Terror laws face easy ride in climate of cooperation
July 14, 2005
The Government’s plans for new anti-terror laws against people who encourage terrorist acts today seemed set for a smooth passage after the Conservatives indicated that they would back them.
The shock of the London bombings has injected a new spirit of co-operation, after the Government’s last attempts to tighten anti-terror laws were ditched in disarray before the election.
Tony Blair told Parliament yesterday that he wanted to introduce laws to target people who "glorify or endorse" acts of terrorism, and those who instigate or prepare such actions. Those convicted could be excluded from Britain or even deported.
The Government originally planned to begin talks about an anti-terrorism Bill in the autumn, but yesterdax’s initiative suggests it is preparing to move much more swiftly.
The issue of what would constitute the offence of "glorifying" or "endorsing" terrorism is expected to prove tricky. Human rights campaigners have already expressed their intention to challenge any ambiguous language in the Bill.
Michael Howard, the Conservative leader, today suggested that the new measures – which have proved controversial in earlier incarnations – would be given full support from the opposition.
Labour has already harnessed solidarity in Europe to pass measures which will force mobile phone operators and internet service providers (ISPs) to log details of all emails, text messages and telephone calls made by for up to a year. The proposal had earlier been unanimuosly vetoed by the EU citing fears it was a breach of human rights legislation.
Mr Blair has told the Commons that the Government would look carefully at action against those "who incite such hatred in our community . . . this is one of the things we should look at in the next few months".
In the meantime, the Prime Minister has called a summit of Islamic and political leaders to work with the Muslim community to help it to drive out extremism. He called for worldwide action to uproot the "evil ideology" and "twisted teachings" that lay behind the terrorists? actions. Britain’s four Muslim MPs have said that their community can no longer live in denial, and must tackle the extremism within it.
The summit will be attended by Mr Blair, Mr Howard, Charles Kennedy and leaders of all sections of the Muslim community.
Mr Howard told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he hoped it would be possible to reach a genuine consensus with Tony Blair over the nation’s legislative response to the bombing. He said that he would support measures to combat terrorism in "this different climate."
He added that the Tories were still keen to see phone-tap and bugging evidence made admissible in court proceedings. He said: "The place for people who commit terrible acts, or who are in any way involved in them, is in prison. That is what we sought to achieve and we will still seek to achieve, and any step which we can take, and we believe that allowing intercept evidence to be used in our courts would help that, we think should be looked at."
An offence of acts preparatory to terrorism is aimed at people helping terrorists, including those providing safe houses and financial backing, and a new crime of "glorifying or condoning" terrorist activity is aimed at extremist clerics.
Ministers are also preparing measures to make sure that imams coming to Britain have a better command of English and understanding of the British way of life.