Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60
WEDNESDAY 16 JANUARY 2002
60. We both represent the same authority.
(Mr Granatt) Okay. If I can turn to your first question
about best practice to Ian Abbott.
(Brigadier Abbott) Thank you for raising the opportunity
here of just illustrating some of the work which was in place
before 11 September. Although 11 September is a milestone in our
thinking in fairness aspects, such as the realisation that we
ought to be more joined up and we think we can do it better if
we co-ordinate it. Therefore the CCS comes about and gives birth
beforehand. I this is an important marker. One of the aspects
which was in place beforehand, since the election, since the mayor,
since the appointment of GLO, since the GLAs, how do we strap
this mechanism together. It is a similar message which has to
be brought home both to Scotland and also to Wales because there
we have exactly the same changes, and Northern Ireland is there.
How do we change? I think one of the key points which is behind
all our thinking is let us not lock ourselves on a date. Let us
realise instead that life is Darwinian, and that there is a need
for us to adapt. If we were to say "These are the structures
in place" then frankly they will be out of date as soon as
we publish it. I am pleased to say this manual here is full of
amendments because they need to be full of amendments. How do
you take the matter forward here in London is actually part of
exercise Capital Spring this coming weekend. There we see there
is effectively a structure, a command and control structure. When
I mentioned before, Mr Howarth, about the individuals being on
the ground, what I mean is we do not wish them to wait for the
system to come, because the cavalry will be too slow in coming.
I believe that the first responders and the boys who are on the
ground are the ones who will give the instant and best picture.
Then, as it builds up, it goes forward. But it does allow us to
bring up this point. There are probably two parallel processes
here. One is command and control and it is fairly rigid. It starts
rather like the police do in these services over a bronze, silver
and gold approach. So we go up from the tactical, the operational,
the strategic and then the Government being the grand strategic
level. That must react and respond very quickly. I think parallel
to that, Mr Rapson, is this matter over communications. If we
do not get the communications channel aligned, synchronised and
correct we will fail in tackling the centre of gravity and that
is one of public confidence. Our hope is that the model that we
have come up with for London will be exported as best practice
around the country. We look at areas like Birmingham, like Manchester,
we have sporting activities there, we have large groups of individuals
there as well as the static sites which seem to be classic targets
in that respect. We would like to say: "This looks like the
way we ought to be doing it, we would like to export that as part
of the exporting of best practice".
61. Do it in London, get it better, well organised
and then roll it out.
(Brigadier Abbott) Precisely so.
62. Rather than say Portsmouth has not received
any information, it is sensible to do it in the centre where it
is likely to happen and then export it out.
(Brigadier Abbott) This is precisely the point, Mr
Rapson, over why do we mentionand I must articulate thisthe
capital? I mention the capital because fundamentally the strike
against the States was about icons and therefore we have to look
at this location, for instance, as an icon. We have to look at
the capital. Also it has the byproduct, of course, that it is
the cerebral centre of Central Government and what passes, and
what moves out, and consequently we need to protect it.
Mr Hancock: You are not talking about
Chairman: Would you repeat that? I did
not believe it the first time.
63. Unlikely to repeat it.
(Brigadier Abbott) I did mention that it was Central
Government as opposed to one particular place. I was using it
as a verb as opposed to a noun. If we do not get that right then
I am afraid we will be wrong. The additional point is one that
in exporting it, if one looks at Southampton Water and the threats
which can come around there, what we see is that there is a Government
Minister, we also have a mayor, and we believe that they carry
similar and aligned responsibilities. One is about orchestrating,
the other is about reassuring. We think that is probably the model
which will go forward in other areas but I am speaking ahead of
64. Can I ask a follow on question to that.
I am interested in the linkage between the private sector, the
local authority and the military. We had a disaster in Portsmouth
in September 2000 when we were flooded, not by the sea or by a
river but by raw sewage coming out of a system. It was chest deep
in the street and people's houses are still contaminated. The
problem there was the pumping station was owned by a private company,
the local authority had not had a great deal of involvement but
were co-ordinating the link between the fire, ambulance and the
police, and there was not a great deal of liaison between them,
and the one resource which could help straight away was the MoD
because they had huge pumps which could be transported. It was
the linkage from a private company through a local authority to
the MoD to try and get those pumps moving. The Minister has actually,
by coincidence, written to me in a letter I received today and
he suggests that this incident, talking about the Portsmouth one,
was not a result of river flooding or whatever but separate arrangements
are in place for dealing with incidents such as these, such as
the Portsmouth situation where it was not a natural disaster,
it was a manmade disaster which went hopelessly wrong. Now that
could have been a chemical spillage. There was a real problem
of getting the military to react to a local authority who in turn
had to react to a private company. I am interested to know how
you can develop the link which enables that process to be speeded
up. It was something like seven or eight hours before the real
resources which were needed to help the initial problem were brought
to bear, let alone the real problem.
