UK Making Waves with Anti-Terror Legislation | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 13.12.2001
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UK Making Waves with Anti-Terror Legislation

UK Home Secretary David Blunkett has told his political opponents the country is still at risk and needs his new anti-terror legislation. His political opponents, however, believe his proposals go too far.

The House of Lords isn’t exactly known for its progressive stance. This is not surprising perhaps, in view of the conservative majority that dominates the upper chamber of the British parliament.

One could be excused for assuming that progressive policies are more likely to surface in the House of Commons, where the more liberal Labour Party under prime minister Tony Blair has an overwhelming majority.

But when a Labour Party home secretary is as concerned for the security of the land as is David Blunkett, those trusted old points of reference can become a little confusing –especially when the conservatives in the Lords sees themselves bound to take on a role which runs contrary to their image.

To say that the UK’s interior minister has been a little overzealous in his attempts to put together an anti-terror package to deal with the threat is to miss the point. Blunkett has simply told his political opponents the UK is still at risk and needs his new anti-terror legislation.

But it seems he has gone too far with his proposals – so far that the traditionally conservative House of Lords feels compelled to challenge the bill because it infringes civil liberties to a point that even the conservatives find hard to swallow.

Proposals to give the home secretary powers to lock up foreigners who cannot be deported is widely regarded as the most contentious issue of the bill. It undermines the Magna Carta dating back to 1215 as well as European Convention on Human Rights, which is why the UK has to opt out of that part of the Convention.

No other country in Europe has been prepared to go that far in dealing with the potential threat of terrorism.

The House of Lords sought to soften it up, tacking on ten amendment proposals.

Now it goes back to the Commons, where Blunkett, the home secretary is likely to make some concessions to the anti-terror legislation.

The Lords cannot topple the bill, but they can hold up proceedings, delaying it becoming law before the EU anti-terror summit in Belgium on the weekend. Compromise, therefore, is the order of the day.