MP joins gas terminal security row

A Norfolk MP has demanded answers over the future of anti-terrorism measures at Bacton gas terminal, after it was revealed 24/7 police protection will be withdrawn from the site next month.

A Norfolk MP has demanded answers over the future of anti-terrorism measures at Bacton gas terminal, after it was revealed 24/7 police protection will be withdrawn from the site next month.

The terminal, regarded as a key terrorist target, is currently protected by a combination of armed Ministry of Defence guards and a dedicated team of Norfolk police officers.

But the force has said it will not be able to continue to protect the installation - which supplies one third of the UK's gas needs and is regarded as a site of national importance - from April after the government withdrew almost �1m in funding.

Now North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb has written to business secretary Peter Mandelson asking if an agreement which sees gas companies funding the MoD presence could be extended to fund the continuation of the force's anti-terror role.

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Mr Lamb said: “Up until the arrival of the armed unit, the government had provided additional funding to Norfolk police to provide a dedicated resource for the policing of this site.

“The government view now appears to be that the site can be adequately policed by the MoD armed police unit. However, my understanding is that the head of the MoD police along with the Norfolk constabulary do not share this view.

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“They believe, it seems, that there needs to be a combination of armed MoD police together with support from dedicated officers within Norfolk constabulary.”

His letter adds: “There are very serious concerns that the site is not being adequately policed at present and given that the terrorist threat remains significant, this is something that I am sure you would agree gives rise to very real concern.”

The companies which operate from Bacton currently have a voluntary agreement to fund the MoD presence - although if this did not exist the government does have the power to order them to pay.

In his letter, Mr Lamb writes: “I am told that the Norfolk Police Authority has approached the companies to discuss with them whether they would be prepared to cover the cost of support from the Norfolk constabulary but the response seemed to be that whilst they were entirely open to consider funding Norfolk constabulary's contribution to the security of the site, they had already entered arrangements with your department for the funding of the MoD police.

“Given that the legislation provides for charging of the cost of security to the operating companies, and given that it appears as if they would be willing to fund support from the Norfolk constabulary, would it not make sense to bring together the police authority, MoD Police and the operating companies - together with your department and the Home Office to reach an agreement for the overall policing of the site so as to ensure that the site is both adequately policed and to ensure that the operating companies fund the cost of security - as provided for by the legislation.”

Police announced last month that they would not continue to provide dedicated policing to Bacton unless the government reinstates funding withdrawn last year. Since then the force has been funding the protection from Norfolk council tax income - something which it claims is unfair as the site is important nationally.

The force would continue to respond in the event of emergency.

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