(Brigadier Abbott) May I just begin with a couple
of references. I think it is page Charlie 54 which is the reference
in the Emergency Procedures Manual which is the reference to the
Ministry of Defence and seeking assistance. There is a classified
document the MoD have which is known colloquially as the Green
Book, which is the guidelines where the MoD would give assistance
and how that would fall. I think that puts in place that there
are procedures. If people have not used them, is it because they
are not practised or used or orientated to this? I think that
comes down to how often have we needed these and are we rusty?
As I mentioned earlier, you are actually looking at an iceberg.
If you were concerned about what we had before the Cold War and
what we have now in terms of resources, a second theme that no
doubt you and others will have seen is to see whether or not the
pendulum has swung too far from effectiveness to efficiency. Undoubtedly
in going to the private sector there are efficiencies which are
gained in the running costs but you may lose some of the effectiveness
in terms of the consequence management if something goes wrong.
65. Surely the public look for something which
bypasses bureaucracy and has a focal point, a figure head, who
can make a decision and demand and get the required resources
very rapidly rather than going through a rather unenviable process
of chains of command. It may be two or three different organisations.
(Brigadier Abbott) First of all, one has to have a
mechanism and I think we have a process and it is captured. I
think the police and the local authorities and the MoD are probably
best to speak on this. If I see that there is a process and it
is not being used efficiently then it may well be that it is education
that is needed. I would hope, though, that if the responsibility
to react is there for the borough for health and safety reasonsthere
is a duty of care because it is sewageand the requirement
is for pumping and aid, then there should be a simple communication
to the Ministry of Defence, and the guidelines which are here
are ". . . if in the case of life threatening then you may
act without guidance".
66. To go back to Syd's point. Syd was conscious
of the issue about the figure head, the person who would be there
giving the reassurance. I would be interested to know how you
can believe that the pattern you could establish from London is
transferrable because I cannot see that myself.
(Brigadier Abbott) As I did qualify, this was ahead
of the exercise. I think I mentioned, also, that the model for
London is exportable to, and I mentioned areas like Birmingham
where one knows there is the potential for a mayoral position
in the future, and you have to align these two responsibilities
which are coming. The next stage down is whether or not one sees
it in, shall we say, a smaller area, a discrete area where there
is a Member of Parliament. The guidelines that one gives to Central
Government, to ministers, is in the case of a contingency, one
would want your ministers to be available so that we can continue
with this. There is also the point somewhere that there is an
opportunity for that minister to move out so that he may go to
his responsibilities. I suggest that is the third level down from
this and is a level that is on from that work we are doing at
67. You said, Brigadier Abbott, about the lessons
of London being exportable, best practice being exportable. Is
that not falling into the trap that we have fallen into for over
two centuries of paying too great attention to the susceptibilities
and prejudices of local authorities? The idea of exporting best
practice implies that there will be no obligation upon them to
follow any lessons that London might have learnt. If they are
not legally obligated to do something they will not do it. They
will say,"If you give us the funding, we will do it; if you
do not give us the funding, then we will not do it." I hope
that if lessons are learned that they will be rather more than
"would you like to learn these lessons from London"
and that, where necessary, the legislation will be passed so that
best practice will be imposed upon any local authority.
(Brigadier Abbott) I do know that Kevin Wallace is
best placed for this. I do believe from my experience of being
a member of the MoD's Directorate of Operational Capability that
it would be wrong to say that we learned the lessons. I think
one's experience is that we are very good at identifying our lessons
but we do not learn our lessons. In effect, the crucial element
here is about whether or not there is a duty, and I think this
is the comment that was passed earlier by Kevin.
(Mr Wallace) This does come back to the legislation
that we hope to bring in, and what we have said its purpose would
be is to place on local authorities the responsibility to prepare
and co-ordinate local planning, to require local authorities to
take the initiative in bringing together partner agenciesand
that would include the utilitiesand also to require the
partner agencies to take part in these arrangements, a little
bit like the crime and disorder partnership arrangements. If this
were in place then I think you could place some impositions on
the local authorities. At the moment it is exhortation.
Chairman: It is not good enough.
