Select Committee on Defence Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary memorandum submitted by WoMenwith Hill Peace Group (20 January 2003)

  Without seeking permission from the UK Government, components of the USA's (National Missile Defense) NMD system already have been installed on UK Defence Lands at RAF Menwith Hill and RAF Fylingdales. This fait accompli makes the current public consultation exercise a sham.

  The formal request from the USA Federal Government on 17 December 2002; the issue of the UK Defence Secretary's much-publicised discussion document; the deliberation of evidence presented to the UK Parliamentary Defence Committee, preceding the UK Government's decision whether or not to grant the requested permission, is a mockery of a democratic exercise.

  Additionally there has been cost to the UK Budget from the USA's NMD developments and additional security measures installed to protect them.


  In our first submission to the Defence Committee, we examined ownership of Defence Lands; the Acts of Parliament governing use of the land and the powers granted to the Secretary of State for Defence. We presented the evidence that Menwith Hill (in common with all the other US Bases in the UK) was established as a NATO Base. It properly should not engage in any activities, which are not sanctioned by the NATO Status of Forces Agreement 1951. The US DoD may not, under UK Law, pursue exclusively the interests of the United States by installing components of its NMD system in bases it occupies in the UK. It is not in the power of the Secretary of State for Defence to grant such permission.

  In this second submission we request that you consider the evidence that the USA Department of Defense (DoD) has violated UK Law by proceeding with construction of NMD equipment, related station infrastructure developments and upgrading of security to protect that equipment. That the US DoD has been able to do this, without either consulting the UK Government or obtaining its approval, has serious implications for the UK's scrutiny and control of developments at the US Bases in Britain.

  Menwith Hill, the largest USA Signals' Intelligence Station in the World, was established as "an integral part of the worldwide network which supports the United States, the United Kingdom and NATO interests. The arrangement has been made in accordance with the agreement regarding the status of forces of parties to the North Atlantic treaty of 1951 and other arrangements appropriate to the relationship that exists between the United Kingdom and the United States for the purposes of our common defence." (Hansard: Adjournment Debate, 25 March 1994: Jeremy Hanley, Minister of State for the Armed Forces in reply to the late Bob Cryer MP). This statement has been repeated frequently in reply to MPs' Parliamentary Questions; there is no question that Menwith Hill is supposed to function as a NATO Base.

  Since 1966 the base has been occupied and operated by the USA's National Security Agency (NSA). It is engaged in interception of telecommunications, which are relayed to NSA HQ at Fort Meade, Maryland. The main feature of the base is the array of 29 (shortly to be 30) gigantic white "golf balls" radomes, which contain receiving antenna dishes downlinking from satellite communications. In addition there are extensive, windowless Operations Blocks, over 100 mast aerials, administration offices and warehouses, plus a sizeable USA "town". It was excluded from the Nidderdale Area of outstanding Natural Beauty on the ground that it is ugly.

  On 19 June 1997 a "Notice of Proposed Development" (under the terms of the Department of the Environment's Circular 18/84, "Crown Land and Crown Development") for development of the Space Based Infra Red (SBIRS) at "RAF" Menwith Hill was submitted to the Harrogate Borough Council Planning Department. The "applicant" was (as usual) ostensibly the UK Ministry of Defence Estates' Senior Advisor (North) and not the USA Department of Defense, which purchases, erects and operates all the structures and equipment on the base.

  The plans consisted of proposals to erect two "golf ball" radomes, with an outline planning option for two others; ancillary support buildings; expansion of the Operations Blocks; a separate Battery House (qv); partial demolition of the existing Personnel Center (Ops Offices and Electronic Engineering Workshops) and construction of another, much larger "Mission Support Building". The plans were accompanied by a statement, purporting to be issued by "Her Majesty's Government", which welcomed the new role of Menwith Hill as the European Relay Ground Station for the SBIRS development.

  The plans were advertised and representations invited from members of the public. Although the provisions of DoE Circular 18/84 do not give the power to veto plans for developments at Menwith Hill (it is Crown Defence Land), the Council's Planning Committee may make observations within limited criteria. The Committee would expect its recommendations to be implemented, or at least taken into consideration. It has the power to ask the Secretary of State to "call in" the application and appoint a Planning Inspector to conduct a non-statutory Public Inquiry. In practice the Council has never done so; it welcomes the assumed economic benefit to the area, which the base is said to provide.

  Objectors expressed concern that there are no controls on expansion of the base. Harrogate Borough Council's No 1 Area Planning Committee approved the plans, with no objections from the members, at its August 1997 meeting. Construction of the initial SBIRS was completed in 2000.

