[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 July 2005, 08:49 GMT 09:49 UK
Blair forges anti-terror consensus
By Nick Assinder
Political Correspondent, BBC News website

Tony Blair's previous attempts to find a consensus over anti-terror laws collapsed amid bitter recriminations and party divisions. The London bombings have changed that.

Political leaders back new laws
Home Secretary Charles Clarke has won support from the opposition parties for new laws to be pushed through parliament by the end of the year.

Legislation creating offences of preparing, training for and inciting terror acts will now be put before parliament when MPs return from their summer break in October.

Meanwhile, the debate over highly controversial control orders has also been, temporarily, put to one side.

The prime minister will now underpin that new consensus at meetings with both Tory leader Michael Howard and the Liberal Democrat's Charles Kennedy.

He is also to meet members of the Muslim community and intelligence and police chiefs to hear what changes they believe are necessary, and how soon.

He will repeat his message to the Muslim leaders that they must help combat extremists with deeds as well as words.

Free speech

But, while there is clearly a cross-party will to support any measures that might prove effective, there were reservations about the proposed laws which, presumably, have been addressed.

Charles Clarke
Clarke has laws planned for autumn
For example, the Liberal Democrats were concerned about the way "indirect incitement" might be defined, fearing it could be so wide as to encroach on legitimate free speech.

The Tories, meanwhile, are supporting the proposed new laws but wanted further debate about the possibility of allowing phone tap and other intercept evidence to be used in court.

The fine detail about what is actually being agreed will come later but, for the moment the prime minister has his longed for consensus.

Minor changes

The new laws are on target for the autumn, despite some suggestions they might be pushed through more quickly, although the prime minister has reserved the right to seek swifter action if requested by the police and security services.

Commons security to be tightened
But with the Commons set to rise on Thursday for the long summer break, time is short.

The Commons can always be recalled during the break, although the large amount of building work scheduled for the recess - ironically to tighten security in the palace of Westminster - would make it logistically difficult.

And that is leading many MPs believing that, barring any pressing demands from the security services, it may well be better to let the parliamentary process run to avoid any possibility of ill-thought out or badly drafted legislation from getting onto the statute books.

Perhaps the more difficult task ahead for the prime minister is his attempt, with the Muslim community, to tackle the root cause of the terrorism.

Mr Blair believes Muslim leaders can prove central in combating the "evil ideology" driving the terrorists.

His task is to win action from the community while not appearing to lay the blame for the bombings at its door.


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific