Examination of Witnesses (Questions 800
WEDNESDAY 10 APRIL 2002
800. You do not see them doing much more
(Mr Sharp) No.
801. Do you think they ought to?
(Mr Sharp) Yes. I definitely think that we need a
crisis command team that can bring together all the appropriate
departments look at what happened with foot and mouth, it went
down to one department which did not understand the implications
for tourism and the wider scenario. Forty-four per cent of UK
companies were affected by foot and mouth, 70 per cent of UK companies
were affected by the fuel crisis, both of those were appallingly
handled because there was no central authority managing that crisis
and that is what we need.
802. Mr Wood, you are pretty well into this,
what would need to be within that crisis management centre in
the CCS? What kind of expertise? Would they rove? We have had
people from local government coming in extolling the virtues of
local government and civil emergency planning, admitting one or
two flaws in the system, but there are those sceptics who think
that local authorities are okay for minor crises but the moment
you get above a certain point there needs to be people moving
in in an "advisory" capacity from central government
pretty quickly. Do you see this sort of stepping in as necessary?
Would you prefer to leave it to the local authorities if there
is a stepping in? Could you just give us some outline thinking
as to what that positive model ought to contain?
(Mr Wood) I think there does need to be that clear
mandate for central control and there needs to be the experience
of a variety of disciplines of incident management, police, armed
services and to an extent the intelligence services. There needs
to be that cross-fertilisation of experience. Whether it is done
under MACP powers or other legislation is up for debate but I
think that there is a huge amount of experience of dealing with
those sorts of crises within central government and particularly
within the defence sector. Now we are seeing that grow with their
experience of how they are dealing with support of larger style
operations abroad I think they can bring an awful lot to the table.
803. Should that be structurally a part
of the CCS or separate but called upon?
(Mr Wood) I do not actually know enough about the
CCS to be able to comment constructively but I think that the
way in which elements of how I have seen MACP activity take place
in the past, that is a conduit and a structure that could be used,
but it needs to be timely.
(Mr Wood) Military Aid and Civil Power, sorry. Where
the civil authorities can call upon the expertise in central government
Chairman: I see Mr Ponsonby has noted
that down. You pulled our leg once again, Mr Ponsonby, about our
lack of knowledge of your acronym, do not drum it in a second
805. What you were saying made me think
very much of the presentation that we have received from the Dumfries
and Galloway emergency planning officer where they have developed
a team of the key people who will come together depending on what
type of crisis it is, the relevant person will take the lead.
They then very much saw themselves as there to enable all of the
other relevant agencies, police, military, come together. I am
curious whether you have had any contact with that kind of approach
that they have developed on the basis of experience and whether
you see that as a kind of relevant model?
(Mr Wood) I think that is the sort of model we are
talking about. There is always this reluctance at local government
level to engage central government and particularly to engage
some of the other expertise in other Government departments and
I can understand some of that reluctance because of the way we
are structured and the way in which Government is controlled.
They have that experience and, therefore, they have the best sources
of advice available to them. They have the practical experience
of actually implementing it and doing it. They practise it more
frequently than the local authority does, but that is not decrying
the enormous energy and effort that has been put in by some of
the local emergency planning authorities to prepare their plans
and to know when it is time to pass over the control or to seek
assistance. I think that sort of model is correct and is justified.
For central government to have that role there needs to be this
lead and there needs to be a clear mandate what they are going
to do and it needs to be clearly focused. Just believing that
they are going to be a postbag for "we will decide who will
deal with it today depending upon who is in" is not going
to be successful.
(Mr Sharp) Would you say the FEMA model is a model
that we should work to?
(Mr Wood) Yes, possibly.
(Mr Sharp) Are you aware of that?
806. Yes, we have been to the States.
(Mr Sharp) I believe that is an approach where a disaster
can be declared and, therefore, resources can be mobilised. That
is something that would be very valuable for us. We were discussing
outside that it was not until this House actually caused the debate
about the role of the Army in the foot and mouth crisis that actually
the Army were called in. That was how it appeared from the outside,
that it needed this House to actually call for support from the
Army and yet it should have been there immediately.
807. Can I just pick up on what you were
saying about the need for close relationships and the process
of speaking to the private sector and Government. Could I ask
your opinion. Does the private sector have confidence in the Government's
ability to handle commercially sensitive information?
(Mr Wood) I think I touched on that in one of my previous
answers. There is a lack of trust there currently but I think
that it is one that can very quickly be overcome. If we get to
the point where we are seeing that two-way flow of information
and we are seeing threat assessments provided to industry and
an encouragement of reporting of incidents that are not necessarily
attributed to a particular organisation or name then I think that
trust will develop and over time it will get better. I listened
to a presentation by the High Tech Crime Unit Industry Liaison
Officer not so long ago in which he suggested that the issue of
confidentiality and agreements being signed between them and industry
on sharing information is something that they would consider and
respect. I think that is a way we should be going.
808. At the moment do you think that the
current arrangements are secure for handling this type of information?
(Mr Wood) I think very much like you mandate on the
defence industry sector, they have to meet a standard to protect
that information or they do not receive it. There have to be clear
protective security measures around how that information is going
to be handled and controlled.
