Losing Plaistow dirty bomb vehicle has ‘put people at risk’ says MP

An Incident Response Unit. Picture: PA Images

An Incident Response Unit. Picture: PA Images - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Government cuts have put “people at risk” after Plaistow’s decontamination vehicle was one of four in London to be axed, according to West Ham MP Lyn Brown.

Lyn Brown MP

Lyn Brown MP - Credit: Archant

The veteran politician spoke out after a leaked Labour report showed a third of all Incident Response Unit (IRU) vehicles, which would be used in the event of a “dirty bomb” attack, were due to be scrapped by December 31.

A dirty bomb combines radioactive material and conventional explosives with the aim of contaminating a wide area.

The controversial decision, made earlier this month, comes at a time when the government is warning of potential terrorist threats on London following the Paris massacre in which 130 people were killed on November 13,

Ms Brown said: “I am clearly concerned about the cuts that this government is making which put people at risk. It is a shame that the government is not keeping to its promises not to protect frontline services.

“Labour’s manifesto had clear ideas about how to save money without impacting on frontline services and putting people at risk.”

According to the leaked document, the emergency vehicles are being removed after it was found that 43 would be sufficient to tackle an emergency situation, rather than the 65 currently in operation.

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It said: “The 22 IRUS identified as surplus to requirements will be considered ‘off the run’ from 31 December. ”

The short deadline to remove the vehicles is due to protective suits carried on board facing “imminent expiry dates”. A set of chemical protective suits, which have a shelf-life of 10 years each, will be supplied to the remaining units.

Paul Hancock, president of the Chief Fire Officers Association said the proposed cuts are the result of a government review.

He said: “There could be an impact upon both local and national resilience if further budget cuts were made, therefore it is essential any changes being proposed are evidence-based and risk mapped.

“Fire and rescue services will continue to do all they can to provide the high quality emergency services that the public expect and deserve.”

However, Sadiq Khan, Labour’s candidate for Mayor of London, said Tory ministers “should be open and honest about what this means for Londoners”.

He added: “I’ll be calling on the government to explain as a matter of urgency what they are doing to make sure London is fully prepared in the event of a major terror atrocity and ensure corners aren’t being cut to save money.”

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