Syd Rapson: Could I re-emphasise the
plea I made and it is not really a question that requires an answer
but to ask Mr Granatt to take this into account. Local authorities
deal with emergency planning and although very few elected members
are involved in that process for whatever reason, Members of Parliament
are the public representatives in place in this country, and they
are not included in any of the loop at all. I am not asking for
the local Member of Parliament to be the Mayor Guiliani of New
York here but he certainly needs to know what is going on and
he does not. I doubt if any of your thinking has gone that way.
Members of Parliament need to know and need to be involved rather
than get told afterwards "there is going to be a siren going
off tomorrow morning because we have had a nuclear exercise in
a dockyard". That does not help us. We need to be more involved
as public representatives who are fairly unique to this country.
If somebody could think about that and feed it in. If you need
to reject it that is fine, as long as there are good reasons,
but at least take it on board.
Mr Jones: Could I pick up on this point
about learning the lessons from London and rolling it out. I am
not a great fan of everything coming out of London and if Ken
Livingstone has got anything to do with it I have got even more
concerns about it! As a previous Chair of Public Health in Newcastle
with responsibility for emergency planning, there are some good
examples in Tyne & Wear of very well worked out emergency
planning systems, and all I would ask you to do is if you are
going look at best practice is look around the country, not just
London. Certainly Tyne & Wear has some good lessons. There
was certainly very effective emergency planning when I was involved
in it. It ranged through everything from civil emergencies to,
say, aircraft crashes and was very well worked out and also, I
have to say, had very good integration between local authorities,
emergency services and the MoD.
Chairman: That is in the press release
Mr Jones: I represent Durham.
Chairman: Before I ask anybody else to
tell us what is in Friday's briefing perhaps we could move on
to Mr Knight whom I am sure will forswear the use of any publicity.
68. My question is about London and we have
been kicking this around for a while so I do not think we need
to dwell on it for too long. I represent a shire authority where
there are three tiers of local government and we host party political
conferencesand clearly I would perceive that to be our
largest threat! I would want to see the lessons learned rolled
out but London has a Greater London Assembly, it effectively has
regional government, so do you think, given the plethora of authorities
in an area like mine, that we need regional co-ordination and
that kind of ability through England which will then perhaps allow
your lessons from London to be rolled outgiven that Scotland
and Wales have national bodiesacross England? Then the
other question concerns the London Resilience Sub-Committee which
has been set up under Nick Raynsford. We understand that it is
consulting with London boroughs about their arrangements. We would
be very interested to see the questionnaire and to have some indication
as to how that consultation is going.
(Brigadier Abbott) Mr Knight, the intention is for
exactly that to be taken forward. There are certain things that
have to be done sequentially. I know that we have mentioned threat
as being the driver here and that is why we have concentrated
on it , but we know that the nation is actually the greater challenge
because that is where the majority of people are, that is where
the infrastructure is, and if we are to have problems then we
need to deal with them. We rely on the excellent activity that
has been going on around COMAH, the legislation there, the integration
that has been going on, and you have possibly identified yourself
as being the good location to go. In terms of taking that forward,
it is back to lessons identified and passing them on. They should
not be dogma. They should be seen in a way of an aide-memoire
for they need to be orientated in order for them to sit with the
culture and sit with the environments that are there north or
south. Finally, there is the aspect of how does it affect the
situation? It needs to be accepted and known and that is where
the crucial element that Mr Wallace mentioned earlier about the
emergency planning review comes in and the fact that there is
a "duty" aspect.
(Mr Granatt) Can I turn to the regional aspect. I
am not able to comment on regional government structures, that
is not for us, but I think you are right that one of the things
we are looking at is to stimulate regional arrangements for people
to work better together. This is the purpose of mapping the national
infrastructure and developing a resilience framework. I think
that is absolutely essential and you are right about that. I do
not think there is any lack of appetite to do that. Everybody
we have talked to has said what a good idea and is turning to
us to try and make it work, so that is what we are going to do.
Chairman: Is this questionnaire part
of your responsibility? Can we see the questionnaire? What about
those authorities when you sent a questionnaire to all the boroughs,
is that going to be reproduced elsewhere?
Jim Knight: You took the words right
out of my mouth, Chairman.
69. I thought you were not getting to it!
(Brigadier Abbott) In that case I did not articulate.
That is precisely the work that we will be taking forward. That
will be the area that will then be disseminated.
(Mr Granatt) I do not see any reason why you should
not see the questionnaire.
70. Has the exercise been done?
(Brigadier Abbott) In London.
71. Have the questionnaires been sent out, filled
in and returned?
(Brigadier Abbott) Yes and I think the last meeting
took place last week.
72. Has the response been a fairly uniform one
or has it been one where people did not really understand what
you are getting at?