  The significance of the plans in relation to the USAs NMD proposals was not publicly recognised in 1997. At that stage the US Government had made no public announcement about its NMD programme, because Congress had not considered it. It was not until Duncan Campbell published an article, "Star Wars Strikes Back", in the Guardian on 3 December 1998, that the SBIRS role was publicly identified as a component of a missile defence system. SBIRS' only function is the detection of ballistic missiles aimed at the continental United States. It is designed to identify and track ballistic missiles after the rocket motor has burnt out and the missile has entered the ballistic trajectory. It does this by detecting the infra red heat of the missile against the colder background of space. (It does not appear to work).

  The current installations are the inception of a "Star Wars" programme, as described by US Space Command in its publication "Vision for 2020" in late 1996, which envisages the militarisation of orbital space. The fact that SBIRS is a component of USA's NMD is attested by publications of the US Department of Defense Missile Defense Agency and Lockheed-Martin, the developers. The information is published on the Internet.

  WoMenwith Hill women have maintained close observation of activities and developments at the Menwith Hill base. Information has been acquired from published sources; from files held at the Harrogate Planning Department; from replies to letters raising issues of concern with Harrogate Borough Council, the MoD Defence Estates' Office and Government Ministers and by going openly into the station and being escorted off by the MoD Police. It is evident, from these observations, that the USAs SBIRS developments did not originate even with the submission of the plans to the local authority in 1997, but were being introduced in installments for several years prior to that date. Elements of the system were being installed as early as 1994, which is prior to the date when either the US Congress or UK Parliament was informed about it. We should like to know whether the Secretary of State for Defence at this time, Michael Portillo, had foreknowledge of the NMD project.

  Late in December 2000, Notice of Proposed Development (NoPD) for two Battery Charging Houses was submitted to Harrogate Planning Department. It was evident that these battery chargers were for the batteries housed in the SBIRS' Battery House and had been omitted from the 1997 NoPD. The sensitive electronic equipment used in Ops requires a "true uninterruptible power supply (UPS), which can only be provided by batteries".The batteries have to be accommodated in a separate building for health and safety reasons. Menwith Hill generates its own electricity. The alternating current cannot be rectified smoothly enough for the electronic equipment, but it can be used to charge the Ops batteries. The plans were accompanied with a request to expedite the planning procedure, although the Battery Charging Units were not installed until Spring 2002.

  By December 2000 the USA's NMD programme was public knowledge and considerable opposition to it had developed, to "Star Wars", as it was commonly known. In the Harrogate District, particularly, fear of a retaliatory attack on Menwith Hill, by enemies of the USA, was growing. Some people recognised that without the battery chargers the SBIRS equipment would be unable to function. The Harrogate Planning Department received approximately 200 objections to the proposals. Despite the volume of letters received, the Chief Planning Officer approved the plans, under "delegated legislation", without deliberation by the Area No.1 Planning Committee Members.

  On Friday 9 March 2001, we wrote to the Secretary of State for Defence and approached a local MP, Harold Best, at his Constituency Surgery the following day, in order to discuss our concerns about the Harrogate Head of Planning Services' decision to offer no objections to the plans. Harold Best submitted our enquiry to the Secretary of State for Defence, Geoff Hoon on 21 March. We asked for an explanation why elements of USA's NMD system had been installed at Menwith Hill. No permission had been granted for the use of the base for USA's NMD, as there had been no request from the US Government. In his reply, on behalf of Geoff Hoon, John Spellar (then Minister of State for the Armed Forces) stated:

    ". . .your constituents were concerned about the handling of a recent planning application at RAF Menwith Hill. Let me make clear that this has been conducted entirely in accordance with the established guidelines and procedures".

    "Perhaps it would be helpful for me to explain the situation regarding the European Relay Ground Station for the Space based Infra Red System (SBIRS) currently under construction at RAF Menwith Hill. The wider SBIRS project, of which the European Relay Ground Station is a part, is designed to detect the launch of ballistic missiles, and is a replacement for the ageing Defence Support Programme (DSP) satellites. DSP has for some years contributed to the security of NATO and the UK, and SBIRS will continue to enhance this capability."

    "The US regards SBIRS as necessary irrespective of any decision on missile defence, and it is being handled as a separate project. SBIRS would be capable of providing early warning of ballistic missile launches to a missile defence system should we agree to any request from the US for it to do so. . ."

  Nick Cohen, in an article entitled "It's Cold War up North"published in The Observer, 29 April 2001, referred to the objections to the two Battery Charger Units:

    "Last month Harrogate Council considered a planning application to install battery-charging houses at RAF Menwith Hill. They will power the Space Based Infra Red System the Americans will use to identify warheads. The objections of 200 people weren't considered, and elected councillors did not debate the application. That bogus `RAF' in RAF Menwith Hill has its uses. The base is on Crown Land and it is a Royal prerogative to exempt itself from democratic scrutiny. Monarchical Britain's archaic constitution and the interests of the American Republicans suit each other well. `We have no control', said a council spokeswoman. `There's nothing we can do to stop them.

