» Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Counter Terrorism

Put that the Home Secretary had seemed to indicate this morning that she would await the final publication of the Home Affairs Select Committee before drafting the Terrorism Bill, and asked if there was still room for manoeuvre on 42 days, the PMS replied that the Home Secretary was not setting out anything that was different from the previous position, which was that the Government was in a process of consultation on this. We had not yet published the Counter-Terrorism Bill, we would anticipate that happening in the new year, so clearly there was an ongoing consultation. But she was also saying that the key thing about the initial set of proposals, and in particular this latest set of proposals, was to focus not so much on the number of days, but rather on all the additional safeguards put in place should somebody be held for longer than 28 days. It was certainly the Prime Minister’s view that the differences between the various people participating in this debate were quite a lot less than was being made out. In practice it was not clear that the differences between the various people were at this point that significant.

Put that Liberty had just issued a statement to say that it was "baloney" for the Home Secretary to suggest that the Government had moved much closer to Liberty’s position, the PMS replied that he did not want to start commenting on individual organisations, but the proposals that a number of organisations had been advocating was one whereby there might be circumstances where it might be necessary to hold people for more than 28 days. Now some people had been suggesting that in order to enable that to happen we would call a state of emergency. What the proposals last week were trying to do was incorporate some of the spirit of that to accept that the circumstances in which it would be necessary to hold people for more than 28 days would have to be demonstrably exceptional and temporary, but to do that in a way that did not go as far as calling a full state of emergency.

Asked to clarify that we were still against the Civil Contingencies Act being the potential framework for an agreement, the PMS replied that the proposals that had been set out incorporated some of the key principals of those people that had been advocating the use of the Civil Contingencies Act. There was a lot of on the record material from the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister as to why the Government thought that declaring a state of emergency in order to deal with a small handful of cases might be unnecessary. It was about trying to accept some of the principals that underlie that proposal without having to go that far.

Asked if people should not expect that when the Bill was published it would be 35 days not 42, the PMS replied that as he had said before, people should not get too preoccupied by the number of days. What was important was the safeguards. But if you accepted that there needed to be a maximum limit and that you could not hold people indefinitely, then you had to take a view of what the appropriate number of days might be.

original source.

Briefing took place at 16:45 | Search for related news

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