Five defeats for anti-terror bill
Blair defiant on terror measures
BBC News | March 9, 2005
Tony Blair has dared the Conservatives to vote down his anti-terror bill as he insisted he would not make any further concessions, during heated exchanges.
Mr Blair said his plans were backed by police and security services and he was content to allow voters to judge the issue if the Tories opposed them.
Tory Michael Howard said the PM wanted the bill to fall so he could "pretend" to be the only one tough on terrorism.
Charles Kennedy said Mr Blair should put civil liberties above his pride.
Is he simply saying he would prefer to have no bill at all than one that would last for eight months
Mr Blair said he would not agree to changing the burden of proof for a control order to be imposed from "reasonable suspicion" of involvement with terrorism to "balance of probability".
Neither would he allow the bill to have a clause in it which meant it lapsed in November, he said.
But Mr Howard countered: "Is he simply saying he would prefer to have no bill at all than one that would last for eight months?"
Mr Blair said the security services had told him control orders were needed and that it would be "irresponsible" to go against that advice.
He was content to have the "verdict of the country" on the plans, he said.
Earlier the Home Secretary Charles Clarke outlined concessions he hopes will persuade MPs to back his controversial anti-terror bill in the Commons on Wednesday.
Mr Clarke said he had met Lords' concerns that all control orders should be granted by judges, not ministers.
He also now proposes that the plans be voted on annually by Parliament in the hope that this would meet Lords demands to have the measures revisited in November.
But the Tories and Liberal Democrats both say Mr Clarke has not gone far enough.
The government brought forward the anti-terror bill after the Law Lords ruled against existing measures which allow foreign terror suspects to be held indefinitely in prison without trial.
Those existing powers, under which 10 people are still held, are due to run out on Monday. The government says it wants to replace them with the new anti-terror bill instead of renewing them.
LORDS' DEMANDS INCLUDE:
All control orders should be issued by a judge, not the home secretary
Standard of proof for control order rises from "reasonable grounds" for suspicion, to satisfaction on the "balance of probabilities"
Director of Public Prosecutions must state there is no reasonable prospect of successful prosecution before order is made
Use of evidence against terror suspects obtained under torture abroad prohibited
No additional forms of control order can be created
The legislation will expire on 30 November 2005
The core of the bill is the introduction of control orders for both British and foreign terrorist suspects. They range from tagging to house arrest.
Initially it was proposed that the home secretary would be able to impose control orders, when there was "a reasonable suspicion" that a person was involved with terrorism.
The control orders are intended for cases where it would not be possible to prosecute someone in court - but where intelligence suggested the person posed a terror risk.
Opposition parties have been unhappy with the measures on a number of counts, and the plans suffered a series of defeats in the House of Lords this week.
The key objections were that judges, not politicians, should impose control orders, that the bill should be seen as a temporary measure due to lapse in November, and that the burden of proof should change from "reasonable suspicion" to balance of probabilities.
Mr Clarke says that he now agrees that all control orders should normally be imposed by judges, but indicated he would be able to issue control orders in an emergency - with a judge reviewing it within seven days.
The home secretary also said he believed making the bill annually renewable met the Lords' desire for it to lapse in November.
HAVE YOUR SAY
Those who would sacrifice our much cherished civil liberties in the name of safety deserve neither
Lloyd Evans, Brighton, UK
But he rejected calls for the burden of proof to be changed.
For the Tories, David Davis said: "If we don't use the balance of probabilities we will have control orders on people who are probably not terrorists. If you want a formula for a miscarriage of justice that's it."
The Lib Dems also want the burden of proof to be on the "balance of probabilities" and also for suspects to be told what the charges against them are.
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