Former security minister: People should pay less attention to mobile phones and be more aware of possible terrorist attacks

James Nickerson
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Neville-Jones said she was "alarmed" by the number of people who don't pay attention to their surroundings (Source: Getty)

People should pay less attention to their mobile phones in public and remain more alert to the dangers of a possible terrorism attack, a former security minister has warned.

Former head of the Joint Intelligence Committee Pauline Neville-Jones said she was "alarmed" by the number of people who pay no attention to their surroundings, instead listening to music and focussing on their mobile phones.

"I think being alert is very important. I am alarmed by the number of people I see wandering along the street entirely engaged in their mobile telephones and with their ears plugged in to music," Neville-Jones told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. "They're not aware of their surroundings - you need to be aware of your surroundings."

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The official guidelines recommend that people remain "alert but not alarmed" by the threat of terrorism, but Neville-Jones said people are not as vigilant as they could be and need to take some "personal responsibility".

The former minister added that citizens will have to get used to disruption in their daily lives as the threat of terrorism persists, citing the closure of two railway stations in Munich on New Year's Eve in response to a suspected terror threat.

“I do think we are going to have to get used to what we have seen yesterday in Germany – that is to say, alerts which close places of public functions, and higher levels of security in big public gatherings. That is prudence and proper caution on the part of intelligence and the police authorities,” she added.

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Authorities have an obligation and responsibility to take information seriously, Neville-Jones continued, even if "it’s not complete and on which they can’t necessarily totally rely".

However, she downplayed any speculation that cities in the United Kingdom could be locked down in the same fashion as Brussels had been recently, drawing attention to the skills of the British authorities in dealing with terrorism, on "both the intelligence side of it and the policing side of it".

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