Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1160
TUESDAY 7 MAY 2002
CBE, AND DEPUTY
1160. From what you said about the Cleveland
experience, does that imply some sympathy towards the notion of
a regional co-ordination?
(Mr Goldsmith) Not necessarily. Regions can perhaps
be too large, one would argue. What is important is that the local
authority have one clear voice for an area.
1161. Even if it is a monkey?
(Mr Goldsmith) Sorry? I would not seek to comment
upon the choice of the democracy.
1162. No, or an ex-policeman, I may say.
(Mr Goldsmith) The point is, from a Police Service
point of view, for Cleveland Police to have one unit to work with,
particularly in an area with a high concentration of petrochemical
industries, clearly makes it far easier than to have four unitary
organisations with which to deal. If that sort of model were applied
nationally it would certainly make our life a lot easier.
1163. One of the advantages of having the Defence
Committee looking at this is that we carry less baggage in embarking
on an inquiry which is looking at a set of potentially conflictual
structures. One of the things I am giving a great deal of thought
to is whether there would be, at local level, sufficient expertise
to deal with the range of threats to which we are now going to
be exposed. They might be fine dealing with floods, but we are
now talking, later in our questions, about something far more
serious. I wonder whether you think there is any possibility of
expertise being more centralised, and in the event of a crisis,
a crisis team then moving into an area, not necessarily to supplant
that local or regional expertise, but to assist it. Can you stand
apart from the organisational differences that there might be,
and see whether there are any examples of pursuing this somewhat
(Mr Goldsmith) That does happen in practice already,
Chairman. For a number of years we have had arrangements with
what we term a major disaster advisory team. This is a group of
individual police officers who have been through major disasters,
perhaps recovering bodies, perhaps dealing with identification
matters, who are available on a 24-hours-a-day basis to be called
out to go and respond to a police force that might need them.
As an example, with the Dunkeswick air crash outside Leeds about
three or four years ago, North Yorkshire Police had not dealt
with any, or certainly not many, aircraft crashes. They called
the major disaster advisory team. The accident happened at about
half past six one evening. By half past six the next morning officers
were there, some officers from the Metropolitan Police dealt with
body recovery which is a particularly difficult and challenging
job and were there to give advice, in the same way the National
Co-ordinator goes to Chief Constable to give him or her advice
on certain situations. So the major disaster advisory team does
1164. Is that concept worth broadening to include
other areas of expertise? I can imagine the advantage of some
policemen coming in to assist local police officers. I was thinking
more broadly of a whole range of expertise which would be beyond
the competence even of the Police Service or Fire Service, actually
for giving them nuclear, chemical, biological warfare advice.
(Mr Goldsmith) Certainly I can say that the Police
Service has found benefits from having expertise available. There
are, I am aware, in terms of chemical incidents, a number of national
arrangements which the Fire Service can call upon. When we then
move on to contamination, be it chemical, biological or radiological,
then there are other issues. Again, there are experts available
who can be called in, and forces do have arrangements for that.
Also, from a provincial force point of view, we would call in
Scotland Yard, in terms of anti-terrorism, for their expertise.
1165. Mr Veness, the briefing we had at New
Scotland Yard was very useful and without patronising you to any
great extent it gave me a feeling of security following what you
told us more than probably any other possible interview, so thank
you for that. I can rest easy. We have read in the press that
following 11 September the Anti-Terrorist Branch, or SO13 as it
is now better known, doubled in size and the Met, which looks
after it, got £22 million extra from the Government, whether
that is true or not I will leave it up to you to tell me. What
reinforcements of the national counter-terrorism capability have
been put in place since the events of 11 September following that
infusion or injection of extra resources?
(Mr Veness) Thank you for your comment. I think we
all recognise that although much has been done there is an absolutely
enormous amount left to be done. Whilst we recognise what is in
place we are very keen there should be yet more in place. The
examples you have given I think are the most compelling. It was
true to say that up to the period of the end of the last financial
year a sum of money which was £22 million was granted to
the Met for all of the extra endeavours in which we had engaged
since 11 September. That covered the whole range of policing activity,
of which probably the most expensive was the overt highly visible
presence which was necessary in order to restore confidence and
stability. We did have the reality of self-evacuation of high
rise buildings in the Central London area on 11 September itself.
There were issues around public reassurance which were very real.
