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Brown announces new counter-terror plans

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Prime Minister Gordon Brown today announced new security plans aimed at protecting the UK from the threat of terrorism. New funding, personnel and initiatives were laid out, and Mr Brown also said he thought a "consensus" could be achieved on the need to hold terror suspects without charge for longer than the current 28 day limit.

Many of the government's new plans arose from the just-completed review into security measures for crowded places by Lord West, the former admiral and counter-terror minister. Specifically, the Prime Minister announced 160 new advisors who would assist schools, theatres, transport authorities, and others in charge of crowded places on security measures.

Mr Brown also announced plans for screening of passengers and luggage in railway stations. He said the overall security budget would reach £3.5bn by 2011, up from £2.5bn today, and that the strength of the Security Service (aka MI5) would rise from 3,300 to 4,000 (up from 2,000 at the time of 9/11).

It was also announced that 14 new courtrooms for terror trials had been arranged, supervised by a new specialist judge and at the service of a new specialist government terrorist prosecutor.

The "e-borders" initiative also got heavy play, with much talk of biometric checks for foreign visa applicants, greater powers for border enforcement personnel, and the channelling of "information from UK operations overseas" into the UK border authorities for the purpose of making visa decisions. These plans stemmed principally from a separate review into border security by civil servant Sir Gus O'Donnell.

Lord West's review was triggered by the recent clownish carbomb attempts in London and Glasgow. The noble lord rose to be head of the Royal Navy after service in the Falklands and being courtmartialled for "losing" confidential documents - which later were "found" by journalists in circumstances beneficial to his then superiors.

This morning he briefly appeared to break ranks with his new boss, saying on BBC radio that he remained to be convinced of the need for longer pre-charge detention. An hour later, after a chat with Mr Brown, he was entirely convinced.

David Cameron seemed to dash Mr Brown's hopes of a consensus around longer detention of terrorist suspects, saying the Tories believed that using wiretap evidence in court and introduction of post-charge questioning would remove the need for more than 28 day powers.

Mr Brown also said the Home Office would also consult with "the largest global internet and technology companies" on ways to restrict radicalisation and terrorist propaganda. ®

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