The Home Office's Response to Terrorist Attacks

Publication of Report: The Home Office’s Response to Terrorist Attacks

“INSTITUTIONAL INERTIA” THREATENING EFFECTIVENESS OF UK COUNTER-TERROR OPERATIONS

Existing counter-terrorism committees should be merged to form a “National Security Committee” say Home Affairs Committee.

In a report on the Government’s response to terror attacks published today, Tuesday 2 February 2010, the Home Affairs Committee calls for the merger of many different counter-terrorism committees into a single, formalised “National Security Committee” chaired by the Home Secretary or Prime Minister and assisted by a “Condoleezza Rice-style” National Security Advisor. 

The Committee also says that while the structures now in place may be suitable for combating the terrorist threat as currently constituted it is not confident that government institutions have the desire to constantly adapt to meet ever-changing threats; a lack of political will has hindered the institution of valuable reforms such as regional policing counter-terrorism units; and a “degree of institutional inertia has set in” to counter-terror operations in the UK and those involved in counter-terrorism “may be willing to settle for existing sub-optimal solutions”, rather than proactively reforming to meet ever-changing threats.

It cautions against the creation of a separate National Terrorism Agency modelled on the American Department of Homeland Security, saying that this has the potential to cause major problems and will not represent a major simplification of policing structures. Instead, the primacy of the Metropolitan Police in counter-terrorism operations should be enshrined in statute to increase accountability and simplify the command structures.

The Committee also says there must be changes in the counter terror measures put in place by Government, saying the control order regime, which has been plagued by questions about its legality since its inception, “no longer provides an effective response” and should be scrapped.  Instead the Government should immediately introduce legislation to allow the admission of intercept evidence in court, which would make the identification, charging and conviction of terror suspects easier; the Committee considers denying prosecutors the use of this power to be “ridiculous”.

Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP, Chairman of the Committee, said:

“Too often in this inquiry we saw suggestions for reforms to the counter-terrorism structure rebuffed because “it works well at the moment”, or “the benefits are not yet proven”. We are very concerned that a degree of inertia has set in to the Government’s counter-terrorism planning and operations. The threat is ever present and ever changing and Government must above all be ever ready to adapt and innovate to meet this challenge. We believe it is time to appoint a more open, accountable National Security Committee assisted by Condoleezza Rice-style National Security Advisors to drive forward strategy and operations. This should not however detract from the primacy and centrality of the Metropolitan Police, and the regional forces they assist, as the core of our counter-terror operations. The Government’s response to terrorism must be as constant and adaptable as the threats we face are themselves, and should be clearly visible and accountable to both the public and Parliament.”

Session 2009-2010: No. 30
1 February 2010