Select Committee on Defence Sixth Report



A director of homeland security?

  1. If the CCS's remit is to be enlarged, the questions arises as to whether its public profile also needs raising. Its title makes it sound like an obscure and narrowly circumscribed part of the internal government machinery. It is headed by an official, and one as we have seen with other responsibilities as well. His name does not appear on the secretariat's web site—and indeed in November 2001, the MoD Policy Director was unable to tell us his name without checking first that it was in the public domain.[254]
  2. In response to these criticisms, the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, argued that the CCS was not intended to be 'the public face ... of our response to either terrorist incidents or disruptive challenges in general,' rather it was 'one part of the mechanism for making sure that we facilitate an integrated response within our own internal government structures'.[255] And yet, as the Head of the CCS told us, 'the major way in which we do this job and approach this task is to engage other people in partnership ... We need to engage lots of other organisations and to get them working with us'.[256] Furthermore the Government's UK Resilience web site introduces itself with the statement—'this site is run by the Cabinet Office's Civil Contingencies Secretariat.' It seems to us that an organisation whose responsibilities include engaging with all those outside central government with responsibility in this area, running the relevant government website, and, through its News Co-ordination Centre, co-ordinating information for the public during a cross-departmental emergency, has taken on, to all intents and purposes, the role of the Government's public face. However, it is not a role, as we discussed earlier, which it is discharging as effectively as we would like or expect.
  3. It has been suggested that the British Government should follow the example of the United States where after 11 September, the President appointed Governor Tom Ridge as Director of Homeland Security. As we have already said, there are clearly dangers in attempting to draw any too precise analogy between the UK and the United States and even within the United States there have been widely reported problems with the post. The Prime Minister believed that such an appointment would 'risk confusing the situation' and that therefore 'it was not the right thing to do'.[257]
  4. When we suggested to Ministers that the work of the CCS needed a much higher public profile, and that perhaps it was time now to appoint a senior political figure to take charge, we were told—
  5. ... if you are looking for an equivalent Director of Homeland Security, we have one in the shape of the Home Secretary as the person who is at the head not least of the Civil Contingencies Committee of the Cabinet, and he is responsible for taking a lead across the board in the big picture on these areas and that it is where the buck ultimately stops.[258]

    The Minster of State, Home Office, told us—

    [the Home Secretary's] chairmanship of the Ministerial Committee on Terrorism and the Civil Contingencies Committee allows him to maintain a clear oversight of the issues and measures being taken to strengthen the UK's ability to respond to the terrorist threat.[259]

    Again this situation may be clearly understood within the Government, but it is not outside. Ministerial responsibility for the CCS on a day to day basis was taken by the Parliamentary Secretary at the Cabinet Office, at least up until the reshuffle at the end of May. Since then, we understand, the Minister of State at the Cabinet Office, Lord Macdonald of Tradeston has taken on the responsibility.

  6. The present structures are unnecessarily bureaucratic, inward-looking and confused. The CCS is part of the Cabinet Office, but Sir David Omand, who has been asked by the Cabinet Secretary to review its current priorities and strategy, will report to the Home Secretary as Chairman of the Civil Contingencies Committee.[260] The name itself, Civil Contingencies Secretariat, conjures up images of Yes, Minister. Although we are not in favour of the creation of an agency along the lines of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency, we believe that the CCS should be renamed the Emergency Planning Agency (or Centre); it should be given a clear role as the public face of the Government's response to emergencies; it should be a one-stop shop for government assistance and support to local agencies in the event of an emergency; and it should take the lead in co-ordinating central government's response to massive and cross-departmental emergencies. It should have adequate resources and authority to carry out its terms of reference.
  7. We believe that such an organisation will require strong and dedicated political leadership. We believe that leadership should be provided by a Cabinet Minister. We are not convinced that the Home Secretary, given his many other responsibilities, is best placed to deliver it. At present there is only one permanent member of the Civil Contingency Committee, the Home Secretary as Chairman. One possibility would be to appoint a Cabinet Minister as Chairman of the Civil Contingencies Committee and vice-chairman of the Ministerial Committee on Terrorism. The Home Secretary could then remain as Chairman of the Ministerial Committee on Terrorism and become the second permanent member of the Civil Contingencies Committee. We do not believe that the chairman of the Civil Contingencies Committee need be the Secretary of State of a department with particular relevant responsibilities. It is worth recalling the example of the Government's preparations against the millennium computer bug. The Cabinet Minister placed in charge of that was the then President of the Council.
  8. On 20 June the Prime Minister announced the appointment of Sir David Omand to the new post of Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator and Permanent Secretary, Cabinet Office. The press notice accompanying the appointment stated—
  9. This new Permanent Secretary post is being created to enhance the capacity at the centre of government to co-ordinate security, intelligence and consequence management matters and to deal with risks and major emergencies should they arise.

