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'Fake bomb' smuggled into Commons


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Second recent security lapse in Britain in a week.
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- A British tabloid newspaper says one of its reporters smuggled fake bomb-making equipment into the nation's parliament a day after fox-hunting supporters eluded guards and burst into the House of Commons.

Anthony France had been working undercover as a waiter in Britain's parliament for three weeks with bogus references, The Sun reported on Friday.

France shot video of himself holding equipment that included batteries, wire and a timer.

Commons leader Peter Hain said the stunt "confirms all my worst fears ... The Sun has done the House a favor by exposing the amateurish and old fashioned culture which is a threat to the very cockpit of our democracy."

France was photographed serving tea to John Prescott, deputy to Prime Minister Tony Blair, he said.

"Had I been a terrorist, I could have left the 'device' in a toilet or in the restaurant where I worked. It could easily have blown up the chamber."

Britain has launched an inquiry into how the pro-hunt group entered the building on Wednesday.

It was the first storming of its parliament since 1674 and has revealed a shambolic security arrangement.

Metropolitan police are charged with protecting parliament's perimeter, but the responsibility for security inside the House of Commons goes to a group with a largely ceremonial role.

When the protesters burst into the main parliamentary chamber on Wednesday a group of men dressed in old-fashioned tights and formal coat tails were seen giving chase.

Critics say they are ill prepared for a modern police role, but don't blame the costumes.

"I don't think costumes matter at all," Crispin Black of the Risk Advisory Group told CNN.

"[You] could have men wearing old fashioned clothing, but if they are trained in modern restraint techniques and properly briefed they could have been a much more effective force."

"The big question is did anybody within parliament help them," Black said of the fox-hunting supporters.

The group reportedly gained access to the building with a forged letter and by pretending they were builders carrying out renovation work.

"The sight of five fit young men being pursued around the Commons chamber by middle-aged officials in frock coats was hilarious," wrote the Sun's political editor Trevor Kavanagh.

"Yet there are alarming implications for the security of this nation ... Had they been carrying explosives, they could have carried out a Beslan-style atrocity."

The police say it is more than likely the protesters were helped by an insider.

But finding them will not be an easy task. Some 14,000 people have security passes for the Houses of Parliament.

Once they had moved through the first security cordons, they could roam relatively freely.

"This was inevitable," Sir Stuart Bell of the Commons Security Commission told CNN.

"It's necessary now to change security. Because from protestor to terrorist is just a few steps."

Bell wants to see a directory of security appointed and the city's police commissioner agrees.

"It really does need some central figure, whoever that is, to actually have control over both sides of security -- both the physical side in the building, outside it and within it," Sir John Stevens says.

Police are holding the eight men for questioning, Reuters reported.


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