We must put safety before liberty, says Blair

We must put safety before liberty, says Blair
By George Jones, Political Editor
(Filed: 24/02/2005)

Protecting Britain against a terrorist attack must take priority over civil liberties, Tony Blair states today.

Writing in The Telegraph, he mounts a strong defence of the Government's decision to take powers unprecedented in peacetime to curtail the activities of British citizens and foreign nationals suspected of terrorist activities.

Tony Blair: ‘There is no greater civil liberty than to live free from terrorist attack’
During last night's Commons debate on the Prevention of Terrorism Bill, Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, disclosed that the Government was braced for an attack during the election campaign.

Emphasising that it needed the ability to "move rapidly" against terrorists, he said: "The Madrid atrocity took place during the Spanish election campaign and it may be that such things can also be possibilities here too."

Despite his strong words, the Government's majority of 161 was slashed to 76 on the second reading of the Bill. It was approved by 309 votes to 233. Thirty-two Labour MPs voted against, including six former ministers: Frank Dobson, Frank Field, Kate Hoey, Glenda Jackson, Peter Kilfoyle and Clare Short.

The scale of the rebellion means that ministers will have to make concessions and there remains a serious question over whether it will get through the Lords.

Michael Howard: ‘This is the most cynical manoeuvre we have seen’
Mr Clarke and Mr Blair were fiercely attacked by the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and some Labour backbenchers over the decision to rush through the Commons in two days the powers to order the house arrest of terrorist suspects.

During heated exchanges at Prime Minister's Questions, Michael Howard, the Tory leader, accused Mr Blair of using national security for "political point-scoring" and of "steamrollering" the powers through Parliament.

Mr Blair ruled out making any concessions to the Conservatives. Mr Howard had offered to co-operate with the Government in temporarily renewing the existing anti-terrorism powers - which the law lords ruled were disproportionate and discriminatory - while more time was allowed for debate to reach cross-party agreement.

Mr Howard told The Telegraph last night that he believed the Government wanted the legislation to fail so that it could blame the Conservatives.

"It is the most cynical manouevre we have yet seen from this cynical Government," he said. "They are telling lies about our position."

Mr Howard said that Mr Blair had misrepresented the need for the Home Secretary to order detentions before a judge could be found. There were already powers for police to hold terrorist suspects for 14 days, initially even without a warrant, he said.

The debate on the Bill, which gives the Home Secretary powers to curtail the activities of individuals - controlling where they live and work and the people they can meet - revealed deep concern among many Labour MPs over the assault on traditional civil liberties.

Mr Dobson, a former Labour health secretary, said he could not support a law that would allow a British citizen to be imprisoned without trial "on the say-so of the Home Secretary".

Barbara Follett (Lab, Stevenage) said the control orders proposed by Mr Clarke bore "an extraordinary resemblance" to those used under apartheid in South Africa.

Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, wanted a judge rather than the Home Secretary to order detentions.

Mr Blair said those were "genuine concerns". But he said the power to impose the orders must remain with the Home Secretary, who needed the ability to act quickly to disrupt terrorist activity.

He told MPs that protecting national security must take precedence over civil liberties because Britain faced the prospect of "terrorism without limit" that could result in "thousands" being killed.

"Were there to be a serious terrorist act in this country and afterwards it was thought we had not taken the measures necessary, believe me no one would be talking about civil liberties: they would be talking about why we had not done more to protect the security of this country."

In his Telegraph article, Mr Blair makes clear that he regards protecting national security as his "main duty".

"We have to balance protection for the public from terrorism with safeguarding civil liberties," he says.

"But there is no greater civil liberty than to live free from terrorist attack. It would be the gravest dereliction of duty to wait until we suffered a terrorist outrage here and only then act."

Nail, coffin for the hammering into

And sorry to invoke Godwin's law so early on, but didn't Hitler say something similar? He got himself into absolute power by fostering a climate of fear about terrorists (communists), and then just dissolved the democratic institutions with a flurry of the pen. Are we going down a similar road?
What it effectively allows for is internment... Albeit without the camps.

Some people never learn. :twisted:
And this is what the Great Helmsman has to say about it:


I'm not being 'arrogant' – I'm being responsible for our safety
By Tony Blair
(Filed: 24/02/2005)

I have absolutely no doubt about the main duty of any prime minister: it is to do everything possible to protect the security of our nation and its citizens. Following September 11, I had hoped that everyone - and certainly every responsible politician - would understand that this is more important than ever.

