» Monday, July 11, 2005

London bombing

The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) informed journalists that Tessa Jowell would attend the opening of a Garden of Rememberance for the victims of last Thursday’s bombings at Victoria Embankment Gardens. Faith leaders would also be present and they would sign Westminster Council’s book of condolence. The aim of the Garden was to provide a single place for people to pay their respects to the victims of all four attacks, not least because the necessary security around the bomb sites themselves made it difficult to people to lay flowers. Tessa Jowell would also go to the city hall today to sign the GLA book of condolence with Ken Livingstone. There would be a two minutes silence at midday on Thursday. Asked if the flowers that had already been placed at the sites would be moved, the PMOS said that we recognised that there was sensitivity around that issue. We would try and deal with the issue as sensitively as possible. The Key thing was to strike a balance between people wanting to, quote rightly, pay their respects and on the other hand, not get in the way of the ongoing investigation. That was a difficult balance but the liaison officers would consult with people and make the necessary arrangements.

Asked if there might be a march like their had been in Madrid, the PMOS said that at this stage he would point people towards the two minutes silence on Thursday, which would be Europe-wide. That would be a demonstration of people’s solidarity and commemoration. Of course if there were any other plans we would consider them sympathetically.

Asked if there might be any public inquiry into how the bombers had gone undetected by the security services, the PMOS said that at the moment we had two clear priorities. Firstly we had to recover and identify the bodies as quickly as possible. Everyone was well aware of the problems those charged with that grim task faced, given the circumstances of the bombs. The second priority was to collect the forensic evidence necessary to help the process of catching those responsible, both to bring them to justice and to allow us to prevent further attacks. The Government’s approach was to offer the authorities all the time, space and support they needed in carrying out those two crucial tasks. At this stage we believed that any inquiry would get in the way of those. In saying that there would of course be the internal process of review that was carried out after any attacks or incidents of this nature, both in terms of the emergency response and in terms of the intelligence and so on. At this stage the priority had to be the tasks of recovering and identifying the bodies and catching those responsible.

Asked if we would be looking to prevent future visits by extremist Islamic leaders, the PMOS said that obviously there would be lots of questions that we would have to address coming out of this. We would do that in the right time and spirit. We would not rush into anything, we wanted to make sure that whatever judgments we made were based firmly on good analysis. That was key at this stage. This was not a time for knee-jerk responses. It was a time for careful consideration. The public should be assured that the process of looking to see whether there was any further action that needed to be taken would be a thorough one.

Asked if he could clarify whether we thought that the bombers had been from abroad or had been already based in the UK, the PMOS said that the important thing was to allow the authorities to get on with their job. It was also important that we kept an open mind as to where the investigation might lead. He cautioned against jumping to any assumptions at this stage. We should not get diverted into any side alleys, but remained focussed on the two key priorities of identifying the bodies and doing everything we could to help the investigation.

Asked why the emergency contact lines had not been free, the PMOS said that as Hazel Blears said this morning, the reason for the choice of lines was to insure that we had the capacity to deal with the number of calls. It had increased the capacity from 40 calls per minute to 200 calls per minute. In terms of costs, as Hazel Blears had said this morning, we would review that. That was the reason why we had used that line.

Asked if the Government would be announcing any further action, the PMOS said that we had already announced a counter-terror bill for the autumn, the preparation of which had already been underway. Clearly if there other matters that required more urgent action then we would consider that. As things stood at the moment that timescale still stood. Obviously as and when we had to respond we would.

Asked about what the ‘threat level’ actually meant in practice, the PMOS said that the threat was there to inform Government departments, local authorities, and so forth. He didn’t particularly want to get into the analysing in detail what the various repercussions of the levels were for obvious reasons. Asked why we had raised the level, the PMOS said that it was simply an obvious precaution in the aftermath of last week. We had an ongoing live investigation into a terrorist atrocity, in the wake of that it would be surprising if there hadn’t been that sort of response.

Asked if there were any specific threats at the moment, the PMOS said we would still inform the public if there was a specific threat. The police authorities would take the action whenever they believed there was a specific threat as we saw over the weekend. Asked if there had been any link between the evacuation in Birmingham over the weekend and the events in London, the PMOS said that journalists should speak to the police. It was not his job to brief on the reasons why police took the actions they did. The Government would support them in taking that action. We understood the public inconvenience but we asked people to continue to be patient and recognise, as they had, that if the police believed there was a threat then it was their job to act on that information.

