Reid says terror threat is worse than Cold War

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Indy Politics

John Reid has likened the fight against terrorism to Britain's battle for survival against the Nazis as he called for a new generation of innovators to help protect the country from suicide bombers.

The Home Secretary told security experts they should draw inspiration from Barnes Wallis, the inventor of the bouncing bomb, as well as from Alan Turing and Tommy Flowers, the computer pioneers who helped crack German codes.

He invoked the spirit of the Second World War as he disclosed that 387 people were charged with terror offences in the past five years, with 214 already convicted and 98 awaiting trial.

He said: "That is an indication of the scale of the threat which we face. In responding to it, the struggle has to be at every level, in every way and by every single person in this country."

Mr Reid said it was no exaggeration to conclude that Britain faced its "most sustained period of severe threat since World War Two" and that the threat was worse than the Cold War. He said: "Just as in the past people like Barnes Wallis, or Alan Turing, or Tommy Flowers were vital in a technological battle to beat the then enemy, the Nazis, so we must be able to utilise the skills and expertise of all in our society."

He toured an exhibition of the latest anti-terror technology, including a machine that can see through clothes to detect weapons and explosives.

The Tadar machine uses "millimetre wave" technology. Dense objects such as guns, knives or explosives appear as black outlines.

Mr Reid proposed an "innovation taskforce" to encourage security and technology companies to work together as closely as possible, and also to encourage competition.

But he warned: "At heart this is a battle of ideas, a struggle for values. It will therefore not be won by the security apparatus or military means alone."

David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, said: "The fact that hundreds of people have been charged reinforces our point that it is often not new legislation that is required, but the will of the Government to use existing legislation."