Labour's Andy Burnham warns anti-terror measures could fuel 'resentment and division'

The opposition says it will support proportionate measures but urges the Government to tread softly

The shadow home secretary struck a cautious tone
The shadow home secretary struck a cautious tone

Labour will support “reasonable and proportionate” surveillance and counter-terrorism legislation but reject proposals if they are too heavy handed, Andy Burnham has said.

The shadow home secretary warned that the wrong approach by the Government on the issue could fuel “resentment, division and a sense of victimisation” among groups who felt they were targeted.

David Cameron today unveiled plans to prevent people convicted of terror and extremism offences from working with children – which the government says will prevent youth “radicalisation”.

Parents will also be able to ask for their child’s passport to be cancelled if they fear they are at risk from radicalisation.

“We will always support measures that are reasonable, proportionate and evidence-based. But we have a job to ensure that, in this difficult area, the government gets the balance right and doesn’t go beyond that,” Mr Burnham said.

“The PM needs to take care to make sure the measures are not heavy-handed. If he’s not careful, they could have the opposite effect and fuel resentment, division and a sense of victimisation. The government must proceed with the utmost caution and Labour will watch carefully to ensure the correct balance is achieved.”

The shadow home secretary also called on David Cameron to row back on a previous suggestion that the Muslim community “quietly condones” extremism, arguing that the PM “should be building bridges with the Muslim community not destroying them”.

Mr Burnham’s comments appear to mark a change of approach in Labour to civil liberties issues under its new leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The party has previously promoted and backed illiberal legislation and raised few concerns about civil liberties, which were famously described by the party’s former home secretary David Blunkett as “airy fairy”.

Mr Corbyn himself has however a long record of opposing such measures.

The move is significant because the Government has previously faced problems passing counter-terror legislation, such as the so-called Snooper’s Charter, after objections from liberal-minded Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

With a Government majority of only 12 seats, it is not out of the question that Labour will hold the balance of power in future votes on such issues.

In a speech today David Cameron will full outline the measures the Government wishes to adopt.

“We know that extremism is really a symptom. Ideology is the root cause. But the stakes are rising and that demands a new approach. So we have a choice – do we choose to turn a blind eye or do we choose to get out there and make the case for our British values,” Mr Cameron will say.

“The government’s new counter-extremism strategy is a clear signal of the choice we have made to take on this poisonous ideology with resolve, determination and the goal of a building a greater Britain.”

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