Report on military assistance in national emergencies

18 May 2009

Guidance for government departments in need of assistance from the Armed Forces in a national emergency needs improving, says the Defence Select Committee in its report published today

The group of MPs charged by the House of Commons with scrutinising the Ministry of Defence draws attention to the arrangements for military aid to the civilian authorities and maritime security.

Guidance is published by the Ministry of Defence, but currently lacks an adequate system for managing the requirements from other government departments. General Sir David Richards, Commander-in-Chief, HQ Land Forces and Standing Joint Commander (UK), told the Committee that the current framework for providing military aid to the civil power could still be improved.

The Committee's Chairman, Rt Hon James Arbuthnot, said:

"If ever there were an emergency where a government department misunderstood what the military could deliver, there could be serious consequences. It is essential that when a request is made for assistance, it is accompanied by a clear statement of requirement."

The Committee also learned of the contributions being made by several organisations to national security in the maritime environment. The Committee expressed concern first at the small number of vessels dedicated to maritime security, and also at the arrangements for co-ordinating the forces concerned. Comparing the defence of critical national infrastructure to the defence of military vessels travelling along the Clyde, the Committee concluded that "there is a strong case for developing a deterrent capability in relation to threats to civilian maritime targets", such as ports and refineries.

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