» Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Michael Howard/Terror

Asked when the Prime Minister was expected to meet the leader of the Conservative Party to discuss counter-terrorism policy, the Ptime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said he wasn’t aware that a time had been fixed yet, no doubt it would be at a time of mutual convenience. Asked if it signalled a willingness to be more open about these issues, the PMOS said that meeting the leader of the opposition to have a discussion about these important issues was the right and courteous thing to do. However the Government’s analysis of what was a genuinely difficult issue had not changed. The difficult issue was, as the Prime Minister has said, how on the one hand you balance the rights of the individual and on the other hand balance the essential need to preserve national security. The reason why the Home Secretary had to act was because of the legal ruling by the Lords. The reason why the power remained with the Home Secretary was because the Home Secretary was accountable to Parliament and there was a judicial review and appeal element built into the process. In terms of intercepts, this had been a matter which had been reviewed on several occasions. Not just in this administration but in previous administrations as well. While it was fair to say that in the past people had begun with the position that it would be a good thing if intercepts could be used in court, each time the matter had been examined, it had been the opinion of the Security Services that such evidence would lead to sources being identified. Therefore the judgment of successive administrations had been that that was not in the national interest. Those were the reasons why we had ended up with the policies as outlined by Charles Clarke last week. Those reasons had not changed, the analysis had not changed, the advice of the professionals in the field had not changed, as indeed the new Police Commissioner Ian Blair had made clear yesterday. Put to him that the Home Secretary could use the justification that he was liable to judicial review in any case and therefore that justification didn’t stand up, the PMOS said that, as the Prime Minister had said at PMQs, the number of cases in which this applied was relatively small. That didn’t diminish the seriousness but it was only about 17 cases. In the end this came down to a judgement about national security. That was what made these cases different. This was not about someone carrying out a criminal act and being held accountable through the courts. This was about a judgment to apply the criteria of national security and that was what this made this special. Asked about House Arrests, the PMOS said it was because of that level of accountability that the Government felt the decisions were best left to the Home Secretary.

Asked if the Prime Minister was open minded about the possible use of intercepts in court, the PMOS said that we had not arrived at our position lightly or without much thought. We had thought through carefully the issues which had been raised. Others may have other ideas and of course it was right to have a discussion about these matters because with these very difficult issues it was better if possible to have a consensus. However it was important to make clear that we had not arrived at this position lightly and the analysis had not changed. We had not chosen the easy option, but the option which achieved the best balance between individual rights and national security. That was what it came down to.

Asked if this was the first formal meeting between the Prime Minister and Mr Howard since Mr Howard had become leader of the opposition, the PMOS said that he couldn’t recall a previous occasion. Asked if this meeting could be characterised as an opportunity for the Prime Minister to explain the Government’s proposals to the leader of the opposition rather than take his views on board, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister would obviously listen to what Mr Howard had to say. However he anticipated that the Prime Minister would also use the opportunity to go through the analysis, the argument, and the way we had arrived at the very difficult balancing act that we had.

Asked why Public Interest Immunity Certificates couldn’t be used to protect evidence and witnesses in these cases, the PMOS said there was a distinction to be made where a public immunity matter represented a small part of a case and where a whole case would depend on intelligence and defence lawyers having to have access to intelligence. He believed that had always been the argument.

Put to him that this legislation had to be renewed soon and that if it wasn’t passed by the Commons and the Lords it would all fell down, the PMOS said that he would not be drawn into speculation about decisions made by the either House. What he did think was that Parliament would take cogniscense of the very serious issues which were at the heart of this which did include individual rights but also national security as assessed by our security services.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Search for related news

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Post a public comment

(You must give an email address, but it will not be displayed to the public.)
(You may give your website, and it will be displayed to the public.)


This is not a way of contacting the Prime Minister. If you would like to contact the Prime Minister, go to the 10 Downing Street official site.

Privacy note: Shortly after posting, your name and comment will be displayed on the site. This means that people searching for your name on the Internet will be able to find and read your comment.

Downing Street Says...

The unofficial site which lets you comment on the UK Prime Minister's official briefings. About us...


February 2005
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
« Jan   Mar »

Supported by


Disruptive Proactivity

Recent Briefings



Syndicate (RSS/XML)



Contact Sam Smith.

This site is powered by WordPress. Theme by Jag Singh