    The Prime Minister told the Liaison Committee on 16 July that the reason for Sir David's appointment was to put the 'very good senior working relationships with people in our intelligence services ... on a more sustainable formal footing'.[261] It is intended that Sir David will take up his new post by the end of the Summer. We welcome this appointment and the bringing together of intelligence and consequence management which it implies.

  10. We note, however, that Sir David has a number of responsibilities as Second Permanent Secretary of the Cabinet Office. These include constitutional and propriety issues. He will also be Accounting Officer for the Cabinet Office as well as for the Single Intelligence Account. These are not inconsiderable matters. We have previously expressed concern that the head of the CCS was also in charge of the Government Information and Communications Service (incidentally another of Sir David's responsibilities). If our earlier recommendations are accepted, we believe that Sir David's new post will give him a unique opportunity to reinvigorate the central government machinery for co-ordinating and directing national security and consequence management functions. We very much hope that his additional responsibilities will not distract him from this essential task.
  11. Mutual Aid

  12. The focus of this report is the management of large-scale terrorist attacks. Almost by definition the response to such an attack is likely to require resources beyond the capacity of local agencies. The arrangements whereby additional resources are provided from other—frequently neighbouring—agencies are known as mutual aid. The 'blue light' services—police, fire and ambulance—all have mutual aid arrangements already in place. For the police these are on a national basis, whereas for the fire and ambulance services they are provided regionally.[262]
  13. The attacks of 11 September, however, created a wholly new understanding of the potential scale of the consequences of a terrorist attack. For the Fire Service, the Chief Inspector of Fire Services, Mr Graham Meldrum, set up the New Dimension Group which contained five project teams, one of which was devoted to Mutual Aid. That team concluded that the existing arrangements were not sufficiently resilient, and that 'more work ...[needed] to be done to actually ensure that fire brigades have the capability and the wherewithal to reinforce each other over very long periods of time.'[263]
  14. The Ambulance Service's arrangements for mutual aid were used during the series of 'white powder' incidents in the UK which followed the incidents of anthrax spores being sent through the post in the United States. The London Ambulance Service provided assistance 'to other counties to help deal with their incidents.'[264] Mr Peter Bradley, Chief Executive of the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust told us—
  15. I think most services suffer from a degree of parochialism and there is a need to recognise that there are times when you cannot cope and services cannot expect to resource up for those very rare events and therefore we have to have good robust systems for mutual aid.[265]

  16. The three 'blue light' services are very differently structured and organised. The Ambulance Service consists of 32 ambulance trusts in England and national services in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. As members of the NHS, they are accountable to and financed by central government (the Department of Health). Fire Services are accountable locally either directly to their local authority, in the case of shire counties, or through a Fire Service authority of local authority representatives. There are some 50 police forces in the UK. Responsibility for delivering police services rests, in the case of Home Office Police Forces, with the Chief Constable (or Commissioner, in the case London's forces) who has 'operational independence.' Outside London their performance is monitored by police authorities, which also set and monitor their budget.
  17. The way in which each service is established and structured has affected the nature of its relationship with central government and with other agencies. The Ambulance Service Association, for example, believed that the ambulance service's involvement in central government's emergency planning activities had suffered because emergency planning in the NHS 'had increasingly become a public health responsibility.'[266] They had a sense that, because the ambulance service was part of the NHS, the assumption had been made that, if the Department of Health or the NHS had been consulted, then the ambulance service had been consulted.[267] The Ambulance Service Association only obtained a copy of the consultation document on the emergency planning review after the closing date.[268] According to the Results of the Consultation document, only two responses were received from the ambulance service compared with 13 from the police and 23 from the fire services.
  18. The Fire Service's Chief Officers had only succeeded in becoming directly involved in the work of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat by persuading their departmental Ministers to make representations on their behalf.[269] Before 11 September not all principal fire officers were routinely security cleared. Their requirement to be accountable to their local authorities had the potential to cause some difficulties in this area, as Mr Paul Young, Chief Fire Officer of Devon Fire and Rescue Service told us.[270] He described the informal arrangement of mutual understanding which he has developed with his local authority as 'not a terribly satisfactory way forward.'[271] The Fire Service had also felt excluded from the emergency planning review and had had 'to make some very strong recommendations to get included.'[272]
  19. ACPO representatives on the other hand seemed to have been plugged in to the CCS's work from the start, and to have been included in the emergency planning review and its consultation process.[273]
  20. Effective mutual aid depends upon common standards and working practices. The Head of the CCS told us—
  21. We are perhaps fortunate in having compact geography, in having organisations like the police, fire service, ambulance service who train to national standards, who are equipped to national standards and for whom mutual co-operation and mutual aid is a way of life.[274]

