NHS Review Pledge After Bombs Bid
An immediate review of NHS recruitment will be carried out following the attempted bomb attacks in London and Glasgow, the prime minister says. Gordon Brown revealed the review as eight suspects with links to the health service were being held by police.
Highly-skilled workers will also face more background checks, said Mr Brown. Meanwhile, security experts are considering relaxing the official estimate of the terrorist threat to the UK from “critical” to “severe”. Mr Brown told his first question time as prime minister it was “vitally important that the message is sent out to the rest of the world that we will stand strong, steadfast and united in the face of terror”.
The new security minister, Lord West, will carry out the NHS review. Mr Brown said that sponsors of skilled workers would be asked for background checks on them. Among other measures, he also said a watch list of potential suspects would be expanded to warn authorities across the world, and the admissibility of intercept evidence in court would be reviewed.
A green Jeep Cherokee loaded with gas cylinders crashed into the doors of Glasgow Airport’s main terminal and burst into flames on Saturday afternoon. The previous day two Mercedes containing petrol, gas cylinders and nails were found. One was outside a nightclub in London’s Haymarket and one was at a vehicle pound after being towed from a nearby street.
Seven of those arrested are believed to be doctors or medical students and one used to work as a laboratory technician. Six are being questioned at London’s Paddington Green police station. A seventh remains in hospital after the Glasgow attack, and an eighth is still being questioned in Australia after his arrest at Brisbane Airport.
BBC correspondent Danny Shaw said the first phase of the investigation – rounding up suspects to prevent further attacks – was drawing to a close.
Investigators are now focusing on analysing evidence and interviewing suspects. If the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre concludes that another attack is no longer imminent, the threat level will return to severe – one level below critical. That would mean a slight reduction in security procedures and controls.
Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, the former head of the Joint Intelligence Committee and the new shadow security minister, said terrorists would often target places like nightclubs – where the London bombs were left. “They take the view that people, and women in particular, who engage in that kind of activity and go around, as they would regard it, half naked, are themselves not any longer victims. They are actually associated with and part of the kind of world that these people have decided they must combat.”
Security sources have told the BBC that none of the suspects had been under surveillance or the subject of an anti-terrorism operation before. But details of some of them were on an MI5 intelligence database because of their alleged links with other individuals or inquiries.
And Canon Andrew White, a British cleric working in Baghdad, claimed an alleged al Qaida leader in Iraq gave him a chilling warning of the attacks. Mr White said the man warned his group was planning an attack and said “those who cure you will kill you”, an apparent reference to the NHS link.
Meanwhile, passengers at Heathrow Airport suffered further disruption on Wednesday as thousands of travellers tried to rebook flights cancelled following a security alert. Queues formed early outside Terminal 4 as passengers who were turned away on Tuesday after a suspicious package was discovered tried to continue their journey.