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Pauline Neville-Jones: Securing cities - people, infrastructure, movement, events

This is a very timely roundtable.  We have witnessed recently the wide range of security challenges to major cities around the world which their governing bodies have to cope with.

Terrorism of course attracts attention which other risks do not, though it is the case that much of the planning that is needed to protect against terrorism and respond to the eventuality has wider application to mitigating the risks inherent in other types of emergency.

<h2>Terrorism </h2>

London is no stranger to terrorist attacks but, compared to 7/7, the attacks in Mumbai and Lahore show how the threat has evolved in the intervening years.  An attack modelled on Mumbai and Lahore challenges our planning assumptions and would place a burden on the capabilities of our blue light services quite different from what we have seen hitherto.  It would not just be a case of simply dealing with the consequences of an attack, as was the case on 7/7 - and that was difficult enough - it would be a case of meeting the terrorists head on. 

  • But do our police forces have the capacity and capability to do this?  How do we address any capability gap?
<h2>Natural Hazards</h2>
  • Similarly, as natural hazards are increasing in frequency and scale, do our blue light services have the capacity to respond and help us recover from these events? 
  • What challenges do cities pose to those trying to contain and manage a pandemic - at what point do you bring the police in, for example? 

I pose these questions to illustrate a point: that that civil contingencies can escalate, moving quickly beyond the responsibilities of individual Departments and agencies.  In this context, how do we make sure that all relevant actors share the same risk assessment and develop and co-ordinate their contingency and emergency response plans in light of that?

<h2>Public Order Disturbances</h2>

Then there are the challenges to public order posed by political and economic unrest.  Without question the deteriorating economic situation has increased the potential for unrest in urban areas as we saw with the G20 protests but, as we see in Parliament Square, protests can also result from the interaction of events abroad with diasporas in our cities. Such situations pose challenges to public order policing.

  • The response of the police to the G20 protests was subject to much criticism and the Independent Police Complaints Commission is currently undertaking a review of tactics for public order policing as a result.  
  • As public order policing operations become more complex and have to be undertaken on much larger scales, it is vital that policing tactics have the support of the public.
<h2>Critical National Infrastructure Protection</h2>

Quite apart from these direct security challenges to our cities, there are today in the UK problems inherent in the critical infrastructure that supports our daily lives.  The Institution of Civil Engineers produces an annual 'State of the Nation Report' which assess the UK's infrastructure. 

  • In 2004 it warned 'the nation's infrastructure is becoming increasingly fragile' and it has consistently graded the overall state and sustainability of our infrastructure as 'Average' or 'Poor' since.  
  • The Institution finds that we fare worst in energy, flood management and transport. 
<h2>CNI Reliability and Security</h2>

I said that the challenges were actually within our critical infrastructure. Quite apart from our critical infrastructure being vulnerable to terrorist attack or natural hazards against which we must harden it

  • we need also to ensure that it is capable of meeting demand in all circumstances - not just normal conditions, but in emergencies too. 
  • Resilience and security are cousins.  We need to know where the interdependencies and critical nodes lie; we need replace ageing components and map all this against socio demographic trends and climate change. To do this we have to remedy a current deficiency since 
  • we still do not have a comprehensive picture of the state, inter-dependencies, capacity and supply chains of our critical infrastructure that is  a prerequisite  for a cost effective programme of upgrade and improvement.  And we need to decide with the public, operators and regulators what the acceptable levels of resilience should be.
  • Some things are basic however like power where there is no room for less than total reliability. And we know already that the capacity of the power network, in particular, will come under significant pressure in coming years. We need to reduce vulnerability to externally generated disruption eg by having adequate gas storage and by ensuring the existence of a grid that is resilient enough to assure delivery to consumers at all levels of demand.   This will be a priority.

So what about the money? The current economic environment and its medium to long term effects as well as constrained public spending will pose challenges for any government in ensuring investment in improving and upgrading our infrastructure, and we will need to look at a wide range of innovative funding mechanisms in conjunction with private sector operators. 

All of these factors also, of course, need to be considered in the context of the 2012 Olympic Games.  This will be the subject of a roundtable later today but as we consider the risks to cities this morning we should all bear in mind the question: the Games pose a challenge, but also an opportunity.  Can we use them to galvanise us into action to provide a lasting legacy for our security and resilience?

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