» Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Terrorism Bill

Asked if the Prime Minister was intending to vote tomorrow on the Lords’ amendments to the Terrorism Bill, the PMOS said yes. Asked if he would expect to win and what his response would be in the event of a defeat, the PMOS said that it was important to take things one step at a time and understand exactly what it was that we were trying to achieve. As we had said last week, we wanted to send a clear signal that we were doing everything we could to counter terrorism. We believed that there were substantial concerns that needed to be addressed.

There were several problems with the Lords’ amendments as they currently stood. Firstly, all references to glorification had been removed. Secondly, the indirect encouragement offence and proscription criteria had been narrowed so that those groups which chose to glorify terrorism, such as through placards and images (rather than speeches), were not covered. Thirdly, the amendments would allow groups or individuals to praise or celebrate recent terrorist acts without making prosecution or proscription of the groups possible. Finally, those groups which chose to associate themselves with statements glorifying terrorism, rather than making statements directly, were currently not covered by the proscription criteria. These were real concerns which we believed needed to be addressed.

Asked if the Prime Minister would view a defeat tomorrow as an indication of his lack of authority, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister believed it was important to address the substance of the issue. First and foremost, this was about Parliament sending a strong signal to the courts and the police, as well as those who might engage in the glorification of terrorism, that such a thing would not be tolerated.

Asked if the Prime Minister had sought an update from police regarding any action taken against protestors demonstrating in London two weeks ago, the PMOS said that the matter was being dealt with by the appropriate authorities. It would therefore be unwise for him to give a running commentary on what was happening.

Asked if what had occurred at the demonstration could be linked in any way to tomorrow’s debate on the glorification of terrorism, the PMOS said that he was unable to comment on individual cases for legal reasons. All he could do was to note the general legal assessment that had been made of the Bill as a result of the Lords’ amendments, as he had done. Put to him repeatedly that the Chancellor had linked the demonstration and tomorrow’s debate and yet Downing Street was refusing to do so, the PMOS said that he would disagree with the journalist’s assessment. It was perfectly legitimate to say, as we had said, that the protests two weeks ago had been completely unacceptable. Equally, it was perfectly legitimate to make a legal assessment of the Bill. We had no intention of commenting in any way on particular cases. Individual prosecutions were a matter for the CPS and the police, not us.

Briefing took place at 16:00 | Search for related news

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