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No. 10 Afternoon Press Briefing From 14 Nov 2007

Afternoon press briefing from 14 November 2007

Briefing from the Prime Minister's Spokesman on: Security Statement

Security Statement

Asked if the Government was ordering or advising that extra barriers/barricades be put up in certain places to stop car bombs, the Prime Minister's Spokesman (PMS), replied that it depended on who owned them as to whether or not the responsibility fell to the Government or the private sector. There would be a process of consultation with the relevant organisations and further updated and more tailored advice given to specific organisations.

Put that there presumably would not be any money to help them do it, the PMS said that there were Government resources in terms of providing more tailored and specific advice. Obviously the security of individual buildings was the responsibility of the people who owned them.

Asked what the time frame would be in terms of bag searches at railway stations, the PMS said that people should wait and see. One of the conclusions of what Lord West had said that these things had to be looked at on a case by case basis and clearly we were not going to pre-announce exactly which buildings we were talking about or what would happen. Part of what today was about was preparing the public for the possibility that they may start to see some changes in the physical layout of buildings where people gather.

Asked if that meant there would be checks at railway stations, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had raised that as a possibility in his statement today.

Asked if that was something which the Government could compel people to do or just something to be advised, the PMS said that the police had certain powers and that they were central to this process. The police and the relevant people in the Home Office would be working in close consultation with the companies involved to discuss with them what their specific security requirements might be.

Asked if there would be security guards at every station checking every bag before people boarded their trains, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had said that that may be necessary in certain circumstances where it was judged so by the police and the security experts.

Asked if any advice had been taken from any foreign agencies in terms of best practise, the PMS said that it was best to speak to the Home Office to find out what exactly they had done.

Asked if the situation was one where people would be stopped randomly or if specific intelligence would be used, the PMS said these were operational decisions that would need to be taken by the experts. Lord West was emphasising, as was the Prime Minister, that we did not want to unnecessarily inconvenience the travelling public; it was worth noting that, as part of the statement today, we made an announcement on relaxing the one bag rule because in relation to airports it had been possible, due to the new technology around screening, to make it easier for the travelling public. We were not being overly prescriptive in saying there was a specific model in terms of how to do this but what we were saying was that there would be a more systematic approach to looking at critical buildings, for example, the 250 busiest railway stations referred to in the statement, and more tailored advice and consultation from the police and the Home Office.

Asked who would be responsible for physically doing this, the PMS said that the security of individual buildings was the responsibility of the owners of those buildings but clearly there was a wider public safety interest and that was why the Government was increasing its efforts to supply more and more tailored advice to individual companies.

Asked what the "new unit" mentioned in the Prime Minister's statement would be called and what it would do specifically, the PMS said that he did not have that information to hand but that his understanding was that that was something which was already in train and that he would make sure the journalist got a specific answer to the question.

Asked if it would have to be the companies themselves who would pay for the equipment, security guards etc, and conduct the operation, the PMS said that one of the examples was working with architects to make sure the additional security measures were factored in at an early stage of building and design in order to ensure that this was done in the most cost effective way. It would be through sensible planning and building on the experience of things where the Government already worked quite closely with organisations, for example sports or other large visitor attractions, that progress could be made. It was something we would want to do in as an efficient a way as possible.

Put that that could not be done, for example, with the 250 busiest railway stations, the PMS said that they would have to be gone through systematically and look at which of those were most at threat, prioritise within that and then take any action which the relevant authorities felt were necessary. Something like road layout, for example, might be the responsibility of the local authorities; there were a number of different agencies involved.

Asked if it would be the operating companies responsible for those railway stations who would have to pay for any extra work done, the PMS said that it depended on what we were talking about; if it was the road network outside, then that might be owned by the local authority. It was difficult to give a specific answer because each circumstance would be different.

Asked if the Government anticipated any cost to the Government on these security measures, the PMS said that we were saying that we were increasing the number of security advisors, for example. If there was anything that the Government needed to do then clearly that would need to be looked at and paid for in relation to the Government's own buildings, if that was what the question was implying.

Asked what the Prime Minister said to Lord West to persuade him to change his mind about 28 days, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had dealt with this at Prime Minister's Questions today. Lord West was not saying anything in his second statement today which he hadn't said back in July.

Asked why Lord West said what he did in his first statement, the PMS said that that was a question for Lord West's spokesman. Lord West had set out his position quite clearly in his second statement today, which was completely consistent with what he had said previously.

Asked how the Government would explain why a Minister in such an important position had to make three statements to clarify what he meant, the PMS said that, as he had said in the morning press briefing, Lord West said in his 8.10am Today programme interview that he did think that there was an increasing trend towards more complex cases in relation to the terrorist detention issue. Lord West said, as part of his interview, "You know one can build up a very good reason and rationale that it, [i.e. the extension beyond 28 days] there might well be a case, particularly if there are multiple, multiple attacks at the same time, which will go beyond that and Lord Carlile mentioned that." This was entirely consistent with what he said later on in the morning.

Asked if Lord West would be appearing on programmes like the Today programme again, the PMS said he was sure he would.

Asked if the Prime Minister felt that this was an occupational hazard for appointing non-politicians, the PMS said that the Prime Minister thought that Lord West was a very good Minister; he had a lot of expertise which he was bringing to bear, for example, in his report today and that he was a great attribute to the Government.

Asked why the Prime Minister wanted to move Lord West to defence procurement, the PMS said that he was not aware of that and had not seen that report.


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