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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 July 2007, 10:56 GMT 11:56 UK
Tories ponder major crisis force
David Cameron
Mr Cameron is urged to increase the size of the Army
A future Tory government should set up a dedicated force to deal with national emergencies such as terror and floods, a party policy group has said.

It also suggested increasing the size of the Army and setting up a national security council to advise on policy.

The group's chairman, Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, said the UK was "ill-provided" for disaster management.

Tory leader David Cameron commissioned the report but is not committed to adopting its recommendations as policy.

The policy group on national security is warning that the UK's armed forces are overstretched and there is not enough military capability to help civil authorities during a crisis.

Its report - An Unquiet World - says defending the UK should be a priority for a future Conservative government.

Other recommendations include:

  • Giving a higher priority to homeland defence, with a dedicated civil emergencies force with a permanent command headquarters

  • Setting up a Partnership for Open Societies, bringing together leading democracies and regional powers to promote stable, liberal democracy in the Middle East

  • A four-yearly review to ensure that armed forces capabilities are large enough

  • Establishing a Department for Energy to improve the security of supply

  • Considering making the UK's Civil Contingencies Secretariat - currently part of the Cabinet Office, devoted to co-ordinating preparations for emergencies - into a fully fledged executive agency responsible for policy nationally

  • Forming a "trusted circle" of advisers on security threats, including figures from outside the government

Dame Pauline, who is shadow security minister and the former chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, said: "There have been some bad mistakes from this government; we need a new beginning.

"Unless things change, Britain's security will continue to be second best. We have seen poor implementation of policy and a lack of coherent, strategic vision.

"We need a strategy combining foreign policy, defence policy, internal security and social cohesion. And we need efficient mechanisms for bringing that about."

The report accuses the government of damaging the UK's international reputation and the effectiveness of the trans-Atlantic alliance by "naively underestimating the challenge of state-building in hostile environments".

'Shortcomings'

It says ministers have undermined security at home by treating people from ethnic minority backgrounds as members of groups rather than individual citizens.

The report also states that the government has overstretched the armed forces, leaving them without sufficient reserves.

While ministers and emergency services performed well after the London bombs on 7 July 2005, there were "notable shortcomings", particularly in the clarity of central command and communications, it adds.

The report also says: "Resilience to disruption and attack of the critical infrastructure of the country is inadequate and resources need to be devoted to developing capability outside London."

Mr Cameron said: "This report is a major contribution to thinking about our nation's future.

"It puts Britain's security first arguing that the safety of Britain should drive foreign policy, defence policy, security policy and social cohesion. And it recommends practical steps to help us bring about that change in direction."

The recommendation to increase the size of the military comes after the leak of a memo from the head of the Army, Gen Sir Richard Dannatt.

He said there were almost no spare troops because of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.


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