As the attacks in Madrid, in Bali and, of course, on the World Trade Centre have shown, the nature and scale of the terrorist threat we face today is very different from that posed in the past. The aim of this new breed of terrorists is to kill as many people as possible. There is no limit on the levels of murder and destruction they want to inflict, on the weapons they will use or on their targets. Their war is not with governments or armed forces, but with our way of life. This threat, of course, is made all the more difficult to counter because of the potential use of suicide bombers.

Against this background, our police and security services deserve all our thanks for their vigilance and effectiveness. The fact that there has not been a major terrorist attack in this country since 9/11 is not by accident or want of trying by the fanatics. It is because of the superb work of our security services and police and, often, the bravery of individual officers.

It was to counter this new threat and to meet the concerns of our security services that we introduced new anti-terrorism measures in 2001. They allowed the detention of foreign terror suspects whom we could not deport from Britain. Despite fears, these powers were only ever used against a small number of people who all, it is often forgotten, had the right to leave this country whenever they wanted. The powers were also subject to clear judicial oversight throughout.

However, the Law Lords, in an eight-one judgment last year, found that they were both disproportionate and discriminatory. This issue has come up now because of their ruling. That is why we have to deal with it now. The Law Lords are the highest court in the land. No government could ignore such a firm ruling. But nor could we ignore the real and continued threat to our security.

In drafting the Prevention of Terrorism Bill, which puts in place new measures to counter this threat, we have listened to the Law Lords, but also to our police and security chiefs. It gives the Home Secretary, acting on their advice, a broader range of powers to prevent and disrupt potential terrorist activity. It allows restrictions to be placed on people where we have reasonable suspicion of their involvement in terrorist activity - on their movement, on their communications, on who they meet and where they live. Should our security services believe in future it is necessary, it could also include a requirement on individuals to remain in a particular place.

These measures have the support of our police chiefs and our security forces. Indeed, they were drawn up with their assistance. As the Association of Chief Police Officers said when the Bill was published: "The police service welcomes, and strongly supports, the announcement made by the Home Secretary. The constantly evolving nature of the threat posed to this country by international terrorism demands that those charged with countering that threat have the tools they need to do the job…These are extraordinary times, which call for the introduction of extraordinary measures."

I reject completely the allegation that this is a fundamental attack on long-standing civil liberties. As the Bill makes clear, no one will be deprived of their liberty without this being approved within days - at most seven days - by a senior judge in the High Court, following careful consideration of all of the evidence linking them to terrorist activity. And this initial hearing will then be followed by a full High Court hearing. Even with less intrusive control orders, suspects will have full rights of appeal to the High Court.

It was to gain agreement on these measures and to listen to concerns that I met Michael Howard and Charles Kennedy in Downing Street last week. The Liberal Democrat leader has a specific concern about whether it should be the Home Secretary or a senior judge who initiates the control order. I appreciate his concerns, understand they are genuine and have told Mr Kennedy that we will look at them further. But this is simply not possible with the Conservatives.

Michael Howard has made clear that, despite the views of our security services and police chiefs, he rejects the whole idea of control orders and says he regards them as "fundamentally flawed". He is against them on principle. Instead he argues that all suspects should be dealt with through the normal criminal process and the use of intercept evidence.

He must know that all those such as Lord Newton and the Commons home affairs committee who have reviewed this issue in detail accept that, whatever changes can be made to the criminal process, there will always remain a group of suspects, however small, whom it is simply impossible to prosecute because of the sensitivity of the evidence against them. To the question of what we do to control the actions of those we cannot prosecute, but who our security services say are a risk to our country, Mr Howard can give no answer. He must also know the strong arguments against the use of intercepted material in our courts. He must do because he heard the same arguments when he was Home Secretary and came to the same conclusion as this Government has done.

There is little evidence from across the world that intercepted material has provided decisive evidence in securing convictions in terrorism cases. What it could do, particularly with our adversarial court system, is to put at risk highly sensitive surveillance techniques and, potentially, the lives of key informants and intelligence officers.

It is hard to understand on either of these issues how the extra time for Commons debate that Mr Howard is demanding will make a difference if the disagreements between us are really on the points of principle he claims.

