The Cabinet Office has now published a peculiar document, the so called National Risk Register (N.B. you may have to change the file extension of the downloaded file to be able to read it - .pdf.- 45 pages)
1.1 The National Risk Register sets out 'our assessment of the likelihood and potential impact of a range of different risks that may directly affect the UK' as promised in the National Security Strategy, published earlier this year. The publication of information on these risks, previously held confidentially within government, is intended to encourage public debate on security and help organisations, individuals, families and communities, who want to do so, to prepare for emergencies.
So why is it so vague about the actual risk probabilities, and why does it appear to have been censored ?
What is the Government's methodology for assessing the relative impact and relative likelihood of the vastly different "apples and oranges" risks across entirely different risk sectors ?
As a document upon which individuals or organisations could base any meaningful emergency response procedures, this "National Risk Register" is useless, and some bits of it seem to insult to our collective intelligence and memories.
Has this document been politically censored or are those in charge of Emergency Planning simply out of touch and deluding themselves as to the real risks ?
The first thing that should worry any reader of this document, is the misleading Figure 1: An illustration of the high consequence risks facing the United Kingdom.
1.11 It is also important to highlight that the risks shown in Figure 1 and detailed in Chapter Two are not the full range of possible risks to the UK, from the insignificant to the catastrophic. They are those risks that are deemed significant enough for inclusion due to their likelihood or impact or both.
The Relative Likelihood of these disaster scenarios seem to be wrong!
Is Pandemic Influenza really as likely as Severe Weather ?? Where are the numerical probability estimate figures which support this ?
Historically there have been far more Major Transport Accidents than Attacks on Transport
In this diagram, is the Relative Impact only in terms of human lives lost, and not financial damage ?
Animal Diseases, e.g. Foot and Mouth Disease, Prion disease contamination like Creuzfeld Jacob Disease have cost the UK economy billions of pounds in exports.
2.44 Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) is spread by direct and indirect contact - it can even be windborne. In countries like the UK, where the disease arises only as the result of imported infection,
That is a false statement.
Both of the two outbreaks of Foot and Mouth Disease in Surrey in 2007, were entirely due to the UK Government, and not to any imported infection.
They were the result of biohazard security failings, due to incompetence and lack of investment by the British Government in running its own biological animal disease research laboratories at Pirbright. The second outbreak in Surrey was due to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs falsely declaring the initial outbreak as being over.
See the Health and Safety Executive's Final report on potential breaches to biosecurity at the Pirbright site [PDF 1.57MB]
2.54 Contamination can take many forms. While there are extensive arrangements in place to prevent and detect any contamination before it reaches the general public, accidents can still occur. Some of the more extreme examples drawn from around the world are detailed below:
In September 1987 a lead canister containing caesium-137 ruptured in Goiania, central Brazil.The contamination was spread by human contacts, wind and rainwater runoff resulting in 4 deaths from exposure and 244 people, 7 major properties and 42 residences being contaminated.
Chernobyl is mentioned
2.59 Following the accident at the nuclear power plant at Chernobyl in 1986, the Government prepared a National Response Plan for dealing with the effects of overseas nuclear accidents on the UK population and infrastructure and set up the Radioactive Incident Monitoring Network (RIMNET).
The RIMNET system is designed to deliver the co-ordination of consequence management and the authoritative central science response to any overseas incident.
However, there is no mention of major radioactive incidents in the UK, such as the Windscale graphite reactor core fire in 1957, or Dounreay sinkhole radioactive waste explosion in 1977, or the massive Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (THORP) re-processing plant leak at Sellafield (re-named from Windscale) near disaster from 2004 to 2005, or any other UK domestic nuclear contamination incident or potential risk.
Why are they pretending that these domestic radioactive contamination incidents have not happened, or could not happen in the UK ?
Chernobyl only seems to have been mentioned because there is a Quango which was set up as a result. There are still some North Welsh and Cumbrian highland farms which are not allowed to sell lambs or sheep for human consumption, due to the lingering low levels of radioactive fallout contamination from Chernobyl.
Could this section on Radioactive Contamination risks have been politically censored, so as not to remind people of the risks of the Government's proposed replacement and expansion of Nuclear Power stations here in the United Kingdom ?
The section on transport accidents also seems to have been spun with political falsehood:
2.75 Whilst accidents do occur much more frequently on the UK's road networks than on other modes of transport, the scale of even the largest such incident would not be sufficient to warrant a co-ordinated central government response. Similarly, continuing improvements to rail safety regimes and infrastructure over recent years have seen a substantial reduction in both the frequency and impact of rail accidents. As with road accidents, it is highly unlikely that an incident of this kind would require a co-ordinated central government response.
So the complete re-structuring of Railtrack following the revelations of bureaucratic complication and mismanagement and under investment which led to Hatfield rail crash in 2000, and the subsequent shutdown of large sections of the rail network for safety checks, for several months, did not result in any "co-ordinated central government response" ? This highlighted statement is simply false.
Road and Rail accident disasters could easily involve as many or more casualties than any of the terrorist bomb attacks, even those aimed specifically at the transport infrastructure.
Apparently, the risk of Nuclear War with Russia or France or China or the USA or India or Pakistan or Israel or North Korea or Iran etc. using professionally designed nuclear or radiological contamination weapons is now, magically, absolutely zero, since our Emergency Planners do not seem to have bothered to mention such a scenario, only wittering on about the supposed risk from "terrorist groups".
There is, apparently, no risk of any other sort of War either !