    We agree that these mechanisms provide a good foundation. But the emergency services were all agreed that they do not provide an adequate structure to meet the requirements in terms of scale and sustainability following 11 September. CACFOA told us—

    It is important in terms of planning for the future that we have the capacity and capability to respond to incidents on a scale not envisaged prior to 11 September. The new dimension in terrorism presents us with demands that are currently beyond our conventional capacity. The result of our risk assessment is that additional investment is required in the level and range of resources available for deployment to enhance the Fire Service capability.[275]

  22. Assistant Commissioner Veness went further and challenged more fundamentally the principle of existing emergency management arrangements—
  23. ... to regard all the achievements of integrated emergency management, in which Britain has not a bad record in comparative terms ... as the answer to this problem is to miss the scale of the challenge. It is utterly around scalability and it is around the resources that we would need to bring to bear and ... how we would coalesce our resources.[276]

    Deputy Chief Constable Goldsmith agreed and added that the issues which emerged from 11 September 'took us to a different level than we had planned for in the past. There are some issues which arise which are not just about doing the same but doing more of it.'[277]

  24. The President of the Ambulance Service Association told us—
  25. ... what happened on 11 September ... changed all our planning assumptions. Our planning assumptions up to then were about major incidents. We do not deal with natural disasters in this country which cause thousands of casualties and go on for weeks. We generally tend to have short, sharp major incidents, a couple of hundred casualties dealt with in four hours.[278]

    But even direct experience of large scale natural disasters may not be of that much assistance. Deputy Chief Constable Goldsmith referred to the example of the southern states of the USA where they know that 'tornadoes are going to happen every September time'. Therefore 'they have evacuation plans in place because the threat will always be the same from the same direction and the movements required will always be the same.'[279] The requirement for mass evacuation as a result of, or in the face of the threat of, a major terrorist incident cannot be so accurately predicted.

  26. A number of additional steps will therefore be needed. Firstly existing arrangements must be strengthened. This is already proceeding. Both the Fire and Ambulance services are introducing arrangements to be able to provide mutual aid and reinforcement on a national rather than only a regional basis.[280] We recommend that the Department of Health and the Fire Service Inspectorate ensure that this work is completed by the end of the year. Another important aspect of this strengthening will be improved communications. It is essential that our emergency response agencies are equipped with communication systems that are both resilient and interoperable.
  27. Communications

  28. A striking example of the vulnerabilities of existing communication systems occurred on 25 April 2002. The telephone exchange in Southampton suffered a catastrophic failure which led to the loss of telephone services in the south western area of Hampshire and southern Wiltshire. In particular people in these areas lost access to the 999 system. The only mobile phone network that remained operational was Orange because, presumably, its network traffic was not at that time being routed solely along BT cabling running via the faulty exchange. The Hampshire police force lost all telephones and UHF radios within their Command and Control Centre. One of the reasons for this was that, although there were a number of separate lines leaving the Command and Control Centre, they all came together at the Southampton exchange. Thus the system failed to provide the resilience expected of it. It is unclear how many other Command and Control Centres around the country could be affected in a similar way.[281]
  29. The CCS witnesses drew our attention to the Emergency Communication Network (ECN) which operates outside the public switched telephone network.[282] Dealing with Disaster—Central Government's principal guidance on consequence management—describes the ECN as 'a robust communication network which links directly a number of central government departments, police, fire and local authorities'.[283] The LGA, however, told us that in some areas, such as London, the emergency services are not linked into the ECN, and that although the circuits are routed differently to BT/Mercury circuits they are still routed via exchanges. Furthermore many local authorities have found the ECN to be unreliable when needed during emergency responses.[284]
  30. Speaking for the LGA, Mr David Kerry, Chief Emergency Planning Officer, London Borough of Hounslow said of the ECN—
  31. Our experience is it is rubbish, we do not want it, it is a waste of space and a waste of money, get rid of it and please spend the money on something more sensible.[285]

  32. We are very concerned that the communication systems which would be used in the event of an emergency have unknown but potentially fundamental vulnerabilities. We note the lack of confidence in the reliability of the Government's Emergency Communication Network. We recommend that an urgent review is conducted into the potential vulnerabilities and reliability of the communication networks which responding agencies would have to rely upon in an emergency.
  33. Airwave

