FIRST they upgrade RAF Fylingdales into a major terrorist target, then they fail to provide adequate emergency cover in the event of an attack.

Never have the North York Moors seemed further away from Whitehall.

Today's report from the Commons public accounts committee does not pull its punches. Northern and Yorkshire health authorities "were the least prepared for general major incidents... despite the existence of targets such as the Fylingdales early warning station".

This is worrying. Experts warn the base's use for the US missile defence system will make it a target for "rogue states" or terrorists. The Government has played down such claims, while granting an extra £1.7 million for additional policing at the station.

North Yorkshire people never wanted Son Of Star Wars on our doorstep. Now it has been foisted upon us, the least we should expect is that the authorities are prepared to deal with the possible consequences.

We should not blame the local health service. As the remarkable response to the Great Heck rail disaster proved, the NHS can be wonderful in times of crisis.

But terrorism poses a very different challenge. The MPs' report said parts of the NHS "were not fully prepared to handle the emerging threats from nuclear, chemical, biological and radiological incidents". Ironic in an area which boasts the Emergency Planning College.

Why? Because they have not been given adequate resources to train and prepare. Late last year, the chairman of the Emergency Planning Society said a further £50 million a year was needed.

In the months leading up to war, ministers kept warning us of the increased likelihood of attack. Our prominent role in the Gulf conflict has made Britain more of a target.

The Government has to do more than just tell us to stock up on baked beans and torch batteries.

If we are at as great a risk of terrorist attack as ministers insist, they should be spending more money and time preparing our response.

Updated: 10:09 Wednesday, April 16, 2003