» Thursday, January 27, 2005

Anti-Terror Plans

Put to her that the Prime Minister had said earlier that "the new laws would not apply to anything more than a handful of people" and how he was in a position to say that, the PMS said people had to look at the previous legislation which applied to a total of seventeen people. This was a clearly a difficult issue and there would be a lot of discussion about it, not only in Government, but also within the country over the next few weeks. Charles Clarke had pointed out this morning that we had to look at not only the very important issues of civil liberties, but we had to balance that against the need to protect national security.

Asked about the statement yesterday in the Commons that said that if people were under house arrest, it could cause an incendiary situation, the PMS said again that it was a difficult issue, and there had to be a balance struck between civil liberty and the need to protect the country. Charles Clarke had pointed out that there would be further discussions and he would bring measures to the House at a future date.

Asked how long before the measures might be brought in, the PMS said she would not set a timetable.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news


  1. The point is not how many people the law is going to be applied to now, in the hands of such eminently reasonable and honest people as the present cabinet, but how it might be used in future.

    If you think that it’s a good idea that it should be possible for any Home Secretary to put anyone under house arrest for almost no reason — the "terrorism" offences are pretty widely drawn and include, for instance, "owning a map" — then you should be in favour of the new laws. The rest of us will, I think, remain opposed.

    Comment by Chris Lightfoot — 27 Jan 2005 on 7:52 pm | Link
  2. And quite apart from anything else, of course, is the question of how this will be policed. Are we to expect armed guards standing outside the "accuseds" residence 24/7, or maybe INSIDE the house? Gonna be quite expensive that, isn’t it, specially if there are more than just "a handful" of people under house arrest?

    Or is it going to be based on trust? "You will stay inside your house, young man, and NOT go out by any means, d’you hear?"

    Comment by PapaLazzzaru — 28 Jan 2005 on 2:23 pm | Link
  3. Would you have said that if Blunket had still been in the cabinet?

    Will Abu Hamza get to preach to a crowd of activists out of his bathroom window, block the public highway and find other ways to mock our legal system yet again?

    Is it really impossible to find a small country with no death penalty or torture regime that needs a few quid in aid, to forcibly eject those refused residence to if they won’t leave voluntarily? Better that than introducing house arrest for one and all.

    If they carry on like this it won’t be long before they need to re-open The Maze prison.

    Comment by Mr Pooter — 28 Jan 2005 on 2:38 pm | Link
  4. Chris Lightfoot puts his finger on the critical issue. Once the law is passed it applies to us all, only the wording of the law counts, not the government’s declared intent to use it against only "a handful of people". In any case, what the government says now doesn’t bind a future Home Secretary.

    If the government doesn’t want the law to be used against a large number of people, there is a very simple way to make sure that this happens. When the Act is presented to Parliament they should include a Clause in it which says: "only 20 people can kept under house arrest using this law at any one time".

    Chris also touches on another important important issue. This government is very keen on criminalising all sorts of legitimate behaviour, while giving us (non-binding) assurances that the law will only be used to go after the people who really deserve it. "Possessing Information Likely to be of Use to Terrorists" is one of the classic examples, the new "Incitement to Relgious Hatred" legislation is another. People shouldn’t be reliant on the goodwill and competence of government as the only thing preventing them from being prosecuted.

    Comment by square peg — 28 Jan 2005 on 3:27 pm | Link
  5. This rush to legislation is the result of appaling executive incompetence and of the Home Secretary’s intellectual weakness. Apparently the security services cannot monitor the activities of such suspects, so Mr Clarke now feels that house arrest will prove more effective. This is garbage. What are we paying these people for?

    If anyone believes that the Clarkes of this world are able and reasonable people, they are seriously unwell. Why does Clarke a) protest (and actually believe!) that he is an honest and upright individual and b) think that all of his successors will apply these draconian measures with due care and regard to human rights.

    If Clarke is remotely honest let him admit to the failures of the Home Office and the security services. If he had half a brain he ought to recognise that not all of his successors may be so altruistic as he proclaims himself to be. He should also understand that the public would prefer to have any (real) evidence supporting his actions to be properly scrutinised and tested by the courts, rather than expect people to take his opinions as fact.

    These political numbskulls with their ill-considered legislation and kneejerk responses are what constitute the real danger to our society.

    Comment by Chuck Unsworth — 28 Jan 2005 on 4:24 pm | Link

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