MI5 and police to get faster alerts on suspicious buys under terrorism plan

MI5 and the police will get information quicker on suspicious purchases. Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

MI5 and police will be alerted to suspicious purchases more quickly under the government’s new blueprint for tackling terror.

Ministers want firms to raise the alarm as quickly as possible if they have evidence of unusual transactions – such as someone stockpiling large amounts of chemicals or acting suspiciously when hiring a vehicle.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid has outlined plans to work more closely with businesses to eradicate the "safe spaces" that are exploited by violent extremists.

What was included in new scheme?

  • Plans for MI5 to share intelligence on certain individuals of concern more widely across government, local authorities and the police

  • Proposals to increase maximum sentences for some offences, such as repeatedly viewing terror content online

  • A new approach to managing the rising threat from extreme right-wing violence.

  • Steps to enhance the use of data to track suspects by police and MI5.

  • An emphasise the need for collaboration with the private sector on tackling terrorist material online.

  • A continued commitment to the government's Prevent anti-terror scheme.

What does this say about the current terror threat?

The moves reflect concern over a sharp reduction in the timeframe between the conception and execution of terror plots as attackers are radicalised to the point of violence within days or weeks.

Mr Javid, making his first keynote speech on security since his appointment, warned there had been a “step-change” in the threat.

He said that Daesh – also known as Islamic State – and the extreme right-wing are “more similar than they might like to think”.

"They both exploit grievances, distort the truth, and undermine the values that hold us together," he said.

Terror threat to remain at heightened level 'for at least two years'

Mr Javid said: “Ultimately, our approach is about ensuring that there are no safe spaces for terrorists. No safe spaces internationally, in the UK or online.

“That includes faster alerts for suspicious purchases, improving security at crowded places across the UK, and reducing the vulnerability of our critical infrastructure.”

It emerged on Sunday that security services expect the threat from Islamist terror to remain at its current heightened level for at least another two years, while they assess the risk from extreme right-wing terrorism as increasing.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid has vowed to tackle terrorism. Credit: PA

Since March last year, 12 Islamist and four extreme right-wing attack plots have been foiled.

MI5 and police are running more than 500 live operations involving roughly 3,000 “subjects of interest” at any one time.

In addition, there are in excess of 20,000 people who have previously been investigated and who could again pose a threat.

Salman Abedi, the Manchester bomber, was categorised as a “closed subject of interest” at the time of his attack.

In a significant shift, MI5 will share its intelligence more widely and work with partners such as local authorities on how best to manage the risk posed by closed subjects of interest.

Discussing the step on Sunday, Mr Javid told the BBC it was devised to ensure there is a “much higher chance” of detecting and disrupting plots at an early stage.