Britain's open door to terror

BRITAIN was last night accused of leaving the door open to terrorists after the head of Interpol revealed UK border guards are failing to check would-be immigrants against a global database of terror suspects.

Ronald Noble, the secretary-general of the international police force, said that Britain had failed to use the huge Interpol computer database effectively, which includes information on more than seven million lost or stolen passports.

Mr Noble spoke out as Britain remains at the second-highest terror alert level more than a week after the attacks in London and Glasgow.

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He said: "This is something which needs to be given the highest priority now, not something we will get to when we get to it. The same kind of attention should be given to checking passports as is given to checking bags to see if they contain bottled water."

Al-Qaeda training manuals, discovered overseas and in the UK, emphasise the importance of terrorists using stolen or fake documents.

Interpol records show that Switzerland checks the Interpol database 300,000 times a month, while CARICOM countries, the EU-style organisation for the small Caribbean states, uses it 80,000 times a month.

By contrast, Britain, which sees 2.5 million visitors from overseas every month, checks Interpol records just 50 times a month.

According to Interpol, the UK said it would be too difficult to incorporate the Interpol database into UK systems.

A spokeswoman for the Home Office last night declined to discuss Mr Noble's accusations.

But she said: "The UK works closely with the Interpol Secretariat and with member states to provide police to police co- operation.

" SOCA, which is the UK arm of Interpol, consults Interpol databases and performs searches on behalf of UK law enforcement in addition to which, UK police forces have direct, secure access to Interpol databases." The spokeswoman added that Britain maintained a "watch list of adverse information on individuals we wish to prevent from entering the country".

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Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, yesterday said an expanded system was required as "a matter of urgency".

"We do now need more information flowing internationally about who are potential terrorists and who are potential suspects," he said.

"I want the system that we are trying to expand between Europe, a system whereby we know who are potential terrorist suspects, we expand that to other countries in the world and then we may have a better idea of people coming in to different countries, whether as professional recruits or in other ways, about what the dangers and the risks we face are."

David Davis, the shadow home secretary, said Mr Noble's attack highlighted the government's "lack of competence".

He said: "We welcome the Prime Minister's statements, but they are undermined by the revelation that Britain is not checking potential immigrants against an existing database.

"Yet again, it's not the government's policy that is the problem, it's the their lack of competence in delivering on that policy."

Mr Noble added: "The Prime Minister is saying the watch list has expanded and would be shared with certain countries, but to date it hasn't been shared with Interpol."

Mr Noble, a law professor at New York University, was seconded to Interpol in 2000.


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ALEX Salmond, the First Minister, said yesterday that the attack on Glasgow Airport has shown that the Nationalist government in Edinburgh can work with Westminster.

He was in touch with the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, in the immediate aftermath of the attack to agree the Scottish government's role.

Mr Salmond said: "The approach of the two administrations has been fully joined up, and that is also reflected in the arrangements governing prosecutions announced by the Lord Advocate this week."

Mr Salmond said the collaboration between the two administrations was one positive feature to emerge in the past week.

He added: "The extensive contact between Scottish government ministers, and the Prime Minister, Home Secretary and Justice Secretary at Westminster has been a significant and positive aspect of the response to this terrorist outrage."

Mr Salmond went on: "No doubt I will continue to disagree with Gordon Brown on political matters, including the constitutional future of Scotland.

But in times of crisis people rightly expect us to put political differences to one side and I believe that our two governments have shown that ability over the past week."