`Harold Best, the Labour MP for Leeds North-West, took the last available option. He wrote to Geoff Hoon, and asked the Defence Secretary to open up the secret process by holding a public inquiry into the expansion of Menwith Hill. . ."

  Nick Cohen's article was discussed at the full Harrogate Council Meeting in May 2001. The Councillors decided to write a letter to the Prime Minister asking for more information about the role of Menwith Hill and requesting assurances that they would be consulted about the implications for the locality, of any US NMD developments at the base. The Nidderdale Herald reported the decision as its lead story on 11 May under the headline"Terrorism Fear over US base".The article raised the questions: "Would incoming missiles shot down over Nidderdale distribute radioactive wreckage? Would Menwith Hill become a terrorist target if the Son of Star Wars programme goes ahead? How much protection will Harrogate get?" The Council's Chief Executive Officer, Mike Walsh, was quoted as saying: "We want to know what are the implications for this district. We do not want Harrogate to become the target for terrorist action, nor do we want it to become a site for mass protest. . ."

  In response to their request, a delegation from the Council was invited to meet representatives from the MoD in London. Their visit was delayed by subsequent events.

  From 3 July until 5 July there was a Greenpeace "anti-Star Wars" protest at the base, during which over 100 demonstrators entered Menwith Hill and occupied the water tower, a camera mast and the roof of the SBIRS radomes' ancillary building. Geoff Hoon visited Menwith Hill on 5 July and the first measures to upgrade the station's security were implemented the following week (without NoPD to Harrogate Planning Department). This `invasion' of the base was a `high-profile' publicity stunt. There are many more protests, which do not command similar levels of media attention.

  The attacks on the Pentagon and the Twin Towers in the USA on 11 September 2001, delayed the London meeting between Councillors and MoD until October. A statement, written by the RAF Commander at Menwith Hill, Squadron Leader Howard Newbould, was published to coincide with the meeting. (RAF Commander is a nominal title given to the UK MoD Liaison Officer for the USA NSA's Base Commander). This statement was reported in the local press as a new, open and accountable presentation by ROYAL AIRFORCE MENWITH HILL. Sub-headings such as: "UK/US Cooperation on Defence and Security:" and statements such as ". . . work at the base is carried out by mixed teams of UK and US operators. . ." contrive to convey a totally misleading impression that the base is a joint UK/USA operation, with the UK as the dominant partner. In his statement related to SBIRS (final paragraph, page 1) Squadron Leader Newbould acknowledges that "SBIRS is a world-wide satellite based system that is designed to detect infra-red targets, such as a missile launch. This information is then relayed from the SBIRS satellites to the ground stations which, when they become operational, will pass this to the SBIRS Mission Control Station in Colorado. SBIRS is a US Space Command Programme due to come on stream in 2006 and updates the existing but ageing Defence Support Programme (DSP) constellation of satellites."

  The anticipated USA NMD role of Menwith Hill and Fylingdales has generated considerable regional publicity. The bases are identified as "targets for terrorists" and a focus for peace protests. This has had consequence for the taxpayers of the UK and the Council Taxpayers of North Yorkshire. Extra civilian armed police personnel and vehicles have been assigned to the security of both bases. In November 2001, "North Yorkshire Police Authority has welcomed the announcement from Home Secretary, David Blunkett, that North Yorkshire Police will get an extra cash grant of £1 million over two financial years. The additional money is to help towards extra costs incurred in providing enhanced policing around military bases at Menwith Hill and Fylingdales." (Harrogate Advertiser: 9 November 2001). We raised with Ann Cryer MP, the issue of a considerable rise, for payment of policing, in the North Yorkshire Council Tax Budget for 2002. She wrote to the Geoff Hoon and received a reply dated 8 March 2002, from Adam Ingram, Minister of State for the Armed Forces, which stated:

    "I can confirm that, following the mass trespass by Greenpeace activists in July 2001 and the more recent events of 11 September, security at RAF Menwith Hill has been reviewed and additional Ministry of Defence Police officers have been deployed. Whilst it would be inappropriate to comment in detail on the security arrangements at RAF Menwith Hill, I can confirm that North Yorkshire and Ministry of Defence Police units are patrolling jointly as part of the anti-terrorist measures put in place. The question of additional police grant to North Yorkshire Police and the payment of council tax are matters for the Home Secretary and the Chief Executive of North Yorkshire County Council respectively. I can confirm however that an appropriate recovery is made from the US Authorities of costs incurred by the MoD Police at Menwith Hill."

