Brown defends anti-terror crackdown

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Indy Politics

Chancellor Gordon Brown today mounted a vigorous defence of controversial Government plans to tackle terrorism.

Mr Brown insisted ID cards and establishing a new offence of glorifying terrorism would help make Britain a safer place.

The Chancellor also said police should be given the power to detain terror suspects without charge for longer.

In a major speech at the Royal United Services Institute in London, Mr Brown said: "Every day and without fail we will do what is right to protect the security and liberties of our citizens and country and in the face of global terrorism we will prevail."

Mr Brown said the first responsibility of a government was to protect its citizens.

He warned that as the country moved on from the July 7 attacks, people's guard could drop. But he said the nation could not afford to lessen its commitment to "tough and necessary" security measures.

"I want to remind the country that the terrorist threat has not diminished and will not diminish until we defeat it," he said.

The Government's independent reviewer of anti-terror laws has said compulsory ID cards would have only "limited value" in the fight against terrorism.

But Mr Brown insisted they would help disrupt terrorists and criminals travelling on stolen identities as well as helping tackle identity fraud, which costs Britain £1.7 billion a year.

He said terror suspects frequently used multiple identities. He said one September 11 hijacker had used 30 false identities and police and security chiefs saw ID cards as a valuable tool.

Mr Brown said biometrics are being used across the world and would soon be used in banks and supermarkets. He said it made sense to extend it from the private sector to a national scheme including an ID card.

And he dismissed claims that they would change the relationship between the state and the individual. He said Britain had had a national identity register for years in the National Insurance system, but ID cards would be more secure.

He said as long as civil liberty safeguards were built into the system, opponents had nothing to worry about.

"Would most people not agree that if there are acceptable safeguards to protect civil liberties, there are advantages in a national identity scheme that could not just help us disrupt terrorists and criminals travelling on forged or stolen identities - but more fundamentally, protect each citizen's identity and prevent it being forged or stolen?" he said.

Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokesman denied that Mr Brown was straying off his Treasury brief by discussing security and terrorism.

"It's perfectly natural for the Chancellor to speak on these kinds of issues," he said.

"The response to terrorism is not a matter limited to one department, but is across government.

"It's important that the public sees that the Government is united in implementing its manifesto commitments. That's what the Chancellor's speech is about."

The Government is also facing a crucial test this week of its plans for a new offence of glorifying terrorism.

Mr Brown pointed to the more extreme protests over the publication of the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad to back the Government's case.

"We need look no further than the incidents in London, with posters glorifying terrorism - which shocked the country - to see that the authorities might benefit from a clearer framework to intervene quickly when boundaries are crossed," he said.

Mr Brown said no one should be allowed to celebrate the London terror attacks "and walk away from the consequences".

"If we withdraw glorification from the definition of indirect incitement or from the grounds for proscribing organisations, this would send a signal that we could not reach a consensus on how serious this issue is," he said.

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