Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms


Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms

__NOTOC__Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms (COBR) is a coordination facility of the government of the United Kingdom that is activated in cases of national or regional emergency or crisis, or during events abroad with major implications for the UK. It is also referred to as COBRA (or Cobra; see initialism), given that its meetings are held in conference room A of the Cabinet Office. [http://news.scotsman.com/politics.cfm?id=462812007 Scotsman.com News ] ] The term "COBRA" is used both for the actual facility, and for the Civil Contingencies Committee which meets there.

COBR is situated in an undisclosed part of Whitehall, reportedly "a suite of offices within the Cabinet Office building". [ [http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/features/sfs/file_9.htm file 9 ] ] Physically it is a secure suite of rooms containing a bank of telephone lines, fax machines, computer terminals, video conference facilities, and other state-of-the-art communication equipment. Its purpose is to enable the Prime Minister, senior Ministers, key government officials, and other critical persons (Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Mayor of London, Director of the SAS and Intelligence Officials) to obtain vital information about an incident and to secure lines of communication to the police and other emergency services, army, hospitals, and all relevant branches of government. The chairmanship of COBR meetings depends on the nature of the incident or crisis. In times of immense national crisis it can invoke emergency powers such as suspending Parliament or restricting movement within the country, although these powers may only be used with the consent of Her Majesty the Queen.

Incidents when COBR has been used

* COBR has been opened for crises such as the Kosovo War of 1999, the fuel protests of September 2000, and the 2001 UK foot and mouth crisis.

* In July 2007 for the 2007 United Kingdom floods [Cabinet Office| Pitt Review Final Report - [http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/thepittreview/final_report.aspx http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/thepittreview/final_report.aspx ] ] (though it was not activated for the flooding that occurred in June 2007).

* COBR was opened for the 7 July 2005 London bombings, to coordinate the emergency response, with the Prime Minister flying directly from the G8 summit to chair a COBR meeting. It was also opened for the 21 July 2005 London bombings.

* COBR also met on 6 April 2006 in relation to the finding of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza in Fife.

* COBR met on several times on the night of 9/10 August 2006 (three confirmed) due to the foiling of an alleged plot to bring down several aircraft by the use of explosives. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4778575.stm BBC NEWS | UK | 'Airlines terror plot' disrupted ] ]

* COBR met several times following the radioactive poisoning and death of Alexander Litvinenko, an ex-KGB agent who died on 23 November 2006.

* In 2007, COBR met for the first time during February to discuss the 2007 Bernard Matthews H5N1 outbreak. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6330167.stm BBC NEWS | UK | Experts hunt for bird flu source ] ]

* COBR convened again in response to the escalating crisis in the Middle East following the Iranian seizure of 15 Royal Navy personnel on 23 March 2007.

* On 29 May 2007, COBR met to discuss the kidnapping of five Britons from a finance ministry building in central Baghdad, Iraq. [ [http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,,2090340,00.html Five Britons seized in central Baghdad | World news | guardian.co.uk ] ]

* On 29 June 2007, COBR were summoned to discuss a suspected bomb plot in the heart of London, in Piccadilly Circus. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6252276.stm BBC NEWS | UK | Police avert car bomb 'carnage' ] ]

* On 30 June 2007, Prime Minister Gordon Brown chaired two COBR meetings as a result of the London suspected bomb plot and incident at Glasgow Airport. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6255452.stm BBC NEWS | UK | Police hunting London car bombers ] ]

* On 1 July 2007 to discuss the "critical" threat level in the UK due to 3 attempted terror attacks in the past days.

* On 2 July 2007, however, only officials attended this meeting, and not Ministers.

* On 22 July 2007, in response to the severe level of flooding across England.

* On 3 August 2007, Gordon Brown took the meeting by telephone in response to foot and mouth being found on a farm near Guildford.

* On 4 August 2007, Gordon Brown attended in person after cutting short his holiday. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6931858.stm BBC NEWS | UK | Inspection starts at disease labs ] ]

* On 5 August 2007, Ministers including the Prime Minister re-convened to discuss updates regarding the foot and mouth outbreak.

* On 8 November 2007, Gordon Brown held a meeting to discuss potential flooding in eastern England as a result of tidal surges in the English Channel.

COBR in Popular Culture

COBR appears (as "COBRA") in Anthony Horowitz's young adult book series "Alex Rider", in the fifth book "Scorpia". It has also been mentioned and portrayed numerous times in the BBC TV series "Spooks". A mock COBRA was used during the fourth episode of "The Amazing Mrs Pritchard" after a plane crashed in Walthamstow. In 2006, regular references were made to "COBRA" in the SAS TV series Ultimate Force in relation to terrorist attacks. In 2007, "COBRA" was featured in the film "Flood" and was fully active and mentioned quite a lot during the flooding emergency.

See also

* Joint Intelligence Committee
* Defence & Overseas Secretariat
* Civil Contingencies Committee
* Military citadels under London
* Scottish Government Resilience Room
* Other countries
** French red plan
** White House Situation Room (USA)

References

External links

* [http://politics.guardian.co.uk/publicservices/story/0,11032,816220,00.html "The Guardian": "What is Cobra?"]
* 10 Downing Street [http://www.number-10.gov.uk/output/Page7859.asp Press Briefing following terrorist attacks in London]


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