  34. In April 2002, the National Audit Office published a report into the public private partnership for the procurement of a new mobile communication system for the police.[286] This report revealed that the objective of common or interoperable radio communications between all three emergency services was not being achieved. The police had entered into a contract for the national procurement of a new system, called Airwave, but the Fire Services had decided on a regional approach, using consortia of neighbouring services. A consortium comprising Devon, Cornwall, Avon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Somerset had entered into preferred bidder negotiations with a supplier of an alternative technology. The Department of Health had decided to adopt a national procurement strategy for the Ambulance Service. That procurement would be conducted through an open competition, and Airwave was expected to be one of the bidders.
  35. We were particularly concerned at the prospect of the fire services procuring systems which might not be compatible either with other systems procured by other regional consortia, or with those of the police and ambulance service. In its memorandum to the committee, the Chief and Assistant Chief Fire Officers Association (CACFOA) stated—
  36. The scale of the attacks on 11 September 2001 drew attention to the issues of resource management and resilience over a prolonged period. Although individual Brigades could mount an initial response, under current arrangements this could not be sustained over a prolonged period. This has indicated the need for strengthening not only individual Brigade resources, but also mutual aid and re-enforcement schemes between Fire Authorities on both an inter and intra regional basis.[287]

  37. Inter-regional mutual aid would seem to us to require common communication systems. Indeed the President of CACFOA told us—
  38. I think from the 11 September viewpoint, whatever technologies we have in place in terms of fire, police and ambulances, the blue [light] services in particular, we have to guarantee that those technologies are able to talk to each other at the various command levels.[288]

    The problem was caused apparently by uncertainty over funding.[289] We were therefore pleased and surprised to be told by the Minister of State—

    The Fire Service and Ambulance Service will procure radio systems that will be interoperable with the police and with each other.[290]

  39. The MoD have also told us that they plan to replace the current communications equipment deployed with 2 Signal Brigade with equipment which will be compatible with Airwave. Under the proposal in the MoD's discussion document The Role of the Reserves in Home Defence and Security, 2 Signal Brigade, which already provides the deployable element of a national communication structure, would have a formal role in supporting operational continuity. The MDP is also 'involved in the development of digital communications operability between police forces'.[291]
  40. We welcome these decisions by the Government to ensure interoperability of communications between the emergency services and other responders, including the military, although we believe that this result could have been more effectively achieved by earlier co-ordination between government departments and the services concerned.
  41. We have noted that Airwave is to be supplied by O2 plc, which is British Telecommunications plc's demerged mobile communications business. We recommend that Airwave and the other compatible new systems should be included in the review into communications resilience which we recommend in paragraph 199. Any contract entered into for the procurement of these systems must guarantee a robust level of resilience throughout all parts of the system.
  42. Reinforcement

  43.  But, however much existing arrangements for mutual aid are strengthened, there is a recognition that they would not be adequate for a truly massive disaster. Additional resources will need to be found. These resources must have the necessary skills and training and they must be available. Assistant Commissioner Veness summarised the problem—
  44. If we need to evacuate a city, if we had a massive scene, or if, for example, there was a threat which required us to protect a sector of British industry which is pretty geographically spread, for example, power, how would we go about that? We have not got a gendarmerie. We have not got a third force ... [or] a national guard.[292]

  45. In ACPO's submission to the MoD's work on the new chapter of the SDR, the Assistant Commissioner set out a list of options for providing counter-terrorist reinforcement—
  46. 1.  Special constabularies

    2.  Police auxiliaries

    3.  Private security resources

    4.  Volunteer reserves

    5.  Others—eg voluntary organisations.[293]

  47. Initially therefore the police would look for reinforcement from, in a sense, its own resources. There are about 12,000 special constables attached to individual police forces. They have the same powers as police officers, but only in their own area or neighbouring areas. They would need to be attested to work in other areas. This may be an obstacle to providing a national reinforcement capability. Police auxiliaries include, for example, traffic wardens as well as the new Community Support Officers to be introduced under the Police Reform Bill. Of the initial 500 to be recruited, some 2-300 are expected to be in London. They would have a role as additional eyes and ears for the police in advance of any incident as well as being used after an incident for 'low tech tasks such as securing areas'.[294]
  48. The Private Security Industry

