to the figures but we do not have the slightest idea. Are we talking about half a million, a million, five million, ten million, 15 million, I have no idea.
  (Mr Roberts) I wish I had an idea, Chairman. Until we get the national doctrine, translate that into what does this mean, how many of these do we need, what framing do they need, it would be absolute guess work.

  1005. Okay. Do you believe that the health service overall, or the Department of Health, regards such investment as a priority?
  (Mr Roberts) I have seen some evidence that they do regard increasing preparedness as a priority. When we put the cost to ministers, whether that will compete against all the other priorities, I have no idea.

  Chairman: Thank you both very much. It has been very helpful. If there is any additional information, please let us know.





1   Ev. 187. Back


 
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