As regards the Anti-Terrorist Branch, we were able to double its
strength. It is just around a hundred officers in order to do
a wide range of tasks. We did that through the support of chief
constables around the country, support from the National Crime
Squad and, indeed, by taking officers off other duties within
the Metropolitan Police. For me the critical challenge is to sustain
that increase as a permanent feature because there is, in our
view, an unequivocal need when we look at the threat that at least
a double sized Anti-Terrorist Branch, SO13, is in place. We have
made a bid to Government for not only the next financial year
but for the remainder of the three year financial cycle, of which
2002 will be the first. Certainly the announcement which was made
by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, followed up by the announcement
of the Home Secretary, gives us very considerable grounds of confidence
for believing the allocation within this financial year will indeed
allow us to sustain that doubling of the Anti-Terrorist Branch
on a permanent basis because inevitably, however generous chief
officers are, heads of National Crime Squads around the country,
there must come a time when they have got other things to do with
those officers. It is an unprofessional way to run a very important
part of the police service by operating on loan, we need to move
to permanence. A similar augmentation will be possible on exactly
the same financial basis that I have discussed as a result of
the allocation that has been made by the Home Secretary in respect
of Special Branch activity becauseand it links to an earlier
question by the Chairmanit is enormously important that
the UK invests in stopping terrorism. By far the best outcome
is to stop the terrorist using the gun and the bomb. If we get
to the position where that is a very real threat we have then
to invest heavily in overt high visibility uniform of one form
or another policing which is otherwise engaged in duties which
the public expect it to perform in terms of burglary, street crime,
etc.. The professional approach is to do precisely what I hope
we are now resourced in the long term to achieve.
1166. Thank you for that. I realise that the
September issue changed everything for us all.
(Mr Veness) Yes.
1167. The procedures you must have looked at
for counter-terrorism must have changed dramatically.
(Mr Veness) Yes.
1168. I realise you put officers around to give
confidence to the public but have the procedures on counter-terrorism
changed dramatically since 11 September for you? Have you had
to change the whole structure and relationship with others, Special
(Mr Veness) Yes. Primarily it is a question of a fundamental
change of focus in relation to clearly the significance that international
terrorism now represents. I do not think it is an over-statement
to say that given the global reach of this threat of terrorism,
its impact, the intractability of its source and its origins that
we now face a challenge which requires not only a policing, law
enforcement and security and intelligence response but political
will, diplomatic endeavour, attack upon terrorist finances and,
as we have seen, military valour in order to combat this scale.
The scale and the focus has altered fundamentally. Also, we have
got aspects of terrorist methodology which are radically new in
a Western, certainly in a UK, context: suicide terrorism, the
intention to inflict mass casualties, simultaneous concurrent
events almost on the same day and very clear evidence of long
term terrorist preparation and planning. All of that in counter-terrorism
terms requires us to invest much more significantly at the intelligence
end of the business. As I mentioned, in order to preserve the
public from harm we need to stop the terrorists before they have
the opportunity to mount their operations. It is too late when
we are guarding on an unspecified way on the street. The focus,
the shift in terms of what you are describing has been to a much
greater emphasis on intelligence led interdiction before the event.
Now I would not describe that we are yet in a position where that
could be regarded as developed anything like to the scale that
we would wish. It is almost eight months on. There has been a
tremendous amount of endeavour to refocus on this new target but
there is much work still to be done.
1169. Of course a lot of that will be not seen
by the public. The more successful you are the least we hear about
it which is good I suppose.
(Mr Veness) Yes.
1170. People will not see value for money unless
something happens but you are doing it on a daily basis. Could
I move on. We had a session last week on the American postal service
about anthrax in letters and it was quite alarming, the cost of
trying to sanitise the mail.
(Mr Veness) Yes.
1171. It is absolutely frightening what that
means for us. In what ways since the anthrax attacks have they
changed the requirement to look at chemical and biological threat?
We had an understanding before of what we were looking at with
chemical, biological and nuclear possibilities but anthrax from
an internal American criminal source maybe has thrown everything
up in the air again. How much has that anthrax diversion changed
your attitude towards chemical and biological protection?
(Mr Veness) Very significantly indeed. Although it
would be perhaps encouraging to regard it as a diversion I think
we actually have to regard it as the mainstream of the problem.
If we look at what occurred post 11 September in the States, we
had those dimensions that I have describedthe macro casualty,
the suicide, the no noticebut in the period clearly as
you are identifying, Sir, in the autumn of 2001, and differently
in a dramatic way I think between Europe and the United States,
they had the reality and real deaths and real casualties and that
we learn, and clearly it is to be expected, has a dramatic impact
in terms of the demand for security, how one handles mail screening,
all of those issues in terms of response. The development within
the UK began in 1991 post Gulf War but it did not make perhaps
the progress that we would have wished, it moved on again with
Aum Shinrikyo and Tokyo in the mid 1990s but it is without a doubt
these events which have mainstreamed this activity. I use that
description because I think we have yet to determine, although
we have very close contacts with our US colleagues as to what
the origins of that precise series of events was. The lesson I
think which will not have been missed by terrorists anywhere is
what can be achieved by dint of public impact by this form of
attack. Nobody will have failed to observe what that means in
terms of public concern. We had that here in Europe even without
real casualties, thank heavens. We have had some taste of that.