809. Is there a semblance there of some
sort of level of security clearance within the private sector
(Mr Wood) If necessary, yes. Again, that is something
that is done within the current List X company system and other
parts of the defence sector and I do not see any reason why it
cannot be applied and rolled out across the rest of the commercial
industry. In a lot of instances, in fairness, the heads of the
security organisations in many of these commercial organisations
have come from that background anyway so they are very familiar
with dealing with the information and how to protect it. We have
to draw that line and break down that barrier between central
government and the commercial sector.
810. They do not come from that background
because they have been thrown out of somewhere else?
(Mr Wood) No, not necessarily I hope. No.
811. It is called natural career progression
from the intelligence services into the more lucrative private
(Mr Wood) Paying solutions, yes.
812. With the List X companies and a close
liaison with the intelligence services, and I have forgotten how
many List X companies there are, 500, you are talking about blue
ribband companies and the ones that are most vulnerable. If they
would not be prepared to disclose sensitive information to a normal
Government department despite the sporadic weaknesses within the
intelligence services in terms of their personnel blowing the
whistle maybe a greater rapport could be established with an organisation
which was preoccupied with keeping its mouth shout?
(Mr Wood) Yes. I think with the openness of the intelligence
services and how we have seen it transition, I do not think there
is any reluctance but they also need support to do it. To suddenly
have to start supporting a huge number of commercial industry
and security officers in the private sector they are going to
need resourcing and they are going to need a mechanism by which
they can do it and have to look at the protective security measures
that are in place and the additional checks that might be needed.
From the experience of where I wrote and have now got a level
of co-operation there, I am sure that it is there, it just needs
that extra push and I think it needs to be formalised because
I go back to my earlier point that I think Government has a duty
of care to provide that level of information to the commercial
Syd Rapson: I think we have expressed our concern
because this Committee is a Defence Select Committee looking at
this issue, it is not really our package but the Chairman has
taken the lead and we are getting in there and doing it specifically.
Chairman: I have always wanted to turn this
Committee into the Private Security Committee and I think I am
813. In what must have been a ground breaking
speech by Chris Leslie, the dynamic Cabinet Office Minister, on
11 March he brought resilience into play and it is now a buzz
word and I understand resilience in emergency planning. He started
that off and the concept is there and clearly in the minds of
whoever attended the seminar, I do not know if you attended the
seminar. Also, Mike Grannatt, a great man who was in charge of
the CCS, was saying "We are looking at a process of putting
this legislation together", not in a great rush, "that
will involve further consultation and bringing for Wood something
to Parliament that reflects a consensus". It is fairly sort
of laid back.
(Mr Wood) And vague.
814. And reflects some of your concern.
Should resilience and continuity planning be a requirement for
all businesses above a certain size or in certain sectors? Should
it be an absolute requirement in the future to have that specific
(Mr Sharp) I would say yes, of course. If we look
at the finance sector, again, with two of our major banks having
40 per cent of the clearing capacity, and therefore critical to
our infrastructure, it would be absolutely foolhardy for us as
Government not to require them to have continuity. It is not just
about the biggest companies. For certain key companies in the
infrastructure of the country, it is essential that they should
have that. There again, maybe we should say because these companies
are public companies which people invest in, even if they are
not critical, should they not also have continuity to protect
the investors? Is it just about protecting the community or is
it protecting the pension funds which are part of the community?
There are three things which motivate senior people and it is
encompassed in the word JIM. The middle one is interest and if
you can get a senior executive's interest an initative will get
going and will last about three months until somebody else comes
through the door. The latter one is money and if it is going to
affect their share options, etc. They will do something about
it. The first one is jail and health and safety, therefore, is
something that is taken very seriously because it is a jailable
offence to neglect this area. If these issues are serious for
us both for community infrastructure and for investment security
then maybe we should make it something which is legislated for
815. You do not think that self-regulation
would be strong enough?
(Mr Sharp) We come back to the FSA issue: tell us
what you want to do and we will do it, if you do not tell us what
you want to do then we will think about it.
816. Have you got any ideas what benchmarks
you will be thinking about in setting that resilience?
(Mr Sharp) That is something that we need to work
on and there is some work going on in that area encouraged by
817. Could Government assist the private
sector in building resilience?
(Mr Sharp) I think it is essential we all work together.
I do not think we should separate it at all, we should all work
together on that.
818. The role of the military, getting into
the area where we are allegedly more competent. The foot and mouth
crisis demonstrated that in extreme emergencies the command and
control capabilities of the military cannot be matched by any
other agency. We think that but you are closer to the private
sector companies. From your experience of those crises when the
military was involved, do you think that the role of the military
will be seen in the future as being extremely important?
(Mr Sharp) The perception that we gained and has been
fed back to me from several people is as soon as the military
became involved then they actually saw the foot and mouth crisis
focused, and the task dealt with very effectively and efficiently.
Until then there was confusion and lack of leadership. You have
said about the experience people have had in dealing in the military
this is a resource which we should use. The flooding is another
example where bringing the military in quickly can help alleviate
819. When I saw yesterday how brilliantly
Black Rod and Attorney-General Wilcox had organised the parliamentary
side I thought of writing to him to ask him if he was interested
in the railways.
(Mr Sharp) That came up on the radio this morning,
can we give them the railways.