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Post-26/11, UK upgrades hotels security

Prasun Sonwalkar in London | January 21, 2009 10:03 IST

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In the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks [Images], Britain has stepped up security in hotels across the country.

Speaking before the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith on Tuesday said security guidance has been issued and training given, in response to fears that hotel guests and shoppers in London [Images] were being left vulnerable from possible atrocities.

During the November 26 Mumbai terror attacks, Taj and Oberoi hotels were targeted, resulting in over 180 deaths which included one Briton.

Labour MP Keith Vaz, chairman of the committee, said he had recently visited the Indian city and seen the "quite serious searches" carried out there.

He asked Smith, "Yet when I went to a hotel on Park Lane (on Monday), there were no such searches. Does it worry you that in those areas that might be subject to terrorist attack, those private sector organisations are not really prepared?"

"We have had pictures of the January sales where hundreds, thousands of people were going to some of our biggest shops in Oxford Street. Is it not a worry to you that there are no searches going on?"

Smith told him, "The protection of this country from potential terrorist attack to that extent is always a worry for any home secretary. I think the Mumbai attacks... have caused us to consider the protective security arrangements that we have in place. A lot of detailed work has been and will go on in relation to that.

"There is always a balance between enabling people to go about their lives, free, in this country - which is what terrorists are seeking to undermine and attack - and having in place appropriate protective security measures - not all of which are instantly visible to people when they are out shopping or in hotels.

"We have taken the opportunity of the review that we have done to accelerate the publication of protective security guidance to both hotels and hotel security professionals and giving them the best advice.

"We have a network of counter-terrorism security advisers who are able to supplement that advice by actually visiting specific venues and delivering training."

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