» Monday, November 7, 2005

Anti-Terror Legislation

Asked when they would see the amendments to the Bill, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that it would probably be later on this evening but journalists should speak to the Home Office as it depended on Charles Clarke’s conversations with people. Asked if they would be told what they were, the PMOS said, yes that was his understanding but again they should speak to the Home Office for the details.

Asked what the status of these amendments was and if they could be characterised as standby amendments in case the Prime Minister failed to persuade others by Wednesday that 90 days was a good thing, the PMOS said that procedurally if we did not put down an amendment today then we missed the opportunity to do so. Therefore given that we did not believe that 28 days was acceptable, as an alternative we had to put down an amendment. However, as the Prime Minister had made very clear at his press conference, he still believed that the case for 90 days was compelling. The police, as Andy Hayman had made categorically clear today, had not put it forward as a negotiating ploy and therefore we believed that it remained the right answer. Asked how many amendments we would be making on the duration of detention, the PMOS said there would be one precautionary or standby amendment.

Asked if we expected any sunset clauses, the PMOS said that that all depended on discussions. The fundamental point that the Prime Minister had been trying to get across this morning was that he was open to being flexible in terms of reassuring people about safeguards. What he was not going to do was to pretend that anything short of 90-days would meet what the Police had said was their requirement. Andy Hayman had put forward the case very well today. The Police were asked for their professional opinion, they gave that professional opinion and we respected that professional opinion. Therefore anything else would be second best to what the Police had actually asked for to protect national security.

Asked how the Prime Minister could not view a defeat on the 90 days as having no effect on his leadership authority, as it seemed to be one of his key legacy policies, the PMOS said that he had deliberately not used that language. This was a proposal which was made first by the police. The Prime Minister had not initiated it. He had repeatedly found their case compelling, but he had again challenged them to underline that they regarded it as highly significant. This they had done. Therefore this was not a matter about his position. It was a matter about the security of the country. In the past, unfortunately, the Government had been in a position, as he pointed out before the election, where it had not got all that it had wanted to on counter terrorism legislation. However, he was absolutely determined to keep making the case.

Asked what evidence the Prime Minister was relying upon that showed the public was behind him, the PMOS said responses that he had heard at an anecdotal level talking to members of the public, not least around the memorial service last week. The Sky/YouGov poll today was another example of that public support. MPs would make up their own minds about their constituents. However, his central point relied on the fact that the police including ACPO, Andy Hayman, the head of the anti-terror unit, and even Lord Carlile, who was not a non-critical voice in this matter, all said that 90-days would help the police make this country more secure. That was the case that people had to face up to and respond to on what basis they were arguing for anything shorter than that. What was it that allowed them to say that anything less would help make the country more secure. Asked if there was any corresponding European evidence that might demonstrate how such powers worked, the PMOS said that was the wrong way to look at it as other countries had such different systems. People only needed to read Andy Hayman’s paper. One computer hard disk when printed off was 66,000 feet of material. Evidential material could only be sifted on a manual basis. There was no way to short circuit that process. It was only really of use if the people sifting it were those who were familiar with the case. As such there was a limit on how many people you could have going through the material because they needed to know what they were looking for. In addition there were the multilingual complexities of obscure dialects. Then there was the new form of terrorism, which meant you could not allow a conspiracy develop and hope you caught them at the right time. All of that added to the complexity of what the police were trying achieve. This combined to form the police’s assessment that they needed 90 days.

Asked if the process of the police speaking to MPs had in anyway risked their politicisation, the PMOS said that Andy Hayman had dealt with this very succinctly this morning. The Police had put forward the case for 90 days on a professional basis. Not the Government. Therefore what they were offering was their professional analysis and their professional view of what was necessary. If they were involved in a negotiating process then they would be more open to such an accusation. This was not the case here. They were simply saying what they professionally believed to be the necessary case.

Briefing took place at 7:00 | Search for related news


  1. I would just like to make it known, that I am utterly and totally opposed to Blair’s proposal for 90 day internment for "terror" suspects. He has often claimed that he has public opinion behind him, well I am not and nor do I know anyone who is. If he takes the opinion from the memorial service last week as indicative of wider public opinion then he is even more demented that I thought.

    The reason why there’s so much much objection to the proposed law is not for some cheap challenge to his authority – it is simply because WE BELIEVE IT IS A REALLY BAD IDEA. I don’t know what he agenda is, but I hope he sees past his own pathetic legacy and sees what damage he is doing to our democracy.

    Listen up Blair: YOU DO NOT SPEAK FOR US.

    Comment by Will Hall — 8 Nov 2005 on 11:58 am | Link
  2. Those that are ignorant of history are apt to repeat it. It seems that we (along with the US) are heading down the same path as Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia – i.e. towards a police state…

    Comment by Paul — 8 Nov 2005 on 3:04 pm | Link

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