Saturday, April 14, 2007

Labour wants tougher terrorist laws than Tories...

A poll for theIndependent reveals that most Labour MPs want police to be given powers to detain terrorist suspects without charge for longer than the current 28 day maximum - while most Tory MPs want no change or a reduction to 14 days.

It's difficult to see who's softer these days - the LibDems or the 'hug-a-hoodie' Tories.


Brynley said...

This post is a disgrace.

It is not a question of being soft. You can leave that sort of silly talk to The Sun. It is a question of having effective security without destroying the basic freedoms that all our security is supposed to be defending.

fairdealphil said...


Haven't seen what The Sun has to say, but I stand by the post - the poll I posted on clearly shows that most Labour MPs want the 28 days increased, while most Tory MPs want no change or reduced to 14 days...

It seems fair, not a disgrace to describe less than 28 days as a "softer" position than more than 28 days.

I certainly agree with you brynley, that we need to balance the needs of effective security with our "basic freedoms".

It seems to me that it is the first duty of any Government to take every reasonable step to protect its citizens from terrorism.

That is surely the very basic of the freedoms to which you rightly refer.

Of course, Governments can get the balance wrong - as has happened at Guantanamo Bay.

Years in harsh conditions with no trial and no charges is beyond what is reasonable.

I do believe however that the UK plan to increase powers for terror suspects to be held for up to 90 days is very reasonable given the threat.

As I understand the plan, each case would have to be justified every seven days before an experienced judge.

I was very disappointed that our MP John Hayes voted against. From memory, I believe he was whipped by Cameron to vote against, which smacks to me more about political opportunism than what's right for the country.

(And there are other examples of Cameron's Tories taking a "soft" line, particularly voting against crime and anti-social behaviour nmeasures).

When the threat and technology changes, we need to make sure the police and security forces have the tools they need to protect us from the very real threat of terrorism.

As you may have gathered, I'm for an extension of the 28 days.

We can't afford to be "soft" on terror.

Brynley said...

Well, it's not a UK plan, it's a government proposal at this stage.

And it's not helpful to bring the debate about anti-social behaviour in with internment without trial for suspected terrorists.

fairdealphil said...


surely, what we are talking about here is not "internment without trial", but giving the police and security forces the time they need - in a very few cases - to detain people plotting to cause us all harm beyond 28 days.

in these days of computers, internet etc, it seems soft not to extend the time limit beyond 28 days.

i'd rather be absolutely sure detainees are not a terrorist threat before being forced to release them on a 28-day rule.

i can see that you - and most Tory MPs - prefer a softer line in the interests of "basic human rights".

Brynley said...

It is not soft to be canny.

After a month in solitary most people will confess to things they havn't done.

If you can't bring any charges at all after that time, then you clearly don't know much about them and would be better off reading their emails and tapping their conversations.

I didn't know that the Tories were opposed to internment without trial, but if they are then they have clearly learnt something at least from Northern Ireland.

Gregg said...

When the detention period was increased to an unprecedented 14 days in 2003, the reason given was that we faced a new threat and needed this new power to tackle it. This was broadly accepted. When the government attempted to increase it to 90 days in 2005, exactly the same case was made - with exactly the same documents produced. No reason was given for why the increase to 14 days was no longer enough, no change in the nature or capabilities of the threat we face was identifid. After a pitched battle in Parliament, in which over 30 Labour MPs defied a three-line whip, another unprecedented increase to 28 days was settled on as a compromise. (Incidentally, Michael Howard was leader at the time, not David Cameron - that should tell you just how far beyond "hard", into the realm of insanely extreme, 90 days is.)

That was October 2005. And now you think the government should try for 90 days again? What has changed in the past 18 months? (I can tell one thing that's changed: If that poll is right, there are now more Labour MP against 90 days, with over 100 wanting to stick at 28 days or take the limit back down.) What are the police unable to do in the exceptionally long period of 28 days, that they would be able to do in 90 days? The police and security services already have the tools they need and more - 90 days would just be a fishing license, and one far too dangerously open to abuse.

It's not a matter of being "soft" on terror. The whole "soft on" v. "hard on" line is claptrap trotted out by manipulative Tory hacks and the brainless politicians who hang on their every word, and the whole notion is rendered nonsensical when you remember that 14 days was the "hard" position less than four years ago. But, hey, call it soft if you want to. Call it soft, call it rational, call it the only defensible position for a democratic politician to take: Whatever you call it, it's the right stance, even if it's supported by the majority of Tory MPs.

However, just for the sake of argument: If sticking to or reducing the 28 days limit is being "soft" on terror, then why shouldn't we allow the police to detain those suspcted of other crimes, for as long as 14, 28 or 90 days? You say you'd rather be absolutely sure detainees are not a terrorist threat before being forced to release them; wouldn't you also rather be sure that suspected paedophiles are not a threat to children before being forced to release them? Are you soft on child-abuse, Phil?

And why leave it at 90 days? (Incidentally, I'm sure the government won't - if they do resurrect this proposal and get their 90 days, then, based on the record so far, they'll be pushing for a year in 2009, and five years by 2011.) If 28 days isn't enough to be sure someone is innocent, how can 90 days be? Why should we release anyone suspected of any crime until their innocence has been conclusively established?

Even then, while they may have been innocent at the start, once you've deprived them of their liberty for a few months (or years), during which time they'll certainly have lost their job, probably their home and possibly their family, and had their name forever stained as that of a suspected terrorist, there's a jolly good chance they'll be the sort of disaffected and angry person that's a prime candidate for recruitment by terrorists. Could we ever be absolutely certain that such people wouldn't commit acts of terrorism in the future, or facilitate such acts? Wouldn't it be dangerous in the extreme (not to mention very soft) to let them go?

fairdealphil said...

The simple fact is that the police do not believe they have to tools they need to do the job.

That's why the Metropolitan Police Commissioner is calling for a review of the 28-day rule.

The very least MPs should do is listen to the argument.

Gregg said...

The very least MPs should do is listen to the argument.

Absolutely, and I'm certain they will. But they've done this once already, 18 months ago, and came to the conclusion that an extension to 28 days was enough. If there's a new argument, if there's a serious case to be made for extending the term yet again and after so short a time, let it be made, and we'll see what MPs conclude. But characterising this in the terms you chose, and branding those who voted against 90 days as "soft on terrorism", is mendacious, self-defeating and, yes, disgraceful.

Brynley said...

Thank you, Gregg.

fairdealphil said...

maybe i'm going soft, but i still believe that a longer period equals a harder line, a shorter time equals a softer line.