Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1240 - 1247)

TUESDAY 7 MAY 2002

ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER DAVID VENESS, CBE, AND DEPUTY CHIEF CONSTABLE ALAN GOLDSMITH

Chairman

  1240. The National Audit Office produced a report, we had the witnesses from the ambulance service and I understand at one stage the fire service might well have opted out. Do you think there is a reasonable prospect that the different agencies are going to operate from the same system or the system they use will be interoperable with the system almost everybody else appears to be using?
  (Mr Goldsmith) My perception, Chairman, is that the fire service would be happy to take it if the additional funding were available and certainly the ambulance services are looking at it because they have to replace their radio systems as well. I understand they are looking at Airwave more favourably from the outset.

  1241. So it is up to the Government to decide whether this plea for additional resources is legitimate or can be borne within the existing funding.
  (Mr Goldsmith) Yes.

  Chairman: The argument of different emergency services operating different systems is so bizarre that I hope something seriously will emerge. The last couple of questions.

Mr Cran

  1242. One question from me and because I am not a wireless operator and I simply do not understand the question I am going to read it and I hope one of you understands it. It is simply this: do the police, the military and other blue light services have adequate and properly interoperable—I know the meaning of that—and structured C3 systems with adequate band-width security and anti-jam capabilities? Does one of you know anything about that?
  (Mr Goldsmith) I think my answer is that Airwave would provide that to the best of my knowledge.

  Mr Cran: I cannot argue with you.

Syd Rapson

  1243. Recently there was a celebration here and police officers around this building were carrying body armour which was extremely heavy. Because of the terrorism incidents there is a greater length of time officers are now using this body armour, I hope that somewhere in the service someone is going to look at lightweight protection because I can see in a few years' time all of these policemen coming down with bad backs and losing even more officers. If someone is looking at that that would be interesting to me as a parliamentarian.
  (Mr Goldsmith) A lot of work has gone into this. Basically what we are looking for is a magic t-shirt that weighs absolutely nothing, can be worn for eight hours and will protect you against any possible attack.

Jim Knight

  1244. Frodo Baggins had one in Lord of the Rings.
  (Mr Goldsmith) Such a product does not exist. The nature of vests that will prevent gunshot from penetrating is not necessarily the same as will prevent a knife attack. A lot of work is being done centrally and work is going on, I can assure you of that.
  (Mr Veness) It is certainly the case that the officers you will have met that night, because I know the commands they are from and we are very vigorously looking at the options, they do have protection at the moment which is very effective but you are also right, Sir, it is cumbersome and it will lead over time to people suffering adverse health.

Syd Rapson

  1245. I had my ear severely bent by a very nice police officer.
  (Mr Veness) Consider it passed on, Sir.

Chairman

  1246. When I attended the count at Walsall Town Hall last Thursday most of the coppers there were wearing body armour. I do not know what they expected inside the building, maybe they had been given some kind of intelligence warning that politics is pretty severe. It was not needed.
  (Mr Goldsmith) In a number of forces, Norfolk being an example, officers do wear body armour at all times.

  1247. As a matter of routine?
  (Mr Goldsmith) It is a matter of saying under health and safety if we are aware that an officer could be at risk then we, as an employer, have a responsibility to provide suitable equipment. In Lincolnshire we are giving officers the option up to a certain time but after that time at night they will be required to wear it.

  Chairman: Thank you very much to you both, it was most instructive, and we appreciate you coming in.






 
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