  49. Such tasks, and other similar ones such as establishing cordons, might also be undertaken, under certain circumstances and with appropriate supervision, by private security officers. Long overdue regulation of the industry was introduced in the Private Security Industry Act 2001. That Act established the Security Industry Authority whose aims are to raise standards in the industry, both in terms of management and the provision of services at operational level, to reduce crime within the industry, and to improve the pay levels and employment conditions of those in the industry. It will do this by establishing a licensing system for every individual at every level in the industry and by operating a company approval scheme. This latter scheme—at least initially—will be voluntary. The Chair of the Security Industry Authority told us that it planned to adopt the same criminal criteria for security industry licences (ie the commission of what sorts of offence would prevent an individual receiving a licence) as the police use for police officers. That licensing, however, will not begin before the latter part of 2004.
  50.  There are no definitive figures for the size of the private security industry. It is an extremely diverse sector. Industry sources suggested to us that there might be around 125,000 uniformed officers, but the total figure for guarding is probably far higher and the size of the industry as a whole could be over 300,000. Although standards in the industry are variable, almost every sector could play a greater role in the fight against terrorism. But that role will be more effective when the industry is properly regulated. Assistant Commissioner Veness cited Canary Wharf where the proportion of private security to police officers is four to one and they were working together to 'very beneficial effect'.[295] We are also aware of the close co-operation between police and private security companies at party conferences.
  51. Currently private security officers are prohibited from becoming special constables. Representatives of the private sector security argued to us that that prohibition should be lifted. The introduction of a licensing regime for individual officers may provide the context in which it could be reconsidered.
  52. We believe that there is an opportunity to increase the involvement of the private security sector in counter-terrorist reinforcement. But that should only be done in step with the raising of standards in the industry. It is disappointing that the licensing regime for the industry will not be introduced before 2004-05. If the private security industry and its staff are to play an effective role, they will need the appropriate training. We look to the police and the private security industry jointly to bring forward detailed proposals as a matter of urgency, for consideration by the Home Office and the Security Industry Authority.
  53. Military Support

  54. The Armed Forces have a number of specialist capabilities which can be deployed in response to a terrorist incident, for example in the disposal of explosive devices and the provision of a combined military and scientific capability. The MoD was, however, at pains to emphasise—
  55. There is no attempt to duplicate the capabilities of other agencies and departments. To do so would be wasteful of resources and risk undermining effective command and control. For example, the Metropolitan Police have developed an Explosive Ordnance Disposal capability. Within the London area, therefore, the MoD only provides expert support and a back-up capability (rather than the full capability deployed in the rest of the country) if a terrorist device is discovered. Similarly, there is no attempt to duplicate the medical, fire and rescue, or public order roles of the emergency services which would be essential to manage the consequences of a terrorist attack (although once again the armed forces can play a supporting role if required and available).[296]

  56. The role of the Armed Forces in managing the consequences of a terrorist attack is one of the issues considered in the work on the New Chapter to the SDR. The MoD's discussion document, The Role of the Reserves in Home Defence and Security, puts forward a specific proposal for expanding the role of the Reserves. We discuss that below (paragraph 219).
  57. The present situation, however, as described by the MoD is as follows—

The fundamental principle for dealing with all major incidents is that the responsibility, both financial and operational, for dealing with civil emergencies will always lie with the civil authorities. The armed forces, if involved, will therefore only deploy in a supporting capacity. Any such military deployment will be undertaken as one of the various forms of MACA.[297]

The MoD has previously told us that MACA, Military Assistance to the Civil Authorities, falls into four categories—

  • Military Aid to the Civil Power (MACP)—assistance in direct maintenance of restoration of law and order.

  • Counter Drugs Operations—supporting the counter-drugs activities of law enforcement agencies both in the UK and overseas.

  • Military Aid to Other Government Departments (MAGD)—non-military tasks, including fisheries protection, fuel crisis, response to foot and mouth outbreak, firemen's strikes.

  • Military Aid in the Civil Community (MACC)—provision of support both in emergencies and routine situations, to assist the community at large, for example during the 2000 floods.[298]

According to British Defence Doctrine, however, counter-drugs operations are an example of MACP. The other example of MACP is counter-terrorism operations, including the long running deployment of military forces in Northern Ireland. Decisions to deploy the Armed Forces in any MACA role require ministerial approval except where life is immediately at risk.[299]

  1. Other than in a couple of niche capability areas, where only the Armed Forces have that capability, the Armed Forces do not keep any manpower or resources contingent upon or dedicated to the MACA tasks.[300] Neither do the Armed Forces, in general, carry out specific training to prepare troops for MACA tasks.[301] The requesting authority must state what task needs to be performed. The MoD, or, under certain circumstances, the local Commander, will determine whether a military capability exists and is available to perform the task and how it can best be provided.[302] Based on the general principle that money specifically provided by Parliament for defence purposes must not be used for other purposes, assistance provided by the Armed Forces will be charged for.[303] But where there is a risk to life, such charges may be waived.[304]
  2. Taken together these conditions effectively work to exclude the resources of the Armed Forces from inclusion in civil emergency plans. They do not, of course, exclude the Armed Forces from involvement in particular emergencies, and where they have been involved their assistance has frequently been found to be invaluable.[305] But they are not included in plans. The LGA told us—
  3. You cannot write them into a plan because you do not know if they are going to be there.[306]

    The Assistant Commissioner of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority agreed—

    ... military aid cannot be taken as a given, because it will change on a day to day, week to week, month to month basis ... therefore we are not able to plan on the basis of having military aid available.[307]