(Brigadier Abbott) In terms of the reception to the
questionnaire and whether or not they understand matters, that
is maybe a secondary issue. What it did allow was the orientation
before the face-to-face meeting because there have been face-to-face
meetings with emergency planning officers inside all the boroughs.
If it tees up and orientates people I think it has probably achieved
80 per cent of the task. It allowed a check-list of questions
to be in place "do you have the following . . .?" We
had a similar aspect over questions on contingency planning which
we put out just a couple of days after 11 September and that was
addressing government departments in terms of "here are 15
questions that you should be asking yourself at board level".
Mr Hancock: Is it possible to ask when
you send the questionnaire that you send us some sort of response
or co-ordinated paper that you have got?
Mr Howarth: "Analysis" is the
73. Your public school education pays off every
(Mr Granatt) We would need to put that to Ministers.
It is being done on behalf of Mr Raynsford's committee.
74. So you are frightened that there are going
to be too many really bad replies showing that the system is not
(Mr Granatt) No, I am not frightened. I am more frightened
of the fact that this is an area under the responsibility of the
Minister and I want to make sure I have got agreement to do it.
There are, of course, the points about the boroughs and whether
there is a problem with them as well. We have not given the people
who fill in these questionnaires absolute assurances of confidentiality,
but clearly there is an issue there about how we can conduct these
Chairman: We do have access to information up
to the level of "NATO top secret" so that should be
enough to take account of ranges of susceptibilities. We have
to move fairly swiftly now. Patrick Mercer?
75. We have touched on this already but in the
review of emergency planning, the consultation document The
Future of Emergency Planning in England and Wales was issued
in August 2001 with a deadline for responses for the end of October,
as you know. The document makes no mention of the role of the
armed forces in responding to emergencies. Your consultation on
changes to arrangements for emergency planning began before 11
September. How has the scope of that work changed since 11 September?
(Mr Wallace) There are two points I would make. One
is the lack of mention of the military is probably because the
military are not, at present, save for counter-terrorism, written
into plans because their prime function is elsewhere. They are,
if you like, the icing on the cake if they happen to be available
when there is a disaster, but the MoD has taken the line that
their first duty is defence of the realm and therefore they should
not be written into the plan in case they are doing things in
Bosnia or Croatia or somewhere else. That is the first point.
As far as changes to the review are concernedand it is
not in my section any more11 September has accelerated
the drive to do something about the legislation and what goes
into the legislation. It has not fundamentally changed the need
to look very hard at civil defence legislation but will probably
set it to one side and bring in some civil protection legislation.
76. There is a slightly alarming sentence in
paragraph 4.14 which reads: "In the last decade or so, there
has been a clear reduction in the threat of war and a substantial
shift of focus at a local level to preparations for response to
peacetime disasters." I suggest events might have moved a
little bit since that paragraph was written.
(Mr Wallace) We could get into semantics about "war".
(Mr Granatt) The consultation has been completed at
that level, a report has been prepared and has gone forward to
Ministers and I think they have no less awareness of the change
in circumstances than you do. So I cannot imagine that we will
not be taking into account the change of circumstance and, indeed,
the various stakeholders who were involved in the consultation
will have another chance to do that if they do not take a chance
in the meantime; we are always open to hearing what they have
to say. Of course you are right, circumstances have changed, and
I am sure they will be taken into account in the way this moves
77. What analysis have you been able to make
so far of the responses to the consultation document?
(Mr Granatt) We hope to be able to publish the results
of the consultation towards the end of the month. It will be put
up on our web site. I can only give you a brief outline because
I do not want to pre-empt the report. Clearly there was a great
deal of support for the idea of partnership and the idea of duty
on local authorities, and the idea of local partnership arrangements.
I think that was an indication of this appetite to get involved
and to have a proper structure in place, which I think is fundamental
78. Do you know how many people responded?
(Mr Granatt) There were more than 230 different responses
79. On the same point, what thought has been
given to an implementation strategy for any new structure that
would be agreed? Will that implementation be a prime responsibility
of the Secretariat?
(Mr Granatt) I really could not give you an indication
at the moment. The consultation document talks about framework
legislation that allows regulation to be made as one option and
that seems in modern circumstances to be the sort of thing that
should be put in place to give flexibility. You all know better
than I how primary legislation can fix a set of circumstances
and how it can become out-dated. Where the responsibility for
implementing that sits, no view has been taken yet.
2 Note from witness: A copy of the questionnaire
which was issued to London boroughs has been supplied to the Committee
[not printed]. The Secretariat is still working on the responses
to the questionnaire and will seek Ministerial agreement to provide
an anonymised version of the results in due course. Back