By Matthew Hickley
Last updated at 1:35 AM on 25th March 2009
An army of 60,000 security guards trained to watch for terrorists and deal with attacks have had just three hours training - including a coffee break.
It emerged yesterday that staff at businesses taking part in ' Project Argus' are shown a multimedia presentation describing a simulated terrorist attack, followed by a question-and-answer session and group discussion.
The project's website states: 'The whole event including a coffee break will last three hours.'
Lessons have been learnt from the attacks in Mumbai in November which killed dozens of people
In the latest Labour anti-terror initiative, huge numbers of staff on rail networks, at airports, shopping centres, public buildings and sports venues have been picked out by MI5 and the police to be taught how to watch for 'suspicious behaviour' and respond swiftly in the event of an atrocity.
The Home Office plans are likely to raise questions over the effectiveness of an army of amateur 'terrorist-watchers'.
There are fears they will swamp the police and security services with spurious alerts or single out law-abiding British Muslims, which could also inflame religious tensions.
Citing security grounds, the Home Office would not provide details of the training, which MI5 helped to draw up, beyond that it centred on improved vigilance and response to terrorist attacks, including evacuation and crowd-control procedures.
The Prime Minister has warned about the murderous threat Al Qaeda poses
Writing in a Sunday newspaper, the Prime Minister said the public 'should be under no illusion' that 'the biggest security threat to our country and other countries is the murderous agents of hate that work under the banner of Al Qaeda'.
Home Office insiders acknowledged that for many of the 60,000, the training will merely build on similar duties they undertake as part of their everyday work.
The ambitious scheme is the latest in a series of Labour schemes on terror which have met with limited success.
It was announced as Home Secretary Jacqui Smith prepares to publish tomorrow what she claims is the Government's most detailed counter-terrorism strategy to date: Contest Two. It will take in lessons from the November attacks in Mumbai.
On BBC1's Politics Show on Sunday Miss Smith said an attack on Britain remained 'highly likely'.
Home Office officials said Britain would be spending £3.5billion a year on counterterrorism by 2011, while the number of specialist police officers has risen from 1,700 to 3,000 since 2003. Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said the public should help in fighting terrorism.
But he added: 'My big concern is that the Government is still not doing enough to tackle individuals and groups who are fostering the hatred and extremism that lies behind the terrorist threat.'