These are very difficult issues for any government. We have to balance protection for the public from terrorism with safeguarding civil liberties. But there is no greater civil liberty than to live free from terrorist attack. It would be the gravest dereliction of duty to wait until we suffered a terrorist outrage here, and only then act. As the Home Secretary said on Tuesday, this Government is not prepared to take that risk.

I will continue to do what I believe is necessary to protect our national security. To do so is not being "arrogant", as Mr Howard claims. It is being responsible.
And this is what good old Boris has to say:


Sorry, Blair, but that is so much phooey
By Boris Johnson
(Filed: 24/02/2005)

I have a terrible feeling that, if you lift your eyes a few inches to the north, you will have a shock. An intruder has crept into the chaste domain of the comment pages.

I can almost feel his Cheshire cat grin over my shoulder. I can already hear the torrent of drivel seeping down from my columnar next-door neighbour, and I am afraid I want to throw up my figurative window and say, "Oi, Blair, shut it, mate. Some of us down here are trying to talk."

It may be that there are some hard cases among the readership who agree with me, and who want to take their scissors and cut the article above me out of the paper; not to preserve it, of course, but maybe to use it to clean the frying-pan, or to scrumple up and put in their boots, or just to throw darts at it.

But before you do, may I suggest that you take a moment to shout back at the Prime Minister, as he lectures us there about his plan to take away our 800-year-old freedoms. Never mind that the piece has in fact been written by Alastair Campbell's patent Blair-o-trash computer program. Blair is responsible, and it is to the Prime Minister that I suggest we all reply.

Without knowing the exact words he is using to justify his actions (I am afraid I haven't read it yet), I propose that we begin by pointing out that he is the first peacetime prime minister to curtail the right to habeas corpus. He is giving the Home Secretary astonishing powers to decide that you or I may be locked in our homes; that our possessions may be confiscated; that we may be debarred from contact with the outside world; that we may be forbidden from using the internet or the telephone - in a word, that we may be incarcerated.

Under the Bill that went through the Commons last night, the Home Secretary (the chap with the big ears and the white bumfluff beard) will be able to inflict this incarceration indefinitely upon any British person that he suspects - on the basis of we are not allowed to know what evidence - of being involved in "terrorism-related activities". Above all, he will be able to do this without any obligation to bring that person to trial, and there, I think, he goes too far.

We all agree with the Prime Minister that we face a new and sinister peril in al-Qa'eda. But it is worth pointing out that many British lives were lost every year in the 1980s and 1990s to Irish republican terror - far more than have been lost, since 2001, to the operatives of al-Qa'eda - and it is more than 30 years since we last tried interning IRA suspects.

Why is Mr Blair assuming these astonishing powers now? The Government says it must suspend the right to a trial, because trials would jeopardise the secret telephone intercepts of the security services. That sounds like phooey.

The Tories have offered a sensible compromise, by which a pre-trial judge would hear any sensitive evidence, and decide what needed to be screened out, without prejudicing the fairness of a full trial. Why can't Blair accept that? As my colleague Richard Shepherd said yesterday in the Commons, there is something deeply un-British about this Bill, something profoundly ignorant of the history of this country and the rights of its people.

Of course terrorist suspects should be rounded up. Of course we should crack down hard on anyone to do with al-Qa'eda. But it must remain an inalienable principle of our law that, if the state has enough evidence to incarcerate someone, then it must have enough evidence to put him on trial.

It is amazing that the Prime Minister, who began as a vaguely Left-wing lawyer, should be stripping the British people of this right. He is casually destroying a key part of our constitutional liberties; and since we have the chance to harangue him, I suggest we now move on, and ask him just what he thinks he is doing with another ancient and valued part of our constitution, namely the Queen.

Tony Blair is Her Majesty's First Minister, and he claims to be a fervent monarchist. He sees her every week for an audience, which he is said greatly to enjoy. Why on earth, then, have he and his Government been so breathtakingly incompetent in the matter of the wedding between Charles and Camilla?

As far as I understand matters, Her Majesty the Queen has decided not to attend the register office business, because of some hesitancy about whether or not members of the Royal Family may get married in such a service.

Some people witter on about an Act of 1836 that apparently bans civil unions for members of the Royal Family; others seem to think that the wedding is legitimated by Act of 1949. For the past week, chuckling Charlie Falconer has been issuing various reassuring noises about the celebrations, much as he once issued reassuring noises about the surefire success of the Dome.

