» Monday, February 5, 2007

Counter Terrorism

Asked to explain the Prime Minister’s thinking on the 28 days debate, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) replied that as John Reid had said at Cabinet last Thursday, the police had asked us to look again at the issue. This was because their experience in the latest case in August meant that they used up all 28 days available for questioning. What John Reid had suggested, and the Cabinet had agreed, was that we try and achieve a consensus between the police, the Government and the opposition on the best way forward. We had not said what we thought the outcome of this should be. The Government’s view at the time of the legislation was that we needed more than 28 days, but Parliament had reached another decision. Since then however, the police had more experience in which to make a judgement, and others had also revisited their views on this.

Asked if the Prime Minister thought that 90 days would be the easiest option, the PMOS replied that he had not changed his view of what was the best option from last time. But he did recognise that Parliament had reached a different decision. However, this was not a matter of theology. This was a matter of the practicalities of dealing with the reality of the terrorist threat today. The threat was now more complex, for example there were now different languages involved, and because of these complexities more time was needed. Unfortunately police experience to date suggested that was true.

Asked to expand on what was meant by "others" in his previous answer, the PMOS replied that the Home Affairs Select Committee published a report last year in which its Chairman had said it had thought again about 28 days. The police also had the experience of the August incident that took up every single one of the 28 days. The question was whether it was best to wait until there was a case that demanded more than 28 days and then legislate, or recognise that this would only be a matter of time and legislate in advance.

Put to him that the Attorney General had said in November that he hadn’t seen any evidence to justify an increase of beyond 28 days, and was it the case that he and everybody else would now be asked to go away and reassess the evidence that had risen since then, the PMOS replied that different people looked at this issue from different perspectives, we had said this at the time of the last debate. The reality was that police experience showed that these cases were increasingly complex and there was a danger of dealing with multiple cases at any one time. Therefore we had to deal with the overall consensus. This should be a debate about the reality, not the theology.

Asked if police could currently apply for an extension after 28 days if they were still not satisfied, the PMOS replied that his understanding at this stage was that they could not.

Asked if the Government had a figure in mind for the number of days, the PMOS replied that the Government did not. This had never been a matter of getting on a hook about a particular timescale. It was about trying to give the police enough time to carry out their operations. People sometimes talked about the 28 days as if it had no judicial oversight, but it did – it had a weekly oversight. We were trying to respond to the reality of what the police did believe was a problem.

Asked how quickly the Government wanted to move on this issue, bearing in mind the ongoing inquiry in Birmingham, the PMOS replied that there was a tension between the urgency of moving against a background while terrorism was a reality, but also trying to achieve a consensus on a national level. Obviously the sooner we moved the better.

Briefing took place at 15:00 | Search for related news

1 Comment »

  1. Ah yes! "If at first you don’t succeed, try try again"… How transparent. We knew at the time when Parliament told the government to eff off that they wouldn’t give up on their demands for 90 day detention, and lo and behold! The "police have said 28 days is not enough", and don’t tell me, the police have recommended 90 days is best! Now let’s just wait for something that will prove how urgent it is to have 90 day detention – like an enquiry into a potential kidnap and beheading which needs far more time than is available at present in order to chase down all the potential leads. How utterly unpredictable, not many people thought THIS was going to happen…!!

    "Obviously the sooner we moved the better." Yeah – because the longer it takes, the more cynical the public will become. Not that these bastards really care what the public think, mind – that much is apparent by the blatancy of the lies and corruption they get away with. If there was an island worth migrating to I’d do it – sadly in this day and age someone would be just behind you to demand tax for sand disturbance or something equally ridiculous.

    Comment by SmokeNMirrors — 6 Feb 2007 on 8:19 pm | Link

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