Missile shield 'will not protect Britain'

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Indy Politics

Labour backbenchers renewed their attacks on US plans for a ballistic missile shield yesterday, insisting it would do nothing to defend Britain from international terrorists.

They used Commons defence questions to step up criticism of President George Bush's proposed Missile Defence programme. Harry Cohen, Labour MP for Leyton and Wanstead, warned the scheme could "make the world a more dangerous place with increased weapons proliferation, the direct militarisation of states and the likelihood of more terrorist attacks".

Paul Flynn, the Labour MP for Newport West, said: "Wouldn't the world be a far safer place if the 'Star Wars' money was invested in conflict resolution?"

He asked how "a terrorist armed with the ebola virus or smallpox could be affected by 'Star Wars' and could be persuaded not to turn out cities into a biological Armageddon". Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, replied that "fanatics" with dangerous chemicals were not any less dangerous than those prepared to launch ballistic missiles. He said: "I simply do not find that argument persuasive."

Michael Clapham, Labour MP for Barnsley West and Penistone, asked about research from America that predicted that intercepting nuclear missiles would lead to undamaged warheads falling on Europe.

Malcolm Savidge, Labour MP for Aberdeen North, said the Ministry of Defence had graded the likelihood of a missile attack on Britain as a "very low risk" and warned of a terrorist nuclear attack that could destroy parts of central London. He said: "Surely after 11 September we should see that the immediate danger is the surreptitiously smuggled weapon."