» Thursday, February 24, 2005

Terror Attack

Asked in light of the Met Commissioner’s remarks about the Madrid bomb, if Ministers had been given warning about the dangers of an attack before or during an election, the PMOS said he had been asked a similar question yesterday, in light of the Home Secretary’s comments. The PMOS said that Ministers would always take the opportunity to state what was a fact, which in this instance was international terrorism was unfortunately a reality, and we did need therefore to remain constantly vigilant. We also needed to equip ourselves with the measures necessary to counter that threat. For example the Government’s proposals on control orders. If there was a specific threat which the public needed to know about, then we would inform the public of that, and that had always been the position.

Asked what the Government would say to people who said that they were "playing politics with terror and to heighten people’s fears" with "highly contentious and controversial legislation" the PMOS replied that the Prime Minister had repeatedly made the comparison with both the World Trade Centre bombing and also the Madrid bombing, and he had said that if the terrorists could have killed more people on both occasions, then they would have done so. It was therefore wrong to suggest that this was something new in the public discourse. The reason why the comparison was made was because it was the goal of the international terrorist, which was to cause as much mayhem as possible. That was why we needed to be both alert, but also to have the powers that were necessary to counter that degree of terrorism. It would be irresponsible not to tell the public of why we believed this kind of terrorism was different to the kind of terrorism that existed in the past. That was not in any way to diminish the terrorism in the past, but rather it was to tell the public that the threat we faced at the moment was of a different order and kind.

Asked if the Metropolitan Police Commissioner had discussed ahead of time with the Home Secretary his strong statement, the PMOS replied that the Metropolitan Police Commissioner was his own person, and would not make his own comments if he did not believe them. The PMOS said he "had no idea and was not aware" if he had cleared his comments in advance.

Asked if the Commissioner had any knowledge of any terrorist activities being planned, the PMOS said that what had always been said was there was an ongoing and serious threat. That was the view of not only the Government, but also the police and security services. Therefore, if there was specific information relating to a specific threat that we believed the public should be made aware of, then we would tell the public.

Asked again if there was had specific information given to imply there might be a threat during a general election, or Royal Wedding, for example, the PMOS said he was not going to get into discussing the detail of advice as that would help the terrorists. The PMOS said the level of threat was there, and it was serious. That was not a different statement to one that had been made in the past.

Asked if this was an ongoing threat that was being linked up to a general election, the PMOS replied again that he could not discuss the detail on advice received on the level of a threat. He repeated that the threat from international terrorists was real and ongoing.

Asked if being in a constant state of preparation, particularly when there were special events happening, was therefore the middle ground, the PMOS said it was obvious when there were increased awareness of threats.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Search for related news

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