I think the issue of chem-bio is now absolutely critical in the
heart of counter-terrorist response. I think if we look at the
UK position it is important to differentiate between the four
letters. On chemical I think we have made good progress and the
ability of the UK to respond to a chemical incident is at least
effective. Biological, real challenges, and one looks at some
of the emerging material from recoveries in Afghanistan and that
adds to one's concern in relation to the intentions, and that
is why I think it is directly relevant to the main international
terrorist threat. Again, there is much work which needs to be
done in the development of biological response. For example, the
one bit of kit that every counter-terrorist would desire is an
effective street level totally reliable bio detector, now at the
moment that is not there. When we get into radiological, the dirty
bomb or the nuclear then the challenges become even greater in
terms of interdiction and the consequence management. We are very
clear. We have spoken very closely with the Americans on this.
We have had teams on the ground in order to learn the lessons,
of which there are many, and we have instigated within the Europol
mechanism a process by which we got all of the European nations,
it was Europol who generously did that, in order to learn the
lessons from each of the 15 EU nations and indeed one or two candidate
states about the way that Europe had responded to those issues
in autumn of last year. It is difficult to over-estimate the scale
of the challenge or indeed to under-estimate what we need to do
on a whole raft of issues in order to deal with those matters
before they occur and then to address the consequences. It is
very close to the top of the agenda.
1172. The foot and mouth crisis, probably you
were not directly involved but you were bound to be watching things.
Were there lessons learned from the foot and mouth disease which
have been beneficial to your biological attack sequences, and
probably I will throw in the fuel crisis when we had a number
of problems, not least organisation and communication? Have both
those issues affected your planning?
(Mr Veness) They have indeed. We were learning the
lessons from Mr Goldsmith's side of the house so perhaps it is
for him to comment.
(Mr Goldsmith) Yes. The important issues around both
foot and mouth and fuel were the need to have national arrangements
which would ensure we could act corporately across the country.
They are examples of critical disruptions which I think we have
to plan in order to deal with. It is about ensuring that there
is mutual aid there, that we have good lines of communication,
that we use technology such as e-mail, a simple example, the internet,
to ensure that information is spread around. In terms of the chemistry
behind foot and mouth going across to anthrax, I am not aware
of any issues where there has been a read across, there is more
about organisation and structure.
1173. Mr Veness, you have talked a little bit
about European co-ordination. I am looking at a January report
that credits you with taking a lead on behalf of British police
in forming a European anti-terrorist task force. You have talked
a little bit about the national co-ordination and the relationship
with the United States but I would be interested to know how those
negotiations are going and what the impact of that increased security
and police co-operation across Europe is for our own security?
(Mr Veness) Yes, indeed. The key links in terms of
adding to the United Kingdom security are international and given
that we face now a truly global threat we need to look with ever
greater vigour at how we can reinforce those. In the UK context
close to the top of any list would be our links with the United
States. We describe those links in law enforcement terms as seamless.
We were on the ground very, very quickly after the incidents in
New York and I would like to think the British law enforcement
contribution to assist our colleagues both in the New York Police
Department and the FBI was at least as good as any other nation.
There were some who were kind enough to say it was at least as
good as any other country. That needs to be sustained in the long
term. Just to give a sense of proportion around that. Our support
to the FBI investigation currently is the largest contribution
that UK law enforcement has ever made to a non- British crime,
that is in our view entirely right and will continue to be the
position. Those links are very firm and are essential. Of course
they do not only play out in the US/UK context, they play out
in a large number of venues where we have common interest elsewhere.
The European dimension is absolutely critical if only because
of the movement of potential terrorists from East and Central
Europe into Western Europe, the move through the Balkans and the
move from the Middle East, so that is a key arena. Europol has
a raised prominence in this agenda and that was a political decision
of the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 20 December last year
which allocated additional responsibilities to Europol. We are
very keen to support those endeavours. Clearly they need to be
taken ahead in a way that is complementary to what already exists
in terms of security and intelligence linkages across Europe because
this is not a green field, this is an area in which a great many
European countries, back to the days of the Red Army faction,
Red Brigade and indeed activities where we had seen other terrorism
which affects the United Kingdom manifest on the European mainland,
the need to have structures which are relatively well developed.
