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Home Office: Cost of fighting terrorism triples to £3.5bn by 2010

By Andy McSmith

Fighting terrorism continues to be one of the fastest-growing items in the Government's budget.

By the end of this financial year, the whole cost of anti-terrorist initiatives, taking in everything from education programmes to undercover police work, will have risen to £2.5bn a year. By 2010-11, that figure will be up to £3.5bn – more than three times what it was at the start of the decade.

The size of the anti-terror budget is one sign of how government priorities have changed since the 11 September and 7 July attacks. Another is yesterday's announcement about who will control the money.

In a break with Whitehall tradition, anti-terrorism funds will not be allocated to individual government departments in the usual way, but will be disbursed by a Cabinet committee headed by Gordon Brown. The budget covers money for the police, the intelligence services, and programmes designed to persuade young Muslims not to be drawn into in violent extremism. It includes an extra £220m a year for the Home Office's counter-terrorism and security budget. The security services have been told their budget will continue growing by 9.6 per cent a year.

"The funding will improve our ability to tackle the immediate threat to the UK, strengthen our security measures to protect the UK from attack, allow the development of new technology which will enable us to keep ahead of the terrorists, and put in place longer-term programmes to counter radicalisation," the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, said.

Another £37m a year from the same budget will go to the Foreign Office, for programmes to discourage radicalism in the Middle East. The Foreign Office funds the BBC World Service, which is to get £15m to launch a Farsi language television channel, broadcasting to Iran. Its 12-hour-a-day Arabic language television station is to expand to a 24 hour service. The overall Home Office budget will rise by the equivalent of 1.1 per cent a year from £9.2bn now to £10.3b in 2010-11, which means that Mrs Smith did slightly better than expected out of yesterday's announcement. It includes money for 9,500 new prison places, 8,500 of which will be ready by 2012, and over £11m a year to establish a National Fraud Strategic Authority and National Fraud Reporting Centre.

According to the Howard League for Penal reform, the UK holds a higher percentage of its population in prison than any other western European country, and 12,000 prisoners are being held two to a cell designed for one. The numbers of prisoners has risen from 42,000 in 1993 to 80,000 today. The Home Office insists that the increase is a sign of the government's "robust approach to serious and violent offenders".

The Attorney General, Baroness Scotland, added that yesterday's announcement "demonstrates the priority the government gives to tackling fraud, an issue that has had too low a priority in the past".

Irish Independent

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