    The Ambulance Service Association put it even more starkly—

    Our planning assumption, what we have been told, is that we should not assume the Army can lend us any support ... our planning assumptions are that anything we get from the military would be a bonus.[308]

    Mr Ian Hoult, Emergency Planning Officer for Hampshire, coupled the problems of availability with those of cost—

    We know that [the military] are an effective force that can be brought in. What they perpetually tell us, of course, is we cannot rely upon them because they may be deployed elsewhere and not available to us. The other unfortunate thing with the military is the scale of charges. Whilst they are more than willing to come and help, if it is life saving then they come free of charge, but if it is anything other than that they come at a very exorbitant rate which most local authorities will not be able to afford.[309]

    The LGA argued there should be no charge for this military assistance 'as the personnel, equipment and resources are paid for out of public money'.[310]

  4. The MoD has recognised that, since 11 September, these issues require some reconsideration. The Minister for the Armed Forces told us—
  5. If there is a shortfall, and I think there is an indication from a variety of sources that there is a need for additional immediate response activity across the whole of the UK, then we have got to seek to meet that.[311]

    The Secretary of State has said on a number of occasions, including in evidence to us,[312] that he believed that 'our Reserve Forces could play a greater role in support of the civil authorities in the event of a serious threat incident'.[313]

    The role of the reserves

  6. On 12 June, the MoD published a discussion document, on the Role of the Reserves in Home Defence and Security. In a letter to the Chairman of the Defence Committee announcing the publication, the Secretary of State described the work which had resulted in this set of proposals—
  7. It has looked at how much the Armed Forces as a whole, whether Regular or Reserves, should be involved in support of the civil authorities in response to attack on the United Kingdom; whether there are ways in which military support to the civil authorities can be improved; what organisational arrangements would help deliver these improvements and the implications for such issues on equipment and training. It has been based on the long standing principle that the lead responsibility for domestic security lies with the civil authorities and hence that the use of the Armed Forces for home defence and security tasks must be at the specific request of the civil authorities.

  8. The document proposed enhancing the ability of Regional headquarters to plan liaise and operate continuously, and the establishment of Reserve Rapid Reaction Forces on a regional basis, comprising an average of 500 Reserve personnel in each Brigade region who volunteer for the role and who would be available to deploy in a crisis. This would provide a total of around 6,000 nationwide. It also proposed formalising the role of 2 Signals Brigade, and its predominately Territorial Army support units, in supporting those personnel deploying.
  9. The Secretary of State described one of the key purposes of the document as being to discuss these changes with the Reserves themselves and with their employers. Comments were invited by 13 September 2002. We intend to conduct a separate inquiry into the SDR New Chapter over the coming months, and it will be for that inquiry to examine how the work on the New Chapter was conducted. Nonetheless we should state now that we are disappointed that proposals on the role of the Reserves took so long to emerge, and that even now they constitute no more than 'an outline concept.'[314] The MoD told us in mid-February that 'there [had] been a specific concentration on ways by which we could involve TA and reservists from across the three services more widely and with a far more speedy response',[315] and that the consultation process with the Reserves and other interested parties, leading to the costed options, would all be completed by April.[316] We cannot understand why a process which was planned to be completed by April has in fact only entered its consultation period in mid-June, and seems unlikely to be completed until late autumn at the earliest.
  10. We also have a number of concerns about the proposals themselves. Although the discussion document limits itself to possible roles for the Reserves, rather than for the Armed Forces as a whole, it seems that the MoD has decided that this will be the only enhancement of resources currently available for military assistance to the civil authorities. In addition to the Secretary of State's letter quoted above, the parliamentary answer announcing the publication of the discussion document stated that it contained 'proposals for providing a significant enhancement to the support which the Department and armed forces can provide to the civil authorities'.[317] It should, however, be noted that the members of the Reaction Forces will be drawn from the existing Volunteer Reserves.
  11. In the Threat from Terrorism we supported an additional role for the Reserves in the context of the increased threat from terrorism, but not in place of Regular forces. This focus on the Reserves as the first and principal source of military assistance would appear to be a significant departure from historic practice. The MoD's Director of Military Operations told us in February—
  12. By far and away the first port of call for MACA type operations is the regular manpower.[318]

  13. Figures provided subsequently showed that no Reservists at all were involved in operations connected to the fuel crisis in September and November 2000, and only around 10 per cent of those who assisted with the consequences of the floods in autumn 2000 and the foot and mouth epidemic in 2001 were Reservists.[319]
  14. At the same session the MoD's Director-General, Operational Policy offered this caution on the usefulness of the Reserves in the post 11 September world—
  15. ... it is just worth noting that the readiness state of reserves is quite often low in relation to regulars. In terms of availability or their involvement, sometimes they are involved in their civil capacities, certainly when you think of the medical side and maybe even on the engineering side and sometimes the reserves are actually double-hatted in their civil and military manifestations.[320]

    In its memorandum to this inquiry the MoD stated—

    We would expect [MACA] assistance to take the form of the provision of specialist equipment—or the conduct of specific activities for which the armed forces are specifically trained, such as logistics support, communications and planning and management.[321]

    The memorandum goes on to emphasise that the MoD has 'a responsibility to care for the members of the armed forces' and that the mere fact that they are trained to do dangerous military tasks in dangerous environments 'does not ... mean that they are more expendable than ordinary members of the public, or that they should be instructed to undertake tasks for which they are not properly equipped or trained, especially where alternative capabilities are available.'[322] We presume that these comments apply equally to regular and reserve personnel.