2.81 The National Security Strategy confirms the assessment in the 1998 Strategic Defence Review that, for the foreseeable future, no state or alliance will have both the intent and capability to threaten the UK militarily. The UK does, however, remain subject to high levels of covert non-military activity by foreign intelligence organisations. They are increasingly combining traditional intelligence methods with new and sophisticated technical attacks, for example attempting to penetrate computer networks through the internet. In addition, malicious acts by individuals against essential services, whether for criminal or personal motives, can have the same effect as significant accidents.
Given the return to the Cold War between the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom, and the willingness of the Russian regime to use force against its opponents, the risk of being threatened with war of some sort by Russia is not entirely negligible, especially, as our Army forces are now so over stretched in Iraq and Afghanistan, and due to the Labour Government cuts in our Naval and Air forces.
There is a whole chapter on "electronic attacks", which fails to mention the risks of UK Government incompetence in this area.
2.111 The risk and impact of electronic attacks on IT and communication systems varies greatly according to the particular sectors affected and the source of the threat. Electronic attacks have the potential to export, modify or delete information or cause systems to fail.
2.112 There is a known risk to commercially valuable and confidential information in some government and private sector systems from a range of well resourced and sophisticated attacks. Electronic attack may be used more widely by different groups or individuals with various motives.
The biggest actual and potential risks to our private and confidential data result from the UK Government's own incompetence and their rapacious demands to try to centralise our data in secret. e.g. the lost HMRC child benefit database on CDs, the stolen MoD laptops with the entire military recruitment database, the Joint Intelligence Committee top secret Al Quaeda strengths and weaknesses assessment left on a train, the HM treasury terrorist financing documents also left on a train etc. etc.
The National Identity Register, the National DNA Database, the National ANPR database, the nationally cenralised NHS medical records Data Spine, etc.
What else is missing from this "National Risk Register" ?
Why is there no mention of "collateral damage" to our internet and computer systems, by foreign or domestic law enforcement authorities, or threats of expensive civil legal action by shyster lawyers ?
- The physical seizure and denial of service of Indymedia servers in London in October 2004, affecting many innocent websites around the world.
- Alisher Usmanov / Schillings legal threats affair in 2007, affecting innocent political blogs, including that of the now Mayor of London Boris Johnson.
- Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 Part III section 49 notices which compromise of Encryption or Digital Signature Keys a financial company e.g. Bank or major email or e-commerce provider's shared servers or systems with large numbers of customers.
- Terrorism Act 2006 section 3 notices against Encouragement of Terrorism or Dissemination of Terrorist Publications over the internet.
- The EU plans to censor the internet, supposedly to prevent access to "bomb making instructions", with a knock on effect against scientific or technical knowledge or training, including safety instructions on the world wide web, and the creation of a Great Firewall of China style political censorship infrastructure.
One the Government's very own, deliberately vague definitions of "National Security", which forms the basis of all sorts of intrusive and powerful legislation, includes the words "the economic well being of the United Kingdom".
However, even the secretive Intelligence and Security Committee could not get a consistent definition of "economic well being of the United Kingdom" out of various Whitehall departments, according to their 2004 -2005 and 2005- 206 Annual Reports
Surely the risks of damaging the UK economy to the tune of billions of pounds, due to bad decisions by the the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister should be mentioned as a major Risk, with , on past performance, a high risk of likelihood, in this "National Risk Register" 5 year outlook ? e.g.
"Black Wednesday" in 1992, the debacle which made the speculator George Soros billions of pounds when the then Conservative government dithered over the European Monetary Union (Norman Lamont and John Major) .
The billions of pounds lost to the UK economy when Gordon Brown sold off half of the UK's gold reserves, against advice, in 1999.
The tens of billions lost in theNorthern Rock bank collapse in 2007 due to mistakes by the supposed regulators at the Treasury, the Bank of England and the Financial Services Authority (Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling)
What is the risk of another arrogant, yet incompetent Labour government ? Would the Conservatives be any worse ?
What power do these Emergency Planners and Risk Assessors have to sanity check and veto the Government's policies before they are inflicted onto the public ? Apparently none.
e.g. Why has nobody spoken out against "kiddy printing " in schools or finger printing of domestic and international transit passengers at airports, purely on the grounds of increased risk spreading infectious diseases ? For cheapness, current designs of contact fingerprint scanners are not sterlised before or after a child or airline passenger has used them. The individual biohazard risks of spreading infectious diseases like say, cholera, SARS, MRSA, influenza etc. for small scale fingerprint scanning units are small, but this is no longer so, once hundreds or thousands of people are forced to use the same scanner every day.
If they have spoken out, and pointed out the risks, why has their advice been ignored by the political appartachiki in the Downing Street bunker ?
Remember that the official position of the regulatory and supervsiory bodies and management before any of the disasters or near disasters in the recent past has been "we are operating to the highest possible standards" and that they take the matter very seriously.
These claims which are repeatedly spun ad nauseum afterwards, even when events have shown that there has been laxness, incompetence and deliberate penny pinching by senior civil service officials and politicians, none of whom ever seem to take personal responsibility and shoulder the blame for such disasters or near disasters.
An indication of the complicated bureaucracy involved, can be seen from the previously published interim report Learning lessons from the 2007 floods. An independent review by Sir Michael Pitt (.pdf 165 pages 6.2 Mb) which includes this complicated diagram:
We fear that the still secret "National Risk Assessment" document, from which this wretched, useless, "National Risk Register" seems to have been censored and spun politically by the Downing Street political media manipulators, is just as bad.
It could be just as vague and lacking in detailed quantitative risk assessments, with equally false guesstimates of the probabilities of risk, and the self delusion about domestic risks, which often involve the actions or incompetence of the Government itself, which must also be counted as a major potential threat to the people of the United Kingdom.