If I can just contrast that. The reason for which Europol was
created, which was primarily organised crime, those structures
were much less obvious a few years ago than they are in respect
of European counter-terrorism so we need to build on what has
been achieved already. There are options. I do not sit here in
front of you this afternoon with a European task force at a full
state of creation. It will need a few years more to achieve that.
That generic label describes a manner of working in which we are
freely exchanging intelligence and information at the stage before
groups have managed to establish their footprint. If they are,
as they all are, operating internationallythere is no such
thing as a nationally focused terrorist group in this context;
by some means of logistic support, either it is people, it is
kit, it is accommodation, it is storage, it is logistics, it is
finance or it is accommodationwe will be crossing borders.
We have to operate in that reality. What we are looking to achieve
is the opportunity to recognise those cross border dimensions
at an early stage, to link the endeavours of law enforcement and
equally importantly to link those with the endeavours of the prosecuting
authorities. Our support is both to Europol as the policing organisation
and Eurojust as the linkages between magistrates and judges in
order that we can achieve more cohesive impact in a European sense.
That will not be achieved overnight. We have got significant differences
in legal codes. Criminal law is the most chauvinist beast I know
in respect of its defence of jurisdiction. We have to move ahead
on that. It is vital that we develop that agenda and there is
an increasing energy for that in a pan- European sense.
1174. Just very quickly. Does further enlargement
of the European Union and an extension of the border and free
movement within that border cause you any concern in that context?
(Mr Veness) No. It is essential and in many ways it
is beneficial. Recently, as an example, today, there has been
a conviction in a London court for arms which emanate from Slovakia.
Our need to be aware and to be key working alongside the arms
market that regrettably is to be found in the Balkans and parts
of Central and Eastern Europe is absolutely critical. Inclusion
within Europol, Eurojust are endeavours I would regard as a plus.
1175. I was thinking, we need to publish a glossary
of acronyms, anybody watching or listening must be confused.
(Mr Veness) My apologies.
Chairman: No. It is not your fault, it is the
field we are all working in.
1176. Still on the subject of intelligence gathering,
in my sheet of papers my attention was drawn to a quote from Sir
John Stevens, who is of course the Metropolitan Police Commissioner,
who said ". . . 11 September terror attacks were a `wake
up call'." Then he went on to say "British police had
not been warned that suspected shoe bomber Richard Reid was a
potential security risk". Of course that raises questions
that you have been talking to Mr Knight about, about how the whole
jigsaw fits together.
(Mr Veness) Yes.
1177. You were talking to Mr Knight about the
international aspect of it. I think I am rather keen on knowing
the domestic arrangements and particularly how well the relationship
functions between the Security Service, which of course is the
lead role in the gathering of intelligence in terms of terrorism,
and the Anti-Terrorism National Co-ordinator who I think works
(Mr Veness) Yes, he does.
1178. He does. How does that relationship work?
(Mr Veness) The anti-Terrorism National Co-ordinator
is my deputy so we work very closely together. It is, I hope,
an encouraging picture and I think by any international comparator
the co-ordination that has been achieved between intelligence
agencies and operating and prosecuting agencies within the UK
is as good an example as I see anywhere internationally. It would
be very disappointing if it was not because we have gone through
a great many years of hard knocks in which that position was not
always prevalent in order to get to the position we occupy. It
is unequivocally right that the Security Service are the lead
for the collection and analysis of intelligence but they are an
agency which is very properly focused on intelligence and security
and they do not have executive powers. That is why I think it
works in a complementary sense because in order that we can move
from intelligence, which is only valuable if it is there to protect
the public, to operations if it can be used in an operational
sense in order to impact upon terrorists. That is where we get
the partnership between the Security Service operating invariably
through the Special Branch, because that is the secure window,
if I can put it in that way, which allows essential intelligence
which is going to be valuable for protecting the public the next
time and the next time in a way that we can then process it into
a police operation and ideally take it before the courts. It comes
back to that comment that I made about the golden thread, that
is what we are seeking to achieve, that we can acquire through
the agencies, through the good work of the Security Service and
indeed their sister agencies, information which is vital to reducing
the risk and impact of terrorism to make it work operationally
in a way that means we do not lose the intelligence and ideallyand
this is the most difficult bitto take that then before
the courts in a way that allows the prosecution to be affected.
That is what we are seeking to achieve. To be frank I think the
British model stands comparison with any other jurisdiction to
1179. Would you agree with me that the great
problem, however, about all structures is the further away you
get from, let us say, 11 September the efficiency of them might
decrease, might it not, because the big threat has gone away,
the new threat is not seen and so on? You know what I am saying.
(Mr Veness) Yes.