  16. These statements were all made in the context of providing military assistance in response to a terrorist incident. However, the discussion document suggests that the Reserves rather than the regulars may now be the first port of call in such circumstances. The issues over the state of readiness of the Reserves will be resolved by the use of a volunteer force whose lead elements will undertake to be available in a few hours.[323] They will be prepared to carry out a 'wide range of general duties,'[324] rather than specific tasks for which they have been specifically trained. Additional training will be provided in the form of 5 or 6 days a year in total.[325] We understand that approximately two of these days will be devoted to training relating to the organisation of the Reaction Forces themselves.
  17. We asked our witnesses what particular types of assistance they looked for from the military. As we have previously mentioned, their first point was that, because the military could not guarantee to be available, they could not include them in their plans at all. The proposed Reserve Reaction Forces would provide a level of guaranteed availability. Whether a reserve force would be able to offer a response time which would meet the emergency services immediate requirements in unclear. The Fire Service, particularly in London, would be working to response times measured in minutes[326] rather than the 'few hours' envisaged in the discussion document.
  18. Deputy Chief Constable Goldsmith described what the police would look for from the military—
  19. ... one looks to the military to try to incorporate them and say what skills do we have ... is there a gap that we need to fill and can the military provide that? It might be in terms of civil engineering, it might be in terms of amphibious craft in flooding or it could be in terms of cordons ... The creation of a larger Territorial Army purely for that purpose is perhaps not recognising what we need ... not necessarily trained, soldiers, airmen or sailors but individuals who one can call upon when they are needed.[327]

  20. Assistant Commissioner Veness included the volunteer reserve in his list of those who might provide counter-terrorist reinforcement, but he wanted to use them 'in a way that does not relegate people to be merely static guards for protracted periods'.[328]
  21. The Ambulance Service Association identified assistance with detection of potentially hazardous chemical, biological or radiological agents as an area where 'the experience and expertise of the military is going to be very important'.[329]
  22. Mr Hoult, Chief Emergency Planning Officer for Hampshire and Honorary General Secretary of the Emergency Planning Society pointed to the assistance which the military had provided at Lockerbie in body recovery and searching for wreckage and in building bailey bridges and re-opening the city of Chichester to traffic and business when it was flooded in 1993-94.[330]
  23. Some of these tasks are included in the MoD's list of possible tasks for the Reaction Forces. These tasks are: reconnaissance, assistance with mass casualties, site search and clearance, transport and communications, the operation of water and feeding points, control and co-ordination functions, access control, the control of movement of large numbers of the public, guarding or other tasks at the request of the civil police.[331] Some of these require more specialist skills and training than others. It is not clear to us how the MoD will ensure that the necessary skills and training for even these tasks are to be found in a volunteer reserve force of 500 persons per region and only 5 or 6 days training a year. The much more sophisticated tasks which our witnesses suggested they would actually look to the military to provide are even less likely to be available.
  24. One area in which we have particular concern is the proposal in the document that the Reaction forces should have the capability to operate in 'chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological conditions'.[332] Under the SDR the decision was taken to transfer the anti-nuclear, biological and chemical weapons capability from the Royal Yeomanry (a Territorial Army regiment) to a regular unit, on the grounds that the risks posed by the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons required a capability at high readiness which could be deployed quickly to protect troops overseas.[333] Commenting on this decision our predecessor committee stated—
  25. We accept the argument that the armed forces need an NBC unit at high readiness levels for their own protection in an expeditionary scenario, but this does not remove the need for an NBC unit at a lower readiness; this may be needed to meet potential threats in the UK and to provide ready-trained units in the event of an increased threat during war. The MoD should not underestimate the need for a capability against such threats. The decision to place the new combined NBC unit under RAF strike command and thus even further away from people used to dealing with the emergency services and civilian community further emphasises this point. The Royal Yeomanry have successfully provided an NBC capability at levels of readiness and we conclude that the existing NBC unit within the Royal Yeomanry should be retained to provide an expanded NBC capability to counter the domestic threat.[334]

