Sir Iain Duncan Smith calls on the Government to implement a single headquarters and clear chain of command for test and trace to make sure it is co-ordinated and active.
It is a long time since I served in the armed forces, but one lesson I took from my service was that headquarters command and control is absolutely vital when going through an operation. I note, when I look at what is happening on test and trace, that there are now four centres—the Joint Biosecurity Centre in the DHSC, the National Covid Response Centre, the covid taskforce in the Cabinet Office and the covid data analysis directorate—each with its own director general and none under a single enforceable chain of command. Given that the chain of command at headquarters level is vital, and that a three or four-star general would be required in a military operation, will the Minister please tell me whether the Government have at any stage asked the MOD to implement a chain of command and headquarters command and control for the whole of test and trace, to make sure that it is now co-ordinated and active? If not, why not?
It may be a while since my right hon. Friend served in the armed forces, but the Scots Guards’ loss is certainly our gain in this place. I thank him for his question. It is not for Defence to tell other Departments how best to deliver their tasking. We are there to support them, and I am proud of the support that we are providing, with liaison officers across Government and other Departments and hundreds of people embedded in local resilience forums, enabling a network of information and intelligence to be gathered and proper support and tasking to be done on the ground.