» Thursday, March 10, 2005

Anti Terror Legislation

Asked if control orders or any of the orders under the proposed legislation could be used against members of the Provisional IRA the PMOS said, as he had yesterday, that the Law Lords decision stated that it was wrong to discriminate between domestic and foreign nationals in terms of such legislation. He would not get drawn into hypotheticals in terms of whom it could apply to, but the reality was that it could apply to foreign and domestic nationals.

Asked to clarify whether the Government had ruled out a sunset clause in any shape or form the PMOS said that the Government was not prepared to introduce a sunset clause. The reason the Government was not prepared to was because it would cast a pall of uncertainty over the legislation. It would send the wrong message and because if you were going to allow legislation to lapse in November by the time Parliament came back the amount of time available for debate would be very limited. The bottom line was: the issues were not going to change. What was it that would actually change between now and November? Another point was that the legislation was now subject to annual reviews so parliament could hold the legislation to account and MPs could hold a vote within a year.

Asked if the Government would release the Belmarsh detainee’s on Monday regardless of what happened in Parliament today, the PMOS said that he would not be drawn into individual cases and it would be wrong for him to do so. The precise point of control orders was that they could be used according to the advice of the police and security services about the level of threat that individuals posed. That was why the Government believed it was necessary to have control orders so that you could vary the level of response according to the level of threat in those few cases where you could not use rules of evidence because the information you had was intelligence not evidence. In terms of the derogation powers, that again would depend on the advice from the police and security services.

Asked if the Prime Minister thought that Al Qaeda actually listened to any messages and in terms of sending the wrong messages to security services, as with our troops, was there a similar fear of mixed messages if they felt they had not got our support, the PMOS said the fear was that the authorities would not believe if there was uncertainty over the legislation that they had the stability in terms of that legislation to use it and use it effectively. The message to terrorists would convey that this country was uncertain on how to deal with the threat they posed or that it was somehow vulnerable to pressure over its response. The message had to be that this government and this country were not going to bend to pressure from international terrorism.

Asked if the Prime Minister and Home Secretary had to change their diaries in case they were needed in the House the PMOS said that the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary believed that there was no greater priority today than to get this legislation through. He would not get into the detail of the Prime Minister’s diary but it would respond to the needs of the Bill. Asked if the Prime Minister would be holding talks with any members of the House of Lords the PMOS said that he was not aware of any plans to do so.

Asked if Cabinet agreed on the commitment to the day’s debating, as it was the last day, the PMOS said that there was absolute determination to get the legislation passed. Asked if the Prime Minister believed it was wise to turn an issue of national security into a party political matter the PMOS said that he could not personally comment on party political matters but the Prime Minister, as he had set out at the start of this briefing, believed that the what he, the Government and Home Secretary were responding to was a determination of the highest court in the land, the Law Lords, and responding to the needs identified to protect the security of the people in this country as assessed and advised by the police and security services. He believed he would be irresponsible as a Prime Minister to ignore either the judgement of the Law Lords, our highest court in the land, or the professional advice as offered by the police and security services and this was what he believed he was addressing.

Asked if the police and the security services recommended that the Home Secretary should impose control orders the PMOS said that the issue of judicial input was always in the legislation. What the Government had done was to refine that input to meet peoples concerns but equally it had given parliament an annual review and as such concerns had been met. In terms of the advice from police and security services that was in terms of powers needed, the speed with which they could be used and the burden of proof threshold needed as well. Asked how the Government could be said to be listening to the police and security services when it had now conceded the speed issue requested by them the PMOS said the Home Secretary could still act with speed if necessary. In an emergency he could identify it as such and then get judicial input afterwards. Therefore we had retained the key principle of speed. In no way had it been surrendered.

Asked if the Prime Minister believed that the current Bill being sent through the Lords was better than the Bill sent last week, the PMOS said that the whole point of parliamentary scrutiny was to get the balance between the powers that you needed and people’s concerns. In terms of peoples concerns the Bill had been adjusted to meet them but the Prime Minister believed it still protected the essential ability for the authorities to respond to a threat that was clearly identified but which could not be taken through the traditional evidential route. There was a balance to be made between on the one hand the signal sent to the police, the security services and to terrorists and on the other the detrimental effect of delay. The issues were not going to change and at some point a responsible Government had to respond to those issues and the needs identified by the security services and police.

Asked how an annual review where the legislation could be thrown out sent the right message and a sunset clause that allowed modification sent the wrong signal the PMOS said that a sunset clause would mean that you had to start all over again and the interpretation of that would be that this country was in someway uncertain about the measures that it was taking. A review, as used with previous anti terror legislation, was part of the parliamentary system and it would not mean you had to start with the legislation all over again. We had said there was a real danger that the wrong signal would be sent by the sunset clause and therefore by implication it would be putting this country more at risk.

Asked if we were not already sending that signal because we lived in a democracy and were currently having to debate those issues in Parliament the PMOS said that in a democracy was perfectly legitimate. It was the bloodstream of democracy to have different views and to express those but democracy also relied on governments taking those views and balancing those whilst taking in to account the security of the country and then reaching a decision. Democracies that did not reach decisions did not survive for long.

Asked if it was still the Government’s view that in the absence of new legislation that the view was that there were still means to detain those of concern, the PMOS said the position was, as outlined yesterday, that it would then be open for detainee’s lawyer’s to apply for bail and the courts were likely to take into account that the Government was in defiance of the highest court in the land and that may well influence their decision. As such what the reporter had said was right in theory but in practical terms it could result in a very detrimental decision because you could be seen to have acted in defiance of the Law Lords.

Asked if the red line on burden of proof meant effectively locking up or restricting the liberty of people who were probably not terrorists and whether the Prime Minster thought this was acceptable the PMOS said that there were too many generalisation in the question. Firstly, the whole essence of the dilemma was: what could you do when you had intelligence but not evidence. You could not duck that issue. Either you acted on that intelligence or you did not. Secondly, in terms of the safeguards you now had judicial input from the start, but what you could not do was duck that essential dilemma.

Asked about the issue of Government being viewed in defiance of the Lords and why they were not already viewed as such when the ruling had been given in December the PMOS said that what a court was likely to take into account during this period was that we were preparing a legislative alternative to the situation. Once parliament had rejected legislation you were no longer in that situation and were then in defiance.

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

1 Comment »

  1. Hope that Martin Niem\xF6ller will forgive me but\x85.

    First they came for the Islamic terrorists
    and I did not speak out
    because I thought it was for our safety.

    Then they came for the Irish terrorists
    and I did not speak out
    because I thought it was to protect me.

    Then they came for the troublemakers
    and I did not speak out
    because I thought they were getting what they deserved.

    Then they came for me
    and everyone left was too scared
    to speak out for me.

    Comment by Uncarved Block — 10 Mar 2005 on 7:29 pm | Link

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...


March 2005
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
« Feb   Apr »

Supported by


Disruptive Proactivity

Recent Briefings



Syndicate (RSS/XML)



Contact Sam Smith.

This site is powered by WordPress. Theme by Jag Singh