» Wednesday, July 20, 2005


Asked if we would be inviting Muslim extremists to express their views at the conference and whether it would achieve anything if we did not, the PMOS said that there seemed to be, to use the Prime Minister’s words of yesterday, a twisted logic that in some way we had to get extremists on board. What we were actually doing was tackling head on the extremist viewpoint and mobilising the moderate Muslim element along with other mainstream thinking to take on that extremist view. This was not about bartering with the extremist view. It was about taking on that debate at a local, national and international level. The twisted logic was that in some way you had to concede to the extremist viewpoint. You did not. In response to the suggestion that in Northern Ireland we had said that you had to deal with the guys at the sharp end, the PMOS said, without making comparisons between one group or another, that the reality in Northern Ireland was that the serious talking had only begun at the point at which people realised that violence was not the way forward and also at the point when people moderated their demands into demands for equality not absolute demands, as was still the case with Muslim extremism who demanded a Caliphate and the end of the Western presence. As the Prime Minister had said the central problem and difference, apart from the use of violence, was that their demands were of such a nature that you could not negotiate with them.

Asked in light of suggestions that yesterday’s meeting had not represented Muslim youths whether there was better way of reaching down within the Muslim community to the problem and casting the net wider, the PMOS said that you could have a range of opinion and a range of views without bringing in people who fundamentally believed that the sort of violence we had tragically seen on the streets of London was right. Therefore there was a dividing line in terms of a certain extremist viewpoint, which was fundamentalist in a way that could not be negotiated with. Those distinctions were difficult and you could not draw absolute lines but there were distinctions that could be made.

In answer to the suggestion that we dealt with men of violence in Northern Ireland, the PMOS reiterated the point he had just made about Northern Ireland which was that it was at the point at which people had moved away from fundamentalist demands into negotiable concerns that proper discussions had began.

Asked what would happen if for example a person who was deemed not conducive to the public good had their leave to remain revoked but we had no way of sending him back to his country of origin and what could be done if the laws were powerless, the PMOS said that, without getting into individual cases, it was precisely to deal with those problems that we were developing a multi-faceted approach. What we were trying to do was ensure that we were not reliant on only a single tool in the toolbox. We wanted to install a range of measures. It was about lowering the bar on incitement so that in the law you could take action against someone who glorified or condoned terrorism. It was about widening and deepening the database of knowledge about what people had said and sharing that information more widely within the system. It was also about increasing and tightening the rules under which the Home Secretary could have scrutiny of people who may need to be excluded. In addition it was about increasing the number of places we could deport people to by having Memoranda of Understanding, such as the one agreed in principle with Jordan. This was precisely what you could not do at the moment. So it was a multi-faceted approach designed precisely so that if you could not take action of one kind you could take action of another kind.

Asked how we could be sure that those excluded under the Memoranda of Understanding would not be mistreated, the PMOS said that part of such memoranda was about follow up and monitoring procedures. This was part of the next phase of the agreement with the Jordanians. We did not believe that there would be a problem. Asked how much of this had been thought about before the bombings, the PMOS said the Memoranda of Understanding had already been under negotiation but that process had now been speeded up. The Government had set out in its manifesto commitments to bring forward legislation in the autumn on both glorifying and condoning and acts preparatory to terrorism. So there had been thinking along both those lines prior to 7/7. What had happened since was that they had been put on a faster track. In terms of legislation, as had been seen at Monday’s meeting, we were also doing away with the pre-legislative scrutiny period. We had advanced the rate at which we had planned to doing certain things already in the pipeline. Asked what would provide the proof sufficient for judges to trust that people excluded would not be harmed, the PMOS said that a Memoranda of Understanding was a document of considerable weight in international diplomacy and as such he was sure the courts would take it into account.

Asked following the Prime Minister’s comments saying he backed the use of phone taps whether he would be seeking to persuade the police and security services at tomorrow’s meeting, the PMOS said that in principle the Prime Minister would like to do it, but he recognised that he had to listen to the considered advice of the authorities. In the past that considered advice had been that they believed it would put operations at risk. Therefore the right thing to do was to ask again tomorrow about what their considered view was. No doubt it would be one of the subjects discussed next Tuesday when the Prime Minister would meet with Michael Howard and Charles Kennedy.

Asked about Muslim leaders calls for an independent inquiry into the bombings, the PMOS said that there were lots of ideas being considered at present but only a minority of those present at yesterday’s meeting with the Prime Minister had expressed that view. Asked if the Government accepted that without a judicial process that could present evidence and certainty about those responsible for the attacks that there was a lot of faith being placed in the police and that was difficult for some in the Muslim community, the PMOS said that seemed more like the perverse logic that we were addressing. The majority of the Muslim community supported the police. The police and the intelligence agencies had done a superb job in investigating what happened. You had to trust the authorities to get on with that investigation and then act on the result of it. That was what you did in a democracy and that was what we would do.

Asked whether the broadening of exclusions was part of the consultation with the Muslim community, the PMOS said that we would consult on the categories that were considered for widening. The difficultly was in reaching a consensus on definition and what we wanted was a consensus that the definition that we were operating by was one that the Muslim community accepted. That way it would be all the more powerful in terms of response. For example when asked today during PMQs whether it was acceptable for anybody to condone suicide bombings no matter where they happened the Prime Minister had said no. Therefore what flowed from the Prime Minister’s overall view was a marker about what was acceptable for people to do in terms of condoning violence.

Briefing took place at 17:45 | Search for related news

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