Britain 'unprepared' for Mumbai-style attacks

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Britain’s defence against Mumbai style attacks, with terrorists arriving by the sea, is not properly resourced and lacking in coordination, MPs warned in a report today.

The Commons Defence Committee has found that no single organisation has overall responsibility to prevent assaults on targets such as ports or countering the smuggling terrorists through the coast.

The study said the Royal Navy had just six warships - three Type 23 frigates and three minesweepers - plus two offshore patrol vessels and a support tanker specifically tasked with the protection of UK waters.

They were supplemented by a "motley collection" of sea-going vessels available from other organisations, including around 70 from the police, 50 from the Ministry of Defence Police, five Coastguard inshore patrol boats, and five cutters operated by UK Border Agency.

The committee called for a more pro-active approach to maritime security through the development of a "deterrent capability". The report said "We do not question their competence or intention, but the extent to which they are properly resourced and co-ordinated.

"We are concerned at the level of action being taken to address identified threats to aspects of critical national infrastructure, such as ports, and that what assets are available for the purposes of maritime security tend to be largely reactive forces.

"We feel that there is a strong case for developing a deterrent capability in relation to threats to civilian maritime targets. It need not necessarily be resourced by the military, but we are not satisfied that an intelligence-led approach is sufficient."

The committee also urged the Ministry of Defence to make greater use of the Territorial Army in dealing with civil emergencies - like floods or foot and mouth - rather than always resorting to regular forces."We have been informed of the frustration felt by many in the Territorial Army, and by district commanders, that the Territorials are rarely - if ever - called upon in civil emergencies, even though it would be practical and good for their morale to do so," it said.

An MoD spokesman said: "We do not believe that there is likely to be an emergency situation where a Government department misunderstands what the military could deliver.There are clear procedures in place for the Armed Forces to provide military assistance to other Government departments both in times of national crises, or as part of routine business.

"Nationally, work is under way to provide other Government departments with formal guidelines on how to request military assistance in areas such as Counter Terrorism and Explosive Ordnance Disposal.”