Commons Gate

Transport Security (HC 637-i)

Transport Committee 2 Nov 2005

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Evidence given by Rt. Hon Alistair Darling MP, Ms Niki Tompkinson and Mr John Grubb.

Q26 Mr. David Clelland: If we had been having this discussion before 7 July, then the description that you gave of well-developed and regulated programmes might have instilled some confidence among the Committee, but we now know of course that they were absolutely no use to us at all on 7 and 21 July, so why should the Committee have confidence that these well-developed and regulated programmes will be any more efficient in the future?

Ms Tompkinson: The answer to that is that our programmes are very sort of wide and varied. The events of 7 and 21 July were specific circumstances, an attack on a local network which, as I said, is probably the most difficult one to prevent at the time that it happens, but that does not mean to say that the other measures that we have in place are not valid, but we have to take into account other types of attack and other threats to the network, whether it is a closed network like aviation or the open network. Of course what is never known, and it makes it very hard for us to assess the success of our job, what is never known publicly, and we do not know either, is what has not happened and what attacks have been prevented. That is a completely open question.

Mr Darling: I am not sure I share the analysis behind your question. Yes, it is true that these attacks happened and it is patently obvious that it was not possible for us to forestall these attacks in the first place and, as has been said on many occasions before, a terrorist only has to be lucky once. There are, as Niki has just said, a number of occasions when we can be reasonably confident that things that we did stop things happening, although it is very difficult to prove a negative, if you like, and it is extremely difficult to prove when we cannot discuss these things in open court, as it were. If you are operating an open network, like the tube or the mainline stations, what you are aiming to do is to try and cut down the risk as much as you possibly can through intelligence, through conventional policing, specialist policing, measures that we impose on the operators and so on, but, as I say, what you cannot do is seal off the system from attacks completely. You cannot do that short of shutting down, which I do not think anybody would advocate at all, but that is not to say that we cannot improve and we cannot do better and each day we try and do that, but I think we are very aware that we are living under a very different risk from the one that we have lived under for the last 30 years with Irish terrorist groups and so on, and I am afraid it is one that we are going to be living under for the rest of our lives and probably our children's lives as well. We just have to make sure that on each and every occasion we learn from what happens and we try to shut off options, but, remember, there are people out there who, if you shut down one option, are looking for another one and that is just something we have got to be vigilant about.

This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.

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