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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 November, 2004, 18:42 GMT
Blunkett denies exploiting terror
Armed police at Heathrow airport
Armed police were deployed at Heathrow in 2001 amid terror fears
Home Secretary David Blunkett has denied playing party politics with the threat of terrorism.

He made the comments after opposition MPs criticised Commons leader Peter Hain for claiming Britain was safer under a Labour government.

The Liberal Democrats branded Mr Hain's comments "disgusting", while the Tories said they were "extraordinary".

On a visit to Liverpool, Mr Blunkett said: "None of us believe countering terrorism is about party politics."

Neither he nor Mr Hain advocated using the terror threat for political gain, he argued.

'Measures opposed'

Mr Blunkett said: "Peter was making the point that we have doubled the capacity of the security services, that we have invested heavily in the development of the Special Branch Anti-Terrorist Unit, that we have put over 2bn in the last three years into counter-terrorism and that we are developing the electronic border surveillance and identity cards."

Mr Hain sparked the row on Tuesday when he told BBC News: "If we are tough on crime and on terrorism, as Labour is, then I think Britain will be safer under Labour."

The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats opposed many of the government's measures against terrorism, he said.

KEY MEASURES
ID cards
Creating Serious Organised Crime Agency
Drug tests for minor offenders
Offering schools more freedom
EU constitution referendum rules

His words followed a Queen's Speech dominated by measures to improve security, fight terror and crime.

Conservative shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the comments were at odds with Tony Blair's promise to focus on domestic issues.

He also suggested the comments could be seen as a challenge to terrorists.

He said: "He's trying to raise the whole question of terrorism again in order to scaremonger. He obviously has no confidence in his domestic programme.

"He's trying to raise the ante on terrorism. He's trying to create a climate of fear in this country, which I think is a very dangerous thing to do.

"It is an irresponsible thing to do. He's playing party politics with an issue that is above and beyond party politics."

Climate of fear?

Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell also called on Mr Hain to withdraw his "offensive" claim and rejected the assertion that opposing security measures was being "soft" on terrorism.

"We do not regard it as acceptable that those of us who regard it as our duty to challenge any legislation which may have the effect of detracting from the civil rights and individual liberties if any citizen if the UK should be traduced in this way," he said.

Peter Hain is a highly ambitious politician, with a reputation for speaking his mind

Trust

Ex-chief constable and government drugs tsar Keith Hellawell predicted the comments would anger the security services.

He suggested the Iraq war had heightened the terrorism threat.

"There is a degree of irony when we have a government which is saying vote for us and we are the best people and we will keep you the safest when they are to some degree the cause of some of the threat we are now under," he said.

Ministers instead stress the US terror attacks preceded the conflict.

Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, former chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, says good work had been done on preventing terrorism but there could be no guarantee against attacks.

She warned: "What we need in society is trust and trust means you do not try to gain political advantage out of a very serious issue."




The Queen's Speech 2004

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