  26. In evidence to our Threat from Terrorism inquiry in November 2001, the MoD's Policy Director pointed out that the MoD still retained specialist technical expertise which could offer advice on this matter. He also sounded a warning—
  27. You ... have to be particularly careful about throwing in people who are the responsibility of the Ministry of Defence without the kit and training to be able to look after themselves. Tempting as it is to say, send in the TA, are you sure that you would really need them and that you would not just be potentially increasing the number of people who are at risk for no purpose?[335]

  28. The discussion document does not explain how up to 6,000 volunteer Reserves are to receive either the kit or the training for operating in an environment which has been contaminated by chemical, biological or nuclear agents. We believe that it is irresponsible to offer to put volunteer Reserves into such a situation without also explicitly providing for their protection and training.
  29. The necessary equipment and training would be expensive. Indeed the extra training proposed in the document will not be cheap. But the document does not provide any information on the expected costs of the Reaction Forces or on where they might fall. In February 'costed options' were expected by April. In June uncosted proposals were published. The pamphlet, Military Aid to the Civil Community sets out the ways in which civil authorities will be charged for military assistance. It has not, however, been revised since 1989. It may be that the MoD has assumed that any response to a terrorist incident will be provided free of charge because, by definition, human life will be at risk. But this is unlikely: a number of the proposed tasks, perhaps most of them, do not relate to circumstances where urgent action is required to save human life. We recommend that MoD publish estimated costs of the Reserve Reaction Forces, including illustrative costs for their deployment, and indicate where it expects those costs to fall. Without adequate information on the level and attribution of costs, it will not be possible for local authorities and others to include the Reserve Reaction Forces in their plans.
  30. We will consider the proposed role for the Reserves in more detail in our inquiry into the SDR New Chapter. Provisionally, however, we welcome the thrust of the proposal insofar as it gives back to the Reserves a role in home defence. We also welcome the proposal to establish single 'joint' points of liaison on all emergency planning matters in each military region. We do not, however, believe that these proposals excuse the regular forces from being considered for an additional role.

 


254   HC (2001-02) 348, Q 57 Back

255   Q 1452 Back

256   Q 47 Back

257   Liaison Committee, Minutes of Evidence, 16 July 2002, HC 1095, Q 105 Back

258   Q 1452 Back

259   Q 1392 Back

260   Ev 283 and Q 1452 Back

261   Liaison Committee, Minutes of Evidence, 16 July 2002, HC 1095, Q 104 Back

262   Q 1199 Back

263   Q 1125 Back

264   Q 991 Back

265   ibid Back

266   Ev 174 Back

267   Q 999 Back

268   Q 998 Back

269   Q 1102 Back

270   Q 1110 Back

271   ibid Back

272   Q 1118 Back

273   QQ 1151-4 Back

274   Q 49 Back

275   Ev 205 Back

276   Q 1199 Back

277   ibid Back

278   Q 951 Back

279   Q 1199 Back

280   see Q 931 and Q 1125 Back

281   Ev 320 Back

282   Q 39 Back

283   op cit chapter 2 Back

284   Ev 124 Back

285   Q 642 Back

286   Public Private Partnerships: Airwave, HC (2001-02) 730 Back

287   Ev 205 Back

288   Q 1097 Back

289   ibid Back

290   Q 1470 Back

291   Ev 289 Back

292   Q 1203 Back

293   Ev 239 Back

294   Q 1200 Back

295   Q 1203 Back

296   Ev 29 Back

297   Ev 35 Back

298   HC (2001-02) 348, Ev 21 Back

299   Ev 36 Back

300   Q 334 Back

301   Ev 36 Back

302   Ev 35 Back

303   Military Aid to Civil Community, MoD, 1989, para 9 Back

304   Q 334 Back

305   Ev 108 Back

306   Q 611 Back

307   Q 1140 Back

308   Q 958 Back

309   Q 690 Back

310   Ev 109 Back

311   Q 1508 Back

312   HC (2001-02) 348, Q 298 Back

313   Speech to City Forum Round Table, 23 May 2001 Back

314   Op cit para 3 Back

315   Q 340 Back

316   Q 341 Back

317   HC Deb, 12 June 2002, col 1259w Back

318   Q 338 Back

319   Ev 99 Back

320   Q 338 Back

321   Ev 35 Back

322   ibid Back

323   Op cit para 18 Back

324   Op cit para 15 Back

325   Op cit para 19 Back

326   Q 1138 Back

327   Q 1201 Back

328   Q 1203 Back

329   Q 958 Back

330   Q 690 Back

331   Op cit para 17 Back

332   Op cit para 16 Back

333   Op cit para 101-2 Back

334   HC (1997-98) 138, para 269 Back

335   HC (2001-02) 348, Q 81 Back

 
previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 24 July 2002