UK threat level reduced

The terror threat level to the UK has been lowered from critical to severe, which means that while an attack is highly likely, it is no longer imminent.

Home secretary John Reid said the security services believed that the main suspects in the alleged plot to blow up several transatlantic flights mid-air had been arrested last week.

However, he stressed that the Joint Terrorist Analysis Centre’s decision to lower the alert did not mean that the threat of terrorism had gone away.

“There has now been time to assess the intelligence picture following the police operation. The police believe that the main suspects in the alleged plot were arrested last week,” Mr Reid said this morning.

“Threat level assessments are intelligence-led – it is not a process where scientific precision is possible, they involve judgments. I want to stress therefore that the change in the threat level does not mean that the threat has gone away.

“The public needs to know that there may be other people who may be planning to attack against the United Kingdom. That is why there are a number of other security service operations underway.

“There is still a very serious threat of an attack. The threat level is at severe, indicating the high likelihood of an attempted terrorist attack at some stage.”

As a result of the reduced threat level, the stringent security arrangements imposed on flights arriving and leaving the UK have been relaxed. Passengers will now be able to carry one item of hand luggage onboard with them.

But BAA, which runs Britain’s biggest airports including Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted, has warned it will need time to brief staff on the change.

And liquids are still not being allowed on flights, except in the case of prescription medication and baby milk, after fears that the suspected plotters intended to use liquid explosives.

“Since this particular alleged terrorist plan to use a type of liquid explosive to attack passenger aircraft become known to us, government security, scientific and technical experts have been working to design measures to defeat it,” said transport secretary Douglas Alexander.

“These experts have shared their thinking with security staff from the different sectors of the British aviation industry.”