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Tuesday, 11 December, 2001, 15:02 GMT
Terror bill 'will be law this week'
Robin Cook
Cook: 'terror threat remains real'
The Leader of the House of Commons, Robin Cook, says the government is determined that its controversial anti-terrorism bill will become law this week.

What happens now
Third reading in Lords on Tuesday
Returns to Commons later this week
Back to Lords for further debate
Continued opposition from peers could force government to invoke Parliament Act
Mr Cook's comments come despite a second series of defeats for ministers over the bill in the Lords.

The leader of the house insisted the measures would be on the statute book by the time European leaders gathered for a summit in Laeken, near Brussels, at the weekend.

The bill is due to receive its third reading in the Lord's later on Tuesday.

'Threat remains'

In a statement issued by Downing Street, Mr Cook said: "As, three months on, we remember the utter devastation and heartache caused by terrorists on 11 September, we can acknowledge the huge progress that has been made in our effort to defeat the terrorists.

There are welcome signs that the home secretary is moving from bluster to flexibility. This is a very wise move

Lord McNally, Lib Dem home affairs spokesman
"But the threat from terrorism remains a real one.

"If they could, the terrorists would repeat those terrible deeds of 11 September - just as there are those in this country who would use those deeds to justify their own attempts to create disorder here by attacking innocent people.

"The government is determined to do everything it can to prevent any such attacks, which is why this week we will pass the new Anti-Terrorism Bill into law."

Religious hatred

The government has suffered nine defeats during the bill's passage through the Lords, despite a series of compromises on some of the bill's more controversial components.

Home Secretary David Blunkett
Mr Blunkett: giving ground
On Monday, peers approved plans to force the home secretary to renew parts of the legislation every one, two or five years.

They also rejected controversial plans to make incitement to religious hatred a criminal offence.

However, the government avoided defeat over plans to introduce European Union legislation to combat terrorism after Home Secretary David Blunkett agreed to limit its scope.

Lord McNally, Lib Dem home affairs spokesman in the House of Lords, said: "There are welcome signs that the home secretary is moving from bluster to flexibility. This is a very wise move."

He said it was still possible to "deliver a genuine emergency bill which addresses the threat of terrorism, on time and on target," if Mr Blunkett was prepared to see the Lords as an "asset and not as opponents."

'Consensus possible'

Shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin has struck a similarly conciliatory tone, telling BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Tuesday his party did not want to hold up the legislation.

"I am fully convinced that we can have this Bill through well in time for the Christmas break," said Mr Letwin.

"What we're looking for Mr Blunkett to do now is to be statesmanlike, calm down, come to the House of Commons, sit down with the other parties and agree about these things."

Returning to the Commons

Mr Blunkett continues to insist the new laws are essential because the UK is still at risk from terror.

The bill is due to return the Commons later this week, where the government's huge majority should ensure it an easier passage.

The bill will then return to the Lords for a third time.

If peers continue to reject the legislation, the government can invoke the little-used Parliament act to get it on to the statute books.

By that stage, however, the government will probably have failed to make the bill law before the Christmas recess.

See also:

09 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Terror risk still real - Blunkett
07 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Compromise over anti-terror plans
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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