29 March 2004

Secret plans to evacuate London

London Resilience, senior sources say, recommended to ministers that they should put up signs marking the evacuation routes but they have refused to do so, risking chaos in an emergency.

The sources say ministers feared 'raising public alarm'. But Patrick Cunningham, the chairman of the Emergency Planning Society believes ministers' repeated warnings of an attack are much more alarming. 'It is much more scary to be told an attack is inevitable than to be told what to do if there is one,' he said.

The Emergency Planning Society is preparing to hit back against an attack from Mr Blunkett when the Home Secretary said: 'If an emergency planner believes that something is inadequate ... why not do something about it? Has any of these officers written to me? Has any of them written to the Minister for the Cabinet Office, who is responsible for civil contingencies? How many officers have raised their concerns?

'We know of those concerns because we read them in the papers yesterday... we will happily take them seriously when they propose their own plan and suggestions for improvement.'

Ian Hoult, the society's chairman for southern England, described Mr Blunkett's reaction as 'incredible'. He added: 'I don't know what planet he is on.' He said the society had been constantly warning ministers and MPs of Britain's lack of preparedness 'with increasing desperation over the years'. It is now drawing up a detailed dossier of its representations to give to Mr Blunkett.

Evidently the 45-minute claim was not designed to raise public alarm. Either that or there are legitimate and illegitimate public alarms. The class of legitimate public alarms apparently comprises those which enhance the public standing of the Blair government.

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