View Full Version : Labour's war on terror is failing, says leaked report

10-22-2005, 11:02 PM

THE government’s counterterrorism strategy is failing, according to a leaked paper by the prime minister’s delivery unit, which was set up to ensure policies work effectively.

In an indictment of Labour’s war on terror, the confidential document says that key policies designed to prevent Al-Qaeda attacks and stop terrorism taking root in Britain are “immature” and “disjointed”.

Others, it adds, are unrelated to the “real world” and show no sign of making progress.

The paper, which formed the backbone of a presentation this month to Downing Street insiders, will be seen by some as a criticism of Charles Clarke, who as home secretary has responsibility for running much of Britain’s counterterrorism effort.

It suggests that a possible solution to the problem would be to appoint a new minister in the Cabinet Office charged with responsibility for delivering an effective counterterrorism strategy.

The Downing Street leak is a critique of Project Contest, the codename for the government’s overall counterterrorism strategy. Drawn up last year in the wake of the Madrid bombings, the strategy was given added impetus by the July 7 suicide attacks in London and is designed to tie together all four key elements of Britain’s war on terror: preparedness, prevention, pursuit and protection.

The document says the policy is mired in confusion, with “little effective co-ordination” and no clear leadership. It adds that there is “little confidence” in the ability of the security apparatus to tackle the problem and that “it is very difficult to demonstrate that progress has been made”.

In its conclusions, the 11- page review states: “The strategy is immature. Forward planning is disjointed or has yet to occur. Accountability for delivery is weak. Real world impact is seldom measured.” The plan’s objectives are dismissed as “vague”.

The findings are based on interviews with dozens of officials in Whitehall charged with protecting the country from terrorist attack. Quoting a litany of their criticisms, the memo says: “Activity is not connected or coherent. Who’s in charge? We measure meetings and reports, not real world impact.”

The paper is particularly embarrassing for Tony Blair and Clarke because vast resources have been spent on counterterrorism since the attacks of September 11, 2001. Overall spending on security will rise from £1.5 billion in 2004-5 to £2.1 billion by 2007-8.

Yesterday David Davis, the shadow home secretary and contender for the Tory party leadership, said: “This document appears to be extra worrying because it appears to demonstrate major flaws in the government’s counterterrorism strategy — flaws which, if not corrected, could worsen the risk to the British public.”

The delivery unit was set up in 2001 under Professor Sir Michael Barber, one of Blair’s key aides. Now staffed by 40 officials under Peter Thomas, Blair’s chief adviser on delivery, it aims to ensure government policies work effectively.

The review suggests that much of the work across government departments has simply been a series of talking shops in which Whitehall mandarins have failed to get to grips with the reality of the terrorist threat.

One of the weaknesses identified is lack of leadership in the role of security and intelligence co-ordinator, Britain’s top spymaster. He is responsible to Blair for co-ordinating security, intelligence and emergency-related matters. Sir Richard Mottram, permanent secretary at the work and pensions department, was recently appointed to take over the post.