Ministers need more terror training says former Scotland Yard boss

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The Independent Online

Government ministers should attend more simulated terrorist attacks to prepare them for the real thing, two former senior police officers urged today.

Retired Scotland Yard boss Sir Ian Blair said it is "disappointing" if "top players" do not attend large-scale training exercises for atrocities.



He said it is "very important" that ministers and senior civil servants take part in regular preparations for bomb blasts, chemical attacks and mass shootings.



Speaking at a meeting of the Home Affairs Committee, Sir Ian supported his former terror chief Andy Hayman who said attendance at training events is poor.



Sir Ian said: "We should be insisting that senior ministers and officials attend such training.



"There were three counter-terrorism training sessions per year, only one of which is attended by senior ministers."



He added: "The training process for national counter-terrorism is a huge exercise. Each one of which usually lasts two or three days. In the end the pressure is so it is almost real for the people taking part in it.



"It is going through a scenario where individual ministers or permanent secretaries do not know what is going to happen next.



"It takes an enormous amount of time to set these things up and it is disappointing if the top players do not come."



Mr Hayman has publicly criticised the Government's Cobra system of meetings for handling the most serious crises.



Speaking before Sir Ian at the meeting today, he said senior police officers should prepare and practice with top ministers before an atrocity takes place.



Mr Hayman compared the situation with a football cup final where a team is suddenly pulled together with players who hardly know each other.



The former senior officer said major training exercises may be held, but key staff do not attend, or come only for a short time.



He said: "How many people who attended that exercise would be main players should an operation kick off?"



The meeting also heard how Mr Hayman fears the Cobra system may not stand up to the scrutiny of a public inquiry.



He told MPs he has never seen any minutes from meetings and external inquiries often want to see discussions that led to key decisions.



Mr Hayman said: "Let's say something goes badly wrong and we crawl over the decision-making process and we do not have records of the meeting?"



He added: "All we can do is make sure we are focused in one direction and that is making sure we are getting things back on an even keel with no loss of life.



"And if there is a threat to this country, whatever it maybe, it is something that is being managed. We should all be focused on that."

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