Asked if the Prime Minister shared the Home Secretary’s optimism that the police would apprehend those responsible for the bombing, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister believed that the professionalism of the police and the other authorities was second to none. He believed that their dedication had already been proven by the way they had responded to these events as had that of the other emergency services. Therefore he believed that the authorities, working with the public would do everything they could to catch those responsible. Asked if the Prime Minister was happy with the action the police took in Birmingham, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister respected and supported the operational judgment of the police in such circumstances. Imagine the response if the police had had evidence of a specific threat and hadn’t taken action. These were always difficult judgments but we would always support the police in difficult calls they had to make. Put to him that the same logic could be applied to calls to apprehend Islamic leaders in this country who encouraged hatred for the West amongst young impressionable Muslims, the PMOS said that he would simply point to the action that we had taken in terms of changing the law and indeed in certain individual cases, where there was evidence of incitement to violence or to terrorism, the law was there for the police to act. We encouraged them to do so. There was a difficult balance to be struck, as he knew people were aware, between individual expression of freedom and not contravening the law. Where people broke the law we encouraged the police to act.

Asked about the Prime Ministers’ statement that the terrorists were responsible and ‘solely’ responsible for the atrocities, the PMOS said that it was a simple statement of fact that the terrorists who carried out atrocities such as this were responsible. The intelligence services did all they could to prevent such things occurring and it was the nature of their work that we did not hear about their successes. We had never claimed either before or after 9/11 that with such work you could have absolute security. You could not and that was the grim reality of terrorism. What you could do was fully support the security services. When there needed to be a review of what had happened, that review would be carried out. There were internal processes which did that and he had no doubt that that would be done at the appropriate time. At the moment the primary duty of the authorities was to catch those responsible as well as to recover and identify the bodies. That’s where our efforts would go.

Asked about whether the Government could use the religious hatred legislation which was reaching its final stages today to take action against those who preached hatred against Christians and Jews, the PMOS said that he would not get into hypothetical speculation about individuals. The law would be there and it would be applied correctly.

Asked if the Government was ruling out a public inquiry, the PMOS said that there would always be lessons to be learned after such incidents. At the moment we were not going to get diverted into talking about the form of how those lessons would be learnt. The key task at this stage was to simply to get on with the job. We would do everything we could to give the authorities the time, space and support they needed to do that.

Asked about the Prime Minister’s view about the media’s reaction to the events in terms of striking a correct balance, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister was proud of the way in which the country as a whole had responded to these terrible events. People had shown a willingness not to be intimidated by terrorists, but also to reach out and recognise each others sensitivities. That included sections of the media as well. Therefore what we had was the ability to consider these matters calmly, maturely and to recognise that the police and those charged with the grim task of responding to these events needed the support we should give them.

Put to him that links could be made between intelligence failures with regards to last weeks events and those in Iraq, the PMOS said that we had been consistently honest enough since 9/11 to admit that there was no such things as absolute security. Equally we devoted huge resources to the intelligence effort and to the police effort. Those efforts would continue. It was in the nature of this kind of work that you could not celebrate the successes, but there had been success in the past and he had not doubt there would be successes in the future.

Asked if the authorities were hampered by human rights legislation in terms of taking the necessary action against those who we suspected were a threat to this country, the PMOS said that in terms of extradition, some extraditions had occurred, including to the United States amongst others, where assurances had been secured that the Death Penalty would not be used. In terms of the European Convention on Human Rights, when we were trying to defend freedom, as we were, it was important that we had the equal moral authority of belonging to a convention which no other major democratic country was not a member of. He would caution those who said that we should simply walk away from that. It was difficult to conceive of changes to the convention which would be supported by the rest of the world.

Asked if the Government was still satisfied that there was no need for a specific Homeland security department, the PMOS said that we believed that we had the organisational structures in place to deal with this very difficult matter.

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


  1. Is there going to be an online book of condolence for people who are unable to get to London to sign them? I have looked but cannot find anything.



    Comment by Emma Lowe — 14 Jul 2005 on 9:33 pm | Link
  2. such a inhumane act must be blamed from the world community.Attention must be made to find out root cause of this problem.
    from kathmandu nepal

    Comment by vidur ghimire — 28 Jul 2005 on 7:38 am | Link

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