To cap it all, the poor royals have been forced to abandon their plan to hold the event in Windsor Castle, because that would mean they would have to apply for some kind of special licence, and that would mean the wedding would be open to the entire public, and any of us could go off and get married in the castle for the next three years.

So they have shelved that and gone for the register office, with the Queen forced by the shambles into a kind of boycott. The indignity of it all! The incompetence!

But I don't blame the courtiers, though they have their faults. I blame Blair and his Government for failing to see that it was their job to make sure that everything went smoothly. I blame him for just not caring enough about our ancient institutions.

There they are, two wonderful aspects of our constitution, the monarchy and habeas corpus, each almost as old as the other, both treated shabbily by New Labour.

Boris Johnson is MP for Henley and editor of The Spectator
And the Editor's response to The Leader of the Multicultural Peoples' piece:


Blair misses the point
(Filed: 24/02/2005)

In his article today (Opinion, Feb 24), the Prime Minister goes out of his way to attack Michael Howard for being irresponsible over national security, as if Mr Howard were making his objections for party political reasons.

Tony Blair should realise that objections to his Prevention of Terrorism Bill go way beyond party political considerations, to the heart of British law. For eight centuries, habeas corpus and the right to a fair trial, with conviction by the judiciary as opposed to the executive, have been cornerstones of our judicial system. The Prevention of Terrorism Bill takes those cornerstones away.

Mr Blair's justification for taking away these ancient freedoms is a flimsy one. He says that no one will be deprived of his liberty without this being approved within a week by a senior judge in the High Court, followed by a full High Court hearing with full rights of appeal to the High Court. This doesn't deal with the assault on civil liberties in the slightest. It is still the case that the Home Secretary can put anyone he wants under house arrest without the suspect being told what he is accused of or on what evidence. The right to a later hearing by a senior judge or any High Court appeal hardly take the edge off this initial battering of civil liberty.

But Mr Blair need not listen to our objections or Mr Howard's. He could start with the comments of members of his own party, not least Brian Sedgemore, the Labour member for Hackney South and Shoreditch. In a stirring speech yesterday in the Commons, Mr Sedgemore spoke of "a system of justice that found favour with the South African government at the time of apartheid and that parallels Burmese justice today… The unthinkable, the unimaginable is happening here."

These fiery words are perfectly justified by the nature of Mr Blair's Bill. Mr Howard's much less vociferous objections are equally valid. All he wants is that, "The liberty of the subject should be taken away not by the act of a politician, but by a court of law." Who was he quoting from when he wrote that on Tuesday? The then shadow home secretary, Tony Blair, speaking in 1994.
Dam you stoatman, i was just about to post that! :D

Sets a very worrying trend!
Another example of why I've made the right decision in emmigrating. I'm beginning to understand what it was like being a jew fleeing the Nazis in the thirties.

This vicious government is trying to give itself the right to lock up people it doesn't like. I don't think we've had political prisoners since the Civil War.

How long before they try to give themselves the right to kill citizens they don't like?
There is some scope for consolation.

This Bill is unlikely to clear the Lords.

Bliar is on his way out - polling by the FT has narrowed the Lab/Tory gap to 2%.

Even if Neu Arbeit did succeed in their Draconian aims, this country has a habit of turning nastily on leaders that stray, in one way of another.
MrPVRd said:
There is some scope for consolation.

This Bill is unlikely to clear the Lords.

Bliar is on his way out - polling by the FT has narrowed the Lab/Tory gap to 2%.

Even if Neu Arbeit did succeed in their Draconian aims, this country has a habit of turning nastily on leaders that stray, in one way of another.
Let's hope you're right Mr P. In the meantime everyone, just
write habeus corpus on a sheet of paper and place it in an envelope marked

The Labour Party

then drop it in the post. It'll only take a few seconds of your time. Our ancestors deserve no less.
I think Bliar is going to try to use this as a stick to beat the Lords and Tories with over the election, the old "soft on terrorism" bleat. However I think that it is backfiring and people with half a brain (not Scum readers obviously) are beginning to think "What next?".
Unfortunately the scheming lying toads will probably have to release the Belmarsh detainees because they will be unable to get the Bill through and they will then blame all and sundry instead of accepting responsibility that they were pushing through a really cr@p Bill against all legal and political advice!
It's good to see that those of us in the forces (traditionally conservative) know when the government is going too far. By allowing detention without trial and the like (and I know many have said it before) we will be letting the terrorists win. This is the easy way out.
Liberty is an abstract concept that becomes all too real when it disappears.

