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UK is safer from al-Qaeda 'bastards', says security minister

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The minister responsible for counter-terrorism has said that despite "some very nasty bastards out there who aim to do us harm", government security initiatives have made the UK safer from attacks in recent years.

Lord West, the Parliamentary under-secretary for security and counter-terrorism, made the claim in a speech to security executives and officials on Tuesday.

"We are safer - not safe," he said, adding that his media handlers often warned him against such claims as they could create hostages to fortune.

Repatedly referring to Islamic terrorists as "bastards", the occasionally colourful former First Sealord insisted it was vital that new technologies are developed for the security services to try to stay a step ahead of terrorists.

"They are very cute, these bastards," he said, explaining that intelligence on novel plots crossed his desk every day.

He rejected the complaints of civil liberties groups in recent years that counter-terrorism measures such as new stop and search powers and extended detention without charge had damaged society.

"There is a lot of talk about us being a police state," he said. "I think people who say that have obviously never lived in a police state."

He later acknowledged civil liberties concerns however, adding: "Our response has got to be proportionate or we end up like them [terrorists]."

West also has the ministerial cybersecurity brief. In newspaper interviews at the weekend he said UK government had been targeted 300 times in the last year by foreign elements seeking secrets or trying to disrupt networks.

He reiterated the the threat in his speech to the Critical National Infrastructure conference on Tuesday, describing its scale as "quite horrifying".

"State actors have stolen huge amounts of stuff that has taken years and years to develop," West said.

The Cyber Security Operations Centre, a new unit at GCHQ, is scheduled to begin monitoring the internet security situation today. ®

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