  During the past 12 months or so, 25 plans for expansion of Menwith Hill's infrastructure and upgrading of security have been submitted to the Harrogate Planning Department. None of these individual proposals would justify a Public Inquiry, but considered as a "package" the plans amount to substantial development. All of them, including a 100ft diameter "golf ball" and a substantial supermarket and restaurant (PX Facility) have been determined by the Planning Officer under delegated legislation, without discussion by the Area no 1 Planning Committee. Some of our objections to the plans are published on the Internet at URL

  For over 20 years we have been exposing the abuses perpetrated by Menwith Hill, including contravention of UK Laws. We have objected that development is out of control. We have taken a case to the Local Government Ombudsman complaining that the local authority countenances the malpractices practised by the base authorities. We are currently preparing a case for the attention of the Parliamentary Ombudsman. We have been obliged to "take the law into our own hands"and as a consequence been arrested, convicted and imprisoned. We have considerable files containing correspondence with Members of Parliament, local government officers, etc. We supply information to the media. We are in the peculiar position of being better informed about Menwith Hill than most local or national authorities or even the station authorities (as the US personnel are at Menwith Hill on two-year assignments). We have amassed considerable evidence, about the established USA NMD installations at "RAF" Menwith Hill and violations of the law. We should welcome the opportunity to present more information.

  RAF Fylingdales Ballistic Missile Early Warning Station—Solid State Phased Array Radar: X-Band Radar System:

  In April 2002, in response to the retrospective planning application for unauthorised security upgrades at RAF Fylingdales, we made representation to the North York Moors National Park Authority (NYMNPA) Development sub-Committee. It essentially covers points, which we should like to draw to the attention of the Defence Committee. We therefore attach it in its entirety. Our first submission to the current debate was similarly presented and reveals to some extent our considerable correspondence and the information to which we have access.

  The equipment at RAF Fylingdales is purchased and installed by US Space Command. Information about objects coming over the horizon is gathered by the Solid State Phased Array Radar (SSPAR) pyramid and transmitted to US Space Command HQ in Colorado. Some information is supplied to the UK MoD. (Public statement issued by Wing Commander Chris Knapman, RAF Fylingdales). In all pictures, which purport to show the Operations' Centre, we are shown UK Royal Airforce personnel in control, using relatively unsophisticated computer equipment.

  Fylingdales already functions as a Ballistic Missile Early Warning Station (BMEWS) for the identification of intercontinental ballistic missiles aimed at the continental United States. Re-configuration of the SSPAR for the purposes of the USA's NMD system should cease the pretence that it is also a British BMEWS monitoring objects, which could land on the UK. Should it be permitted to change its status from a so-called NATO Base to a USA NMD Base, would the UK no longer be "protected" by BMEWS? Unless the BMEWS can be proved to be essential to the defence of the UK, it would contravene the UK legislation covering the use of Defence Lands for the defence of the realm. Nor is there lawful justification for the siting of such a facility in a National Park (cf our first submission and attachments hereto).

  Presumably we should no longer be shown the pictures of RAF staff in "control" of Ops. Would the RAF depart Fylingdales? Would there be redundancies? Would they be employed by the US DoD?

  Recent developments, such as US Space Command's MILSTAR antenna and fibre-optic cables are elements in support of the USA NMD project. The Under Secretary of State for Defence, Dr Lewis Moonie, denied that recent upgraded security measures are preparatory to the use of Fylingdales for US NMD. The primary purpose, however, would appear to be protection of the existing US Space Command installations and intended to control protesters after designation of Fylingdales as an NMD Base. Most recently a brick wall has been erected to surround the MILSTAR antenna. No NoPD application has been submitted to the NYMNPA and we have drawn this further abuse of the planning process to the attention of the Chief Planning Officer.

  There have been several developments at Fylingdales during 2002, which appear to be expansion of the infrastructure and upgrading of security. All these evidently are consistent with preparations for a new role for the base. We enquired of the Chief Planning Officer if there are any plans "in the pipeline". We received the reply that there was a proposal to expand the MoD Police facilities (presumably to accommodate more MoD Police Officers for increased security purposes) and "all the buildings on the base are to be refurbished". We intend to enquire who has paid for the recent developments and who will pay for the proposed "refurbishment". We also intend to enquire who pays for the MoD Police responsible for the security at the base and who will pay for an increase in their numbers as well as the North Yorkshire Police assigned to the base security duties.

  In 2001 the Council for National Parks obtained a Legal Opinion concerning the legality of development of Fylingdales for US NMD from David Wolfe of Matrix Chambers. We anticipate that the CNP has made representation to the Defence Committee, but in case not, may we ask you to consider the Legal Opinion. It is published on the Internet attached as an Annexe to

  We are aware that the implications of the USA's NMD proposals for World peace have been presented to the Defence Committee by Yorkshire Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Menwith Hill Forum. We are affiliated and input to both organisations. There is no need to reiterate their statements; we endorse them entirely.

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