To trade liberty for safety is the mark of a slave society. Safety is for battery hens but they have no liberty.

I'd rather take my chances out in the open, scratching for my living, along with the chicken hawks and the fox.
I find it absolutely appalling that a man who once praticed law could come up with some of those quotes.

According to some of the statements he made in the House of Commons, one would think that the UK has nevered suffered a terrorist attack before and only by taking away our liberty, will Britain's security be assured!

WTF! I guess nothing really did happen before 1997. The IRA never did manage to plant any bombs in London/Manchester/Brighton/Warrington.

How can we as a society claim to be a liberal democracy, when kangeroo courts can be convenyed on the word of a politican and you can be jailed without even knowing why!

We didn't do this in NI so why do we need to do this now!

What i find most annoying is that apparently the police and Int head sheds think this is a good idea! Can anyone get this confirmed or otherwise!
Makes perfect sense to me!

The safest places to live have always been the places in which the rulers had wide, arbitrary power over the lives and liberties of all they commanded: Khmer Rouge-controlled Cambodia, Red China, Nazi Germany, Zimbabwe, etc.
Not_Whistlin_Dixie said:
Makes perfect sense to me!

The safest places to live have always been the places in which the rulers had wide, arbitrary power over the lives and liberties of all they commanded: Khmer Rouge-controlled Cambodia, Red China, Nazi Germany, Zimbabwe, etc.
:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:
Irony; best applied with a light brush but, in this case, a brickie's trowel does just as well...
:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:
"But there is no greater civil liberty than to live free from terrorist attack. It would be the gravest dereliction of duty to wait until we suffered a terrorist outrage here and only then act."
Surely there is no greater civil liberty that the ability to live in freedom, where that freedom is a right that cannot be removed at the whim of a politician.

I do not love Big Brother :twisted: (yet) :evil:
I don't think for one minute that TB or his govt. wants to use these plans to bang up political opponents, nor will he ever use these proposed powers for anything other than keeping a very close eye on those that are deemed a real terrorist threat. I think his motives are genuine, just OTT. What I don't accept is that 800 years of principle should be thrown out for the sake of a 'percieved' risk. There have been many, many occasions in our history when the risk was real, not perceived, Napoleon and Hitler being two obvious ones. If we didn't allow politicians to throw away the key then, I'm buggered if we should now. It will be the thin end of a very dodgy wedge. No one can say that powers introduced now would not be abused by a government in twenty years time. The safest thing for all our sakes is to make sure no one gets a toe in the door.

Two other points... I'm not sure how much clout Europe has in these matters, but it's perfectly possible that EU human rights leglislation outweighs any national security issues we may have. Also, if the Parliament Act is invoked to force this into law, I can really see the Royal Stamp being denied. Charles and HM were apparently close to kicking the reform of the Lords into touch when that was put before them. I can't see the royals being party to something as undemocratic as giving TB and his grubby gang the power that has been the preserve of the judiciary for nearly a millenium.

Failing that, a coup.... :D
Tony Bleughh said:
It is hard to understand on either of these issues how the extra time for Commons debate that Mr Howard is demanding will make a difference if the disagreements between us are really on the points of principle he claims.
Errm, the point of debating is to allow arguments to be laid out in full, by all eligible parties so that a consensus can be reached. ...and Tony, you would have had time had you exercised a bit of common sense and reigned in your daft backbenchers to prevent them from wasting over 200 fecking hours of parliamentary time on foxhunting. What he is basically alluding to is the fact that he has no intention of this bill being debated effectively. He's going to railroad it through. Churchill must be reaching maximum revs by now.

Tony Bleughh said:
I will continue to do what I believe is necessary to protect our national security. To do so is not being "arrogant", as Mr Howard claims. It is being responsible.
What strikes me is that he uses the word 'I'. No reference to a consensus of opinion nor indeed even to consultation. Just him.

My blood runs cold when I think that his commons majority might enable him to do this. I think we are about to witness the most direct test of party/country loyalty in living memory.

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