Leading article: Money alone is not the answer

Share
Related Topics

This week Londoners will mark the fifth anniversary of the 7 July terror attacks, which killed 52 people and injured 750 in the capital. They will do so against the backdrop of a depressing political row about the funding of police operations designed to ensure that Britain never again suffers such an atrocity.

John Yates, the head of counter-terrorism at Scotland Yard, last week claimed that cuts to the police budget – in line with cuts across the rest of the public sector – would put Britain at greater risk of another terror attack. These were private remarks from Mr Yates at the conference of the Association of Police Officers. But the former Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, very publicly agreed with Mr Yates. The Government, said Mr Johnson, will put Britain "in greater peril".

A period of silence on Labour's part when it comes to counter-terrorism would be appropriate. The previous Government's response to the terror threat was a disgrace. Labour's 13 years in power yielded a plethora of draconian new laws and the relentless undermining of our civil liberties. ID cards, new stop-and-search powers, an increase in the pre-charge detention period to 28 days, control orders imposed on the basis of secret and unchallengeable intelligence, the criminalisation of protest in Westminster: whatever the police and intelligence agencies asked for, no matter the cost or the quality of the justification, was delivered up by compliant ministers.

The Government also doggedly resisted proposals to allow the use of intercept evidence in courts which would have increased the number of terror suspects brought to trial and eased the pressure to use draconian instruments such as control orders. Though intercept evidence is routinely used in American courts, ministers insisted that the technical challenges of introducing it here were insurmountable. When challenged on this illiberal agenda, Labour ministers always resorted to citing intelligence evidence on the scale and nature of the terror threat which they – and only they – had seen and which, it was asserted, justified these curbs on public freedoms. And even from opposition, Mr Johnson, seeks to play this populist fear card.

The new Government clearly takes a different view. The Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has criticised Mr Yates for "alarming the public", adding: "I'd like to avoid public servants doing this kind of shroud-waving in public." Certainly, Mr Yates's reported argument that the Government's review of security legislation would hamper the fight against terrorism is nonsense.

But there is no point in denying that the forthcoming budget squeeze is a potential problem when it comes to counter-terrorism. Surveillance of terror suspects is expensive, requiring significant manpower resources. But imposing control orders and installing more CCTV are much cheaper. There is a danger that illiberal methods will be advanced under the imperative of reducing expenditure.

To avoid this drift, there needs to be an elevation of the quality of the debate on terrorism and security. We need a thorough analysis of the cost-effectiveness of various means of protecting the public. We need an honest discussion on the trade-offs between security and liberty. We are also overdue for a political debate about the root causes (rather than just the dire symptoms) of the UK terror threat.

Both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats were impressively thoughtful on such matters in opposition. And we wait to see what their response will be in office. But at the moment this is a discussion to which, sadly, Labour is clearly not yet ready to make a sensible contribution.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Software Developer (Java /C# Programmer)- London

£30000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global investment management fi...

Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CCNP, Cisco, London)

£65000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CC...

Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, Cisco, CISSP)

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, C...

Senior Network Engineer-(Design, Implementation, CCIE)

£60000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(Design, ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letters: The West flounders in the Middle East morass

Independent Voices
David Tennant as Hamlet  

To vote no or not to vote no, that is the question... Although do celebrities really have the answer?

David Lister
All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition