Examination of Witnesses (Questions 660
WEDNESDAY 10 APRIL 2002
660. Even knowing that there are not enough
vehicles, not enough ambulances, that is information that could
be used by a terrorist organisation in a devastating way.
(Mr Hoult) Absolutely.
661. You have to hopefully give great care to
(Mr Parker) Talking from a non-local authority point
of view, talking from the utilities in particular, the publication
of their plans could have a very devastating effect. The national
infrastructures, as far as electricity, water and gas is concerned,
if you published those, that would be very material to any enemy
as well as to the public.
662. The Federal Aviation Authority published
a list of all the weak airports and all of the points why they
said they were weak and when I said "is this not a terrorist's
manual", I was told "well, we have a fairly open society"
and there is the appalling dilemma, so if you are al-Qaeda and
get hold of this list I think Boston was one of the airports
that was listed. You mentioned a list of deficiencies of equipment,
etc., if there is any document that your organisation has published
on this it would be quite helpful to receive it.
(Mr Cunningham) I will certainly be able to send you
a document which was prepared by all the agencies in the North
East of England for circulation to local MPs. I would certainly
be glad to send you that.
Chairman: Thank you very much.
663. This is probably one, I suspect, for Mr
Parker. It is a privilege to live on the banks of the Trent and
so far I have not been flooded yet, but my area of Newark frequently
is. Anyway, that is beside the point. You will have seen recently
some Moroccans, we do not know for whom they were working but
we have our suspicions, were arrested in Rome with plans of the
Roman water system and carrying cyanide. What are the risks of
terrorists using the water supply either in terms of disrupting
it or poisoning it?
(Mr Parker) The actual disruption to the water supply
can be achieved obviously by attacking the pumping stations and
that sort of location. The risk of putting something into the
water supply, again, it would depend very much on where in the
system it goes. Within the water industries there are security
measures taken particularly at the treated water space. In other
words, once water has passed the initial treatment works, once
it is treated and therefore suitable for consumption, from then
on security measures are in place to stop any of the entrances
being attacked, both physical measures and also by CCTV and by
664. Do you see it as being a major threat?
(Mr Parker) No.
665. You do not?
(Mr Parker) No, not with the measures which are in
666. What advice or guidance do you have from
central government about this very subject since September 11?
(Mr Parker) Quite a lot. We have a close relationship
with our Government Department, which is DEFRA, and from them
through to the security services.
667. When you say "quite a lot", is
that a written document?
(Mr Parker) It is a regular written document that
comes out which tells us what the security implications are and
what the risks are to the water industry both from an international
and a national point of view.
668. That is a written intelligence summary?
(Mr Parker) Yes.
669. Presumably it is a classified document?
(Mr Parker) It is classified and within each company
we have people who have security clearance.
670. What level is it classified at?
(Mr Parker) Confidential.
671. Is that monthly?
(Mr Parker) It is on a regular basis. Not necessarily
monthly. It depends what the changes are. If there is a change
to the security risk then we are told. That can come out in written
documents or we do have within the industry a system of rapid
communication, secure communication, so it can come down to each
company very quickly usually by fax.
672. By secure fax?
(Mr Parker) Not secure fax but we do make sure that
only the correct recipient receives it.
673. Does each authority have security staff,
a security adviser, security consultant?
(Mr Parker) We do have within the emergency planning
department a security adviser but that is a local home grown position,
it is not a specifically trained person but someone who acts in
that role and gets advice direct from Government.
674. I wonder if I could move you on to ask
a question or two about the suggestion you have made for a National
Emergency Agency. I have read the document that you put to the
Civil Contingencies Secretariat but you just do not give us enough
information why you think this agency would add to the
(Mr Cunningham) I think the main reason for that is
it is a decision that the Society came to after some 10 or 11
years of asking the Home Office Emergency Planning Division to
do things like introduce proper guidance, introduce credible national
standards, introduce performance indicators, and also to disseminate
guidance and good practice on a national basis. There is currently
nobody doing that in a properly co-ordinated way. Some local authorities
will do it off their own bat, they will send what they consider
to be good practice around. At the moment there is no central
government department which actually employs professional emergency
planning officers, so we do not feel as if there is a national
organisation which has got the competence to set itself up to
say "this is what good practice is, this is what the national
standard should be". We also think that whilst we believe
that legislation will be a very, very important improvement, we
would also like to see inspection to make sure that people are
doing what they are statutorily bound to do and we think that
would have to be a national organisation to do that. We did not
know whether or not it would be better to use the Audit Commission
or the Fire Service Inspectorate or one of the established inspectorates
and we came to the conclusion that since this inspectorate would
have to inspect a wide range of organisations that it should be
a new national body.
675. Just trace it out for me why you think
this could not be done within an expanded Civil Contingencies
(Mr Cunningham) I think that it could be done within
an expanded Civil Contingencies Secretariat provided there was
a willingness to do it and provided that the Civil Contingencies
Secretariat went down the road of actually appointing people full-time
to the job of driving and leading the emergency planning process.
At the moment I am aware that there is a lot of hard work going
on by civil servants and the CCS but to my knowledge nobody has
got it as a 100 per cent job, it is 10 per cent of somebody's
job or 50 per cent of another person's job. We feel that there
needs to be a full-time focal point and a number of people driving
this on so there could be more people employed by the CCS to do
(Mr Hoult) One of our major gripes to the CCS is that
we feel they do not understand what emergency planning is, what
a local authority emergency planning officer or colleagues in
utilities such as Mike do. We are convinced that they do not have
an understanding of what we do.
676. I have looked at your document, the proposed
new national structure for EP, and a National EP Agency is sort
of bolted on under the Civil Contingencies Secretariat. I am just
not clear, is it going to be a freestanding agency with enforcement
relationships and I presume that will be with the Cabinet Office
through the CCS? Just give me a bit more information because it
has got to be independent, has it not?
(Mr Hoult) This was an idea put forward by a number
of colleagues that had looked very closely at FEMA, the Federal
Emergency Management Agency in the United States. They saw the
way that worked and felt that there could be a role for a similar
type of organisation in this country. It is reasonable to say
that not all of us within the emergency planning fraternity are
of the same view. Many of us have concerns which Mr Kerry expressed
very ably earlier that what we do not want is an agency coming
in taking over, taking over with control, pushing us out of the
way, as it were, and taking responsibility for things which are
our responsibility at the end of the day so we have to be careful.
I think on balance, and as things have moved forward and we have
seen the work the CCS is undertaking, that this can be something
which in time we would like to see the CCS move forward with.
677. Are we talking about a big agency? You
must have given some thought to what you are asking the Government
(Mr Hoult) I think what we are asking Government to
do is to have in place co-ordination arrangements for how the
co-ordination will work between local government and central government
and how the co-ordination will work between local governments
within certain areas, neighbouring authorities. The fire service,
for example, they do have it laid down how they should have cross
boundary relationships. We have nothing like that for emergency
planning and some sort of framework which enabled us to fit in
with that would be useful.
Mr Cran: I understand that. Could I ask a very
Chairman: You think it is sharp.
678. I do not mean it in that way. I mean asking
a very definite question. Have you given any idea as to the size
of agency you are talking about?
(Mr Cunningham) Yes.
679. Is it just another bloody quango, in other
(Mr Cunningham) No, no. I believe this could be done
with approximately 30 people provided they are the right people
and they are competently trained and provided they have the authority
and the teeth that legislation would give them.