£330m boost for fight against terrorism

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Ports are to be fitted with sophisticated equipment to detect radioactive material being smuggled into Britain.

Ports are to be fitted with sophisticated equipment to detect radioactive material being smuggled into Britain as part of a £330m allocation to fight terrorism.

Extra money will also go to Government laboratories which test suspicious substances reported by the public. And funding will be increased for training and equipping the emergency services to cope with a chemical, biological or radioactive attack.

The measures came after Lord Carlile of Berriew, the Government's independent reviewer of terrorism laws, pointed to weaknesses in Britain's defences, including small airstrips and ports where terrorists could bring in nuclear or biological materials with little risk of detection. He also warned that "enemies in our midst" could be planning a bomb blast similar to last October's attack in Bali.

Gordon Brown told the Commons: "Our responsibility is to safeguard our communities from terrorist threats and our resolve is absolute."

The Government has launched an anti-terrorism website to give information to the public. It gives advice on personal protection and a "who's who" of terrorist organisations.

A network of military civil contingency reaction forces, formed of reservists supporting police, will be set up by the end of the year to respond to a terrorist attack.

Mr Blunkett described the £330m, to be spent over three years, as a "welcome boost in the fight against terrorism".

He said: "It will fund a range of counter-terrorism projects which will help protect the community, reinforcing the importance the Government attaches to ensuring safety and security for the public.

"The Budget sends out a strong message. The UK is serious about protecting our borders and doing all we can to prevent terrorist actions."

Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: "We have long argued security at our ports and small airports is one of the weakest links in our national defence.

"New money is welcome, but the structure of port security urgently needs an overhaul. We need a common border force, not the current divided system."

Last year's Budget included an £87m hand-out for counter-terrorism. More than half went to the Metropolitan Police.

Although ministers have stressed they have received no specific information of a planned attack on Britain, David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, admitted last month: "This country continues to face a significant threat from international terrorism." He also warned that terrorists could use the war in Iraq as a pretext for striking in Britain.