The developments in regard to the required release of the Operation Yellowhammer Report is an interesting one. Contingency planning is essentially planning for the worst-case scenario and in this instance, a no deal Brexit. It is not a suggestion that these occurrences will happen, it is simply preparing for the potential that they will. The press has now erupted with reports that the government expect outbreaks of disease and shortages of medicine, fresh food and fuel, riots and public disorder. This obviously could happen, but just because it is planned for, does not mean that it will.
All government agencies, such as prisons, police, hospitals etc. have security and contingency plans for a broad range of potential incidents and outcomes. This includes massive infrastructure failure, contaminated water supplies and excessive air pollution. This does not necessarily mean that these incidents are imminent, it is just good practice to understand risks and plan for every eventuality to ensure that we are fully prepared in the event that it does. This goes for any business, of any size. For example, the American government has contingency plans in place for aliens and the plot of Armageddon coming true. The likelihood of this occurring is tiny, but it is sensible to plan.
In actuality, governments would be criticised if they didn’t have robust contingency and emergency plans in place and there are numerous examples of this following recent terrorist attacks.
The other question is whether information such as this should be released into the public forum. Is it prudent to release contingency plans identifying potential issues and the subsequent response measures in place? May this not incite certain actions, or provide a strategic advantage to someone instigating an incident? The Operation Yellowhammer Report perhaps does not have the security classification of other contingency plans, such as response to a terrorist attack or an act of war, but it is certainly a sensitive document with the potential to panic and scare the UK public. I have already heard of people planning on filling their cars up with fuel and stockpiling medication due to the media’s representation of this report. Should the House of Commons decide whether a document written by the Cabinet Office in relation to civil continuity and security is suitable for public release? There surely should be stricter policy on control of documents such as this.