Police get thousands more ‘dirty bomb’ suits

Thousands more protection suits for police dealing with dirty bombs have been ordered by the Home Office.

A tender has been put out for 12,000 of the suits worn by officers dealing with chemical, biological or nuclear terror attacks.

About 7,000 normal police officers are trained to deal with dirty bombs, but the Home Office stressed that the extra suits did not equate to another 5,000 dedicated officers.

A spokesman also insisted the order was not in response to any specific threat but part of keeping police equipment up to date. The figure of 12,000 was an “estimate” of what might be needed in the future.

“Public safety is our top priority which is why we are committed to ensuring that as technology advances we will provide the most up to date equipment to the police,” he said.

“This new procurement is part of this ongoing process and is not in response to any new or specific threat.”

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) told politics.co.uk that it was difficult to say exactly how many people were being trained for dirty bombs at any one time, and said the bid for new equipment was “sensible planning”.

Conservative homeland security spokesman Patrick Mercer told the BBC he was “delighted” by the decision to order more suits, but questioned the timing.

“It seems strange that they are doing it in December 2006 rather than October 2001. It shows very slow appreciation by the government of what the dangers are,” he said.

However, Home Office minister Tony McNulty rejected the remarks as a “rather unnecessary, cheap shot for what’s a very, very serious issue” and insisted he was acting on the advice of experts.