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Friday, 7 December, 2001, 17:39 GMT
Blunkett accuses peers of sabotage
Police in foreground, with World Trade Center wreckage behind
Home Secretary David Blunkett has accused opposition peers of "deliberate sabotage" over the series of House of Lords defeats for his anti-terror plans.

Both Mr Blunkett and Downing Street say opponents of the legislation are being "naive" in the face of the "continuing terrorist threat".


There were committing sabotage on the bill

David Blunkett
Home Secretary
In a bullish message to peers which sets the scene for further showdowns, Mr Blunkett said he would ask the Commons to reverse the changes made by the Lords.

Opposition parties say the plans go "far beyond" the fight against terrorism and would affect the privacy and liberty of ordinary citizens.

As a parliamentary clash of wills loomed, the spokesman said opponents of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill have to come up with an alternative and justify their position.

Opposition unity

Both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats say they are in favour of new anti-terror legislation but cannot accept what is being proposed.

Mr Blunkett said the government was ready to listen to sensible proposals for change but he showed no sign of backing down on the most controversial points.

Mr Blunkett told BBC Radio 4's World At One programme: "They are naive if they believe that the terrorists simply declare themselves as terrorists not as organised international criminals as well."

Paul Tyler, Liberal Democrat spokesman
Lib Dem spokesman Paul Tyler says ministers cannot ignore the Lords' scrutiny
"God willing" there would not be a terror attack on the UK over Christmas because those who said there was not a risk had not seen the security and intelligence information, he continued.

"That information tells us that because of our alliance quite rightly with the United States and because of our vulnerability we are at risk."

Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokesman said the public believed the authorities should do everything they could to prevent more terror attacks.

Meanwhile, the police wanted the practical support offered by the bill - "not just warm words", he went on.

There are two days of Lords scrutiny still to go and a clash of wills looms when ministers will try overturn the defeats in the Commons before the bill returns again to the Lords.

Public battle

In their determination to see the legislation on the statute book by Christmas, ministers are set to wage a battle for public opinion over the next week.

Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith will be asked to reconcile his support for the government's war on terror with allowing his party's peers to "wreck" parts of the bill.

That charge was rejected by shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin, who argued peers were not causing trouble but trying to change a bill that was drawn too widely.

"What we do not want to see is all sorts of things hung on it as if it was a Christmas tree," said Mr Letwin.

The Tories would help the speedy passage of the plans once they were brought back to their supposed aim of countering terror, he added.

'Think again'

Such defence of the defeats was reinforced by Lib Dem Commons spokesman Paul Tyler, who said Mr Blunkett could not ignore scrutiny of his "rag bag" bill.

"In all parties, let alone amongst the judiciary, there are widespread misgivings at the indiscriminate way in which this legislation has been thrown together.

"If the government really wants to get a bill on the statute book before Christmas, they must think again."

A series of five defeats were inflicted on the government on Thursday night when peers voted to restrict the disclosure of certain personal and financial information to the police and security services.

They later inflicted two further defeats over proposals to allow the detention without trial of terrorist suspects.

Amendments were passed to allow judicial review for those detained under the power and scrap a British opt-out from Article 5 of the Convention on Human Rights, needed for detention without trial to become law.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Home Secretary David Blunkett
"This was a deliberate sabotage"
Home Office minister Lord Rooker
"We will listen to what people have to say"
Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, Labour peer
"We do not need this new law"
See also:

07 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Defeats threaten terror consensus
06 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Anti-terror defeats for government
06 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Peers and MPs battle over terror bill
29 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Head-to-head: Anti-terror Laws
26 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Religious hatred law survives
13 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Terror laws at-a-glance
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