Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms

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Cabinet Office Briefing Room (COBR)[1] is a term used to describe the formation of a crisis response committee, coordinating the actions of bodies within the government of the United Kingdom in response to instances of national or regional crisis, or during events abroad with major implications for the UK. The constitution of a COBR will depend on the nature of the incident but it is usually chaired by the Prime Minister or another senior minister, with other key ministers as appropriate, and representative of relevant external organizations such as the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Local Government Association.[1][2]

COBR meetings are generally held in one of the Cabinet Office buildings in or near Whitehall.

It is often referred to as COBRA or Cobra, with some media reporting attributing that to an acronym for "Cabinet Office Briefing Room Alpha", on the basis that meetings are presumed to be held in "Conference Room A" of the Cabinet Office main building in Whitehall.[3] In 2009, former senior police officer Andy Hayman, who sat on the committee after the 7 July 2005 London bombings and at other intervals from 2005–2007, was highly critical of its workings in his book The Terrorist Hunters.[4]

Some of the powers made available to COBRA: 'By executive decree, property could be destroyed or requisitioned, assemblies banned, freedom of movement limited, the Armed Forces mobilised and special courts set up to deal with suspects if it was felt another atrocity was planned.'[5]

A Cobra meeting was held to address the "Yemen cargo" incident on 29 October 2010.[6]

A previous Cobra meeting was used was during the air travel disruption after the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption. Present were then Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Chancellor Alastair Darling, Business Secretary Lord Mandelson, Foreign Secretary David Milliband, Transport Secretary Lord Adonis, Cabinet minister Tessa Jowell and Security Minister Lord West. The meeting, which took place on 19 April 2010, focused on plans to repatriate British nationals and outlined plans to mobilise the Royal Navy. HMS Ark Royal and HMS Ocean were sent to unspecified channel ports and HMS Albion was sent to Spain to collect 3rd Battalion The Rifles, with the possibility of some British civilians being collected as well.

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