Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms

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Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms (COBR)
UK Cabinet Office Briefing Room (COBR) Logo.png
LocationCabinet Office, 70 Whitehall, London
CountryUnited Kingdom
PurposeCrisis management centre

The Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms (COBR) are meeting rooms in the Cabinet Office in London. These rooms are used for committees which co-ordinate the actions of government bodies in response to national or regional crises, or during overseas events with major implications for the UK. It is popularly referred to as COBRA.

The facility[edit]

The Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms are a group of meeting rooms in the Cabinet Office at 70 Whitehall in London, often used for different committees which co-ordinate 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. It is popularly, but not officially referred to as COBRA,[1] even when the acronym is spelt out by officials.[2] Other meeting rooms in the Cabinet Office are not part of the COBR facility, including the old Treasury Board Room, which is labelled "Conference Room A", located in Kent's Treasury, a different part of the Cabinet Office building.[3]

Released in 2010 under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, this is the only publicly available photo of the classified COBR facility.

A single photo of one of the rooms in COBR was released in 2010 in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.[4]

The committees[edit]

The composition of a ministerial-level meeting in COBR depends 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, city mayors and representatives of relevant external organisations such as the National Police Chiefs' Council and the Local Government Association.[5]

The first COBR meeting took place in the 1970s to oversee the government's response to the 1972 miners' strike.[6][7] Other events that have led to meetings being convened include the 1980 Iranian Embassy siege, the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak, the 11 September 2001 attacks, the 7 July 2005 London bombings, the refugee crisis in Calais,[8] the 2015 Paris attacks, the Manchester Arena bombing,[9] and the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2009, former senior police officer Andy Hayman, who sat on a committee after the 7 July 2005 London bombings and at other intervals from 2005 to 2007, was highly critical of its workings in his book The Terrorist Hunters.[10]

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) is a sub-committee of COBR.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Home Office's Response to Terrorist Attacks" (PDF). The Stationery Office. London. 26 January 2010. Retrieved 25 February 2020., p. 5 chapter 2: "COBRA is not an officially recognised term and will therefore not be found in official documents and evidence."
  2. ^ "London 2012: What exactly is a Cobra meeting?". BBC. London. 23 July 2012. Retrieved 25 February 2020.: "It sounds great but it stands for Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms, so it's rather mundane," reflects Lord O'Donnell."
  3. ^ "One Room Nine Politicians". Independent. London. 15 October 2010. Retrieved 18 December 2019.
  4. ^ "COBR – a Freedom of Information request to Cabinet Office". WhatDoTheyKnow. 12 November 2010.
  5. ^ Gardiner, Joey (21 October 2002). "What is Cobra". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 15 September 2009.
  6. ^ "File 9: Central Government in War in the 1980s".
  7. ^ Winterton, Jonathan; Winterton, Ruth (1989). Coal, Crisis, and Conflict: The 1984–85 Miners' Strike in Yorkshire. Manchester University Press. p. 145. ISBN 9780719025488.
  8. ^ "Britain calls emergency meeting on Calais migrants". Deutsche Welle. Berlin. AFP. 31 July 2015. Retrieved 31 July 2015.
  9. ^ "Manchester Arena: 19 dead after explosion at Ariana Grande concert – latest updates". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 May 2017.
  10. ^ O'Neil, Sean (22 June 2009). "Cobra emergency committee 'slows everything down'". The Times. London. Retrieved 3 January 2010.
  11. ^ Sharman, Jon (23 April 2020). "Publishing Sage membership would 'increase public confidence' in government, agrees Whitty". The Independent. Retrieved 25 April 2020.