U.K.'s Blair Rejects Call for Probe of London Blasts
Bloomberg | July 11, 2005
U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair rejected a call for an inquiry into the July 7 London bomb blasts, telling lawmakers there wasn't any intelligence that could have enabled police to prevent the attacks.
``Our services and police do a heroic job and as this particular new and awful terrorist threat has grown, they have done their utmost to keep this country and its people safe,'' Blair said in Parliament today.
Last week's three explosions on London's subway system and one on a bus during the morning rush hour killed at least 52 people and injured about 700.
Blair said planned anti-terror laws, scheduled for consideration later this year with a view to introduction early next year, will go ahead on the current timetable.
``If, as the fuller picture about these incidents emerges, it becomes clear that there are powers which the police and intelligence agencies need immediately to combat terrorism,'' Blair said, the legislation would get ``an accelerated timetable.''
Michael Howard, leader of the main opposition Conservative Party, yesterday called for an examination of ``whether anything more could have been done'' to prevent the bombings.
Today, he backed away from that call, asking instead for ``a limited inquiry'' to take place ``in due course.''
Howard has said he will step down this year. David Davis, Conservative Home Affairs spokesman and the bookmakers' favorite to replace Howard, said yesterday that the bombers shouldn't be allowed to split political parties over terrorism issues.
After Blair's statement today, lawmakers in the House of Commons will debate the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill, a piece of legislation designed to extend the current offence of incitement to racial hatred to include vilifying people based on religious belief, bringing all religions under the same level of protection.
Police said yesterday there had been one serious assault on a Muslim following the July 7 attacks. While police haven't confirmed who they believe is responsible for the London bombings, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said last week they bore ``the hallmarks of al-Qaeda.''
Blair's spokesman Tom Kelly today declined to rule out using the religious hatred measures, if they are passed, against Muslim leaders who incite violence against non-Muslims.