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Last Updated: Friday, 17 September, 2004, 10:45 GMT 11:45 UK
How did the Sun reporter do it?
Sun front page showing 'bomber'
The Sun says references used by its reporter were not checked
An undercover Sun newspaper reporter has apparently exposed further security flaws at Westminster.

The day after hunt protesters stormed the House of Commons, journalist Anthony France says he smuggled a fake bomb into the building.

In Friday's paper Mr France - who got a job there as a waiter using fake references - claimed he could have blown up Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott as he served him tea.

The reporter had been working in the catering department for 11 days, but how did he pull it off?

A few days after Prime Minister Tony Blair was struck by a purple flour bomb in the House of Commons in May, Mr France set about organising the undercover job.

Had I been a terrorist I could have assassinated him at any moment
Anthony France

According to his report, he applied for a job at Westminster through a London-based catering recruitment agency.

He holds a Scotland Yard-authorised press card, has carried out several exposes in the past three years, and his name and work details can be found on the internet, he says.

But no one noticed or checked who he was, he claims.

Sun managing editor Graham Dudman told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the reporter's false references "couldn't have been more bogus".

During an interview on 27 May he told the agency he had worked for two restaurants in Kent - for which he gave fictitious names - over the last six years.

He gave the mobile phone numbers of two fellow journalists as referees, but neither was followed up.

Side entrance

Mr France filled out the Commons security questionnaire with genuine details, including his last three addresses.

Eight weeks later the agency rang to say he had been given clearance, he said in his report.

On his first day at work he was issued with a security pass and taken to the Commons banqueting suites, where he helped serve a dinner hosted by Lord McNally.

He says he was told within days that he wouldn't have to use the entrance where x-ray machines were used.

A police security officer then told him his bags didn't need to be searched and he began using a side entrance to the buildings at Westminster underground station.

Hours before the hunt protest he was pictured serving the deputy prime minister and a guest.

Armed police outside the Commons
The Sun has done the House a favour by exposing the amateurish and old-fashioned culture which threatened the very cockpit of our democracy
Commons leader Peter Hain

"Had I been a terrorist I could have assassinated him at any moment," he wrote in Friday's newspaper.

During his time in employment he says he got close to ministers, MPs, police officers and VIPs.

On Thursday he carried the components of a fake bomb into the building in a black shoulder bag, via the underground station entrance.

He was carrying 200g of modelling clay - which resembles the explosive semtex - batteries and set of wires. An alarm clock 'timer' was in his jacket pocket.

The materials Mr France were carrying "couldn't have been anything other" than a bomb, the only difference being he had modelling clay instead of semtex, said Mr Dudman.

Mr France was waved through at reception by a police officer, he says.

He video recorded himself assembling the "bomb" in toilets near the MPs' restaurant.

Mr Dudman told Today: "It just simply beggars belief that on the day that ... everybody was saying: 'I can assure you we are going to ratchet up security, it's never going to be tighter', that same day a man from the Sun walks in carrying what could have been a bomb.

"It's simply unbelievable."




SEE ALSO:
Commons invader denies inside job
17 Sep 04  |  Politics
Police release Commons intruders
17 Sep 04  |  Gloucestershire
Spotlight on Commons security
16 Sep 04  |  Politics
How protesters got into the Commons
16 Sep 04  |  Politics


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