Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Home Affairs Select Committee announces 'biggest inquiry into 7/7 & terrorists incidents in Britain'

Britain's anti-terrorist police face budget cuts for the first time since the July 7 attacks, Scotland Yard's head of counter terrorism has warned.

John Yates, assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, admitted that having to make savings was "inevitable" despite the risks associated with staging the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

His warning came as the most extensive inquiry yet in to the London suicide bombings was announced by MPs, to mark the fourth anniversary of the tragedy.

The Commons Home Affairs Select Committee will call on MI5 and MI6 chiefs, as well as terrorism experts and politicians, to give evidence and explain what the security services knew before the attacks and what should have been done.

Mr Yates, who became Scotland Yard's head of specialist operations three months ago, said there had been a significant growth in funding to combat the extremist threat since 2005.

However, he added that it would be "naive" to think counter terrorism policing would escape the recession.

Police forces nationwide have been asked to make efficiency savings of seven per cent over the next two years, and they are preparing for a cut in public sector funding thereafter.

At a conference of police chiefs in Manchester yesterday, Mr Yates said: "For the first time in counter terrorism we are going to have to robustly look at where we can make savings.

"Like any part of policing you are always looking at stripping out the back office before you look at the frontline. It would be naive of me to say that is not going to be the case."

In a comprehensive spending review in 2007 of national security and counter-terrorism, the Government pledged £3.5bn until 2010-11 - covering the police, security services, Home Office and other relevant government work.

Mr Yates said: "Up to 2011 we are fine but thereafter there is a challenge.

"We have got the Olympics as well, there will be a challenge. We will want to grow against a backdrop of falling budgets."

The pressures on money will leave counter terrorism police units fighting for funding with other police departments, such as serious and organised crime.

It is also set against the backdrop of Scotland Yard asking the Home Office for more cash for the unit which protects the Royal family and VIPs.

Mr Yates said that the official terrorist threat level may soon be reduced from "severe", meaning an attack was highly likely, to "substantial", meaning an attack was a strong possibility.

But he warned against the public being "complacent" about the terrorism threat, which he said continues to "move every week".

Meanwhile, MPs announced a formal inquiry into the London suicide bombings, which killed 52 innocent people, four years after the atrocity.

It will look for any common links between the bombers and those involved in other failed plots, both past and present in the UK, and will examine the Government emergency response system - the so-called COBRA meetings.

Graham Foulkes, from Oldham, Greater Manchester, whose 22-year-old son David was killed in the Edgware Road bombing, welcomed the move.

"I see that as really positive and I think it's good news," he said. "I would like an independent inquiry, but this is a very good second."

The parliamentary Intelligence and Security Service Committee (ISC) carried out its own inquiry in to the bombings but its report in May sparked outrage when it said there was nothing MI5 could have done to stop the attacks.

The Home Affairs committee could begin its hearings as early as September but a witness list is still to be drawn up. It remains to be seen how forthcoming the security services will be in giving evidence or whether it will be held in private.

Patrick Mercer, a Tory member of the committee, said: "This will be the biggest inquiry in July 7 and terrorist incidents in Britain.

"What we are going to try is to look at the links between failed attacks before 7/7 and right the way through to the latest successful and unsuccessful attacks that have been plaguing our security services."

Keith Vaz, the Labour chairman of the committee, added: "The Committee will be inviting MI5, MI6 and terrorism experts to give evidence with the aim of gaining a detailed picture of what the security services knew before 7/7, what, if anything, could have been done to prevent the attacks and the Government's response to the attacks."

So. The campaigning is working. Another major breakthrough.

See Telegraph, Press Association, Mirror, Evening Standard, Daily Mail

It is to be an investigation by one of the most powerful parliamentary committees, who hear evidence in public, and who publish evidence sessions (unless evidence is taken in camera) It is not, of course, an independent public inquiry, as the Mirror point out today, and as I and others have said. But I really welcome all official efforts - especially public-facing ones - to understand more, learn lessons, improve communication, save lives and spare suffering in future, and importantly, see the atrocities of 7/7 in context, see their links to other plots, look at the bigger picture.

This inquiry is therefore greatly welcomed by me, and by the colleagues I have managed to speak to so far. I think its findings will greatly aid an independent public inquiry into 7/7 when one is held.

More soon.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think if you look at the Inquiries Act (2005)the concept of an Independent Public Inquiry disappeared long ago.

Can you give us an update on your opinion on Andy Hayman's book please?

Oh, and were you happy with the way you were edited in the recent programme on the subject of 7/7?

Thanks a lot.

July 09, 2009 7:53 am  
Blogger cmain said...

A letter from the clerk to the Home Affairs Committee:

"Thank you for your letter of 21 October enclosing correspondence from your constituent, cmain, concerning press reports that the Home Affairs Committee intended to hold an inquiry into the events of 7 July 2005.

Unfortunately, these press reports were misleading. The Committee had decided to hold an inquiry into counter-terrorism but had not then decided on its terms of reference. It has subsequently published its terms of reference, which focus on the Home Office's response to terrorist attacks. I gather from cmain's letter that he is aware of these terms of reference. It does not intend to launch any other inquiries in this area before the end of this Parliament."

December 04, 2009 2:57 pm  

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