Brown warns of enduring al-Qaida threat to UK Prime minister says 60,000 civilians have been trained to deal with terrorist incidents
Matthew Weaver guardian.co.uk, Sunday 22 March 2009 11.51 GMT Article historyGordon Brown today warned that al-Qaida remains the biggest security threat to the UK, as he revealed that tens of thousands of civilians have been trained to deal with terrorist attacks as part of a new strategy to combat extremists.
Writing in the Observer, the prime minister previewed what he said was a "world-leading" counter-terrorist framework to be published on Tuesday. The immediate threat of terrorist attack justified a "relentless pursuit of terrorists and disruption of their plots".
"We should be under no illusion that the biggest security threat to our country and other countries is the murderous agents of hate that work under the banner of al-Qaida," he said.
Some 60,000 civilians, including shop managers and council workers, have been trained to cope with the threat.
"Today, not only the police and security and intelligence officers and our armed forces, but also the emergency services, local councils, businesses and community groups are involved in state-of-the-art civil contingency planning," Brown said.
"Tens of thousands of men and women throughout Britain – from security guards to store managers – have now been trained and equipped to deal with an incident and know what to watch for as people go about their daily business in crowded places such as stations, airports, shopping centres and sports grounds."
The home secretary, Jacqui Smith, said the strategy, called Contest Two, would be more open than past counter-terrorism efforts .
She told BBC One's Politics Show: "What we're completely clear about is that if we're going to address the threat from terrorism, we need to do that alongside the 60,000 people that we're now training up to respond to a terrorist threat, in everywhere from our shopping centres to our hotels. This is no longer something you can do behind closed doors and in secret."
The paper will update the Contest strategy developed by the Home Office in 2003, which was later detailed in the Countering International Terrorism document released in 2006. It will take account of the way the terror threat has changed and how authorities are learning lessons from recent events, including the Mumbai attacks.
By 2011, Britain will be spending £3.5bn a year on counter-terrorism, Brown said. The imprisonment of 80 terrorists in Britain in the last two years was hitting the morale of al-Qaida. Part of the new strategy would address the longer-term causes of terrorism by "understanding what leads people to become radicalised, so we can stop the process".
Brown said that more than two-thirds of the plots threatening the UK are linked to Pakistan.