Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Better safe than sorry.

Top story on the front page (an page 2) of today's Telegraph is Lord Carlile, the Government's anti-terrorism advisor, warning of the possibility of terrorist missions being launched from small airfields by light aircraft. I'm always interested in Lord Carlile's comments, at least in part because he used to live next door to us in Berriew. The Telegraph have gone so big on this that readers will naturally assume that there was some sort of evidence or intelligence suggesting that this form of terrorism is a new and growing threat. But it seems not.

On reading the article, the warning does not appear to be based on any intelligence whatsoever. Perhaps Alex Carlile was influenced by all the light aircraft that started to circle above his and our houses after the new Welshpool Airport was opened a few years ago. Or perhaps he's more aware of this danger because his successor as MP for Montgomeryshire is forever flying around the place in his light aeroplane. Now, this is not to suggest that it's not a sensible warning. There are 8,500 private aircraft flying out of 500 airstrips of varying size in Britain, many of them having only minimum security. And there are 160 unlicensed airports in Britain. Plenty of scope there.

Not everyone seems to be impressed with this high profile warning. Martin Robinson, Chief Exec of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association described the risk as no greater than that of a jeep being used to deliver explosives through the door of a building. The Home Secretary noted Lord Carlile's "observation that there is no intelligence to suggest that this forms part of terrorist thinking". And Tory Spokesman, Baroness Neville-Jones said "We must direct resources on the basis of intelligence". My first reading suggested that there was nothing significant in this story, and it looks as if others share this opinion. Trouble now is that the Government has to do something in response - or it will be held culpable if a terrorist incident involving a light aeroplane happens.


Dr. Christopher Wood said...

“Where’s Tintin when you need him?”

Anonymous said...

Frankly, it's astounding the Telegraph went so strongly on Lord Carlile's comments. But then one wonders at his judgement. There's many a person who still remembers the astonishingly misleading quote he gave the County Times regarding Sian Lloyd's autobiography. A case of losing the plot, or perhaps more accurately, a case of fearing the loss of the Montgomery seat?

Wyn Gower said...

Having piloted light aircraft around Europe for the last 26 years and also having been employed at the heart of UK intelligence industry for many years, I can only think that Lord Carlisle was stuck for things to include in his silly report.

Frank H Little said...

perhaps he's more aware of this danger because his successor as MP for Montgomeryshire is forever flying around the place in his light aeroplane
Both Estonia and Romania are on our side now!

Glyn Davies said...

anon - I too was surprised that Lord Carlile allowed himself to become associated with what seemed a rather unseemly orchestrated attempt to discredit Sian Lloyd. I can tell you that no-one that I know fell for it.

wyn - I was rather more surprised by the Telegraph, which gave the story such profile.

frank - I wasn't suggesting that those who fly around Montgomeryshire did so with any evil intent.