Clarke defends terror plans
Matthew Tempest in Brighton, The Guardian, September 27, 2005
Charles Clarke today insisted he would press ahead with a controversial plan to make « glorifying » terrorism a criminal offence, but was more reticent on another contentious proposal to allow police to hold terror suspects for three months without charge.
The home secretary, speaking at the Labour conference in Brighton, also promised his party that every household would know the name and email of their local police officer within three years as part of a plan to tackle antisocial behaviour and « a lack of respect » in communities.
Mr Clarke told delegates at the party’s annual gathering: « The deliberate glorification of terror as a political strategy is not acceptable and we will outlaw it. »
But, on the length of time police would be able to detain suspects, he said merely: « We will allow the police and security services the time and ability they need to defeat terrorist networks. »
Last week the Liberal Democrats vowed to oppose any move to extend the time terror suspects can be held without charge from the current two weeks to the three months demanded by the police.
The plan could still be defeated when the government’s planned anti-terrorism bill gets to the House of Lords, where the government does not have a majority.
It is suspected Mr Clarke has his own reservations about what Amnesty International has called « internment in all but name » and some have speculated that he may still try to barter down the police demand, even though it has the backing of the prime minister.
Mr Clarke reiterated the government’s determination to push forward with banning the « glorification » of terrorism, despite concerns on how such a law could be drafted to deal with problems such as defining terrorism.
He admitted his plans for ID cards – on which, some have suggested, the prime minister is more keen than Mr Clarke – were controversial even within the Labour movement.
He said: « ID cards are controversial, of course, even within our movement, but we all need to understand that we already live in a society where there are enormous databanks of information about all of us whether held by financial institutions, employers, passports and driving licences, health and education authorities or criminal justice agencies. »
Mr Clarke took on human rights concerns about the possible deportation of terror suspects to countries where they might face torture. He defended government plans to conclude « memorandums of understanding » with countries such as Algeria and Egypt, and said the right to be protected from indiscriminate terrorism was « at least as important as the right of the terrorist to be protected from torture and ill-treatment ».
He said: « The threat of terrorism is real and it is here.
« It needs to be challenged with every weapon at our disposal. No one can just close their eyes and hope it goes away. »
He denied that government policy could be changed to « remove our society from the firing line ».
The terrorists’ « nihilism » meant that the UK would only cease to be a target if « we were to renounce all those values of freedom and liberty which this party and so many more have fought to extend over decades ».
The home secretary warned: « We face an extremism that knows no bounds, a hatred unfettered by compassion or by the understanding of the worth of human life.
« In the face of this threat, we must act to defend our values, both by tough measures to confront terrorism directly and by policies to remove the extremism that fosters it. »