Tags: U.K. | Anti-Terror | Proposals | Meet | Resistance

U.K. Anti-Terror Proposals Meet Resistance

Monday, 24 September 2001 12:00 AM

Blunkett said he was "very seriously" considering an ID card system during an interview with the BBC on Sunday.

The home secretary said that at least three anti-terrorism bills would be put before Parliament.

While ID cards may or may not be part of the legislative package, proposals are being drawn up to give the police increased powers of arrest and interrogation and to limit some judicial appeals for immigrants turned back at U.K. airports.

Also under consideration are plans to give authorities greater leeway in monitoring emails and to allow bugged phone conversations to be entered into evidence during trials.

"I'm giving (an ID card system) a fairly high priority in terms of the discussions and the consideration behind the scenes," Blunkett told the BBC's On The Record program. "There are much broader issues about entitlement and citizenship and not merely security."

He turned away from his previous position on voluntary ID cards, saying that such a system" in the present circumstances would not be a great deal of help." Any ID card plan would have to be mandatory, the home secretary said.

The leader of the centrist Liberal Democrats, the U.K.'s burgeoning third party, noted that ID cards have failed to stop terrorism in other European countries, including France, Spain and Italy. Party leader Charles Kennedy said he was concerned about the speed with which such legislation would pass through Parliament.

"The one lesson of British history is that rushed legislation with instinctive all-party agreement proves to be bad legislation," Kennedy said Sunday. "We don't want to see that happen, particularly with critical issues of civil liberties."

Menzies Campbell, foreign affairs spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, questioned whether identity cards would be effective in fighting terrorism.

"Supposing you and I and everyone else in the United Kingdom had had compulsory identification cards on Sept. 10. Are we both satisfied that there would have been no atrocities of the kind that took place in Washington and New York?" Campbell told the BBC.

Blunkett insisted that the government will give proper thought to the ID card issue and will not make a "snap decision" on the matter.

He said that a fingerprint or "iris-print" - an electronic retina scan - could be included in the card to fight forgery. The home secretary said there is no need to immediately recall Parliament to discuss the possible new laws.

"Whatever we do will take time to put through Parliament even with emergency measures," Blunkett said.

Parliament is not scheduled to return to business until Oct. 15. A special session was held three days after the attacks on New York and Washington, however, and it is almost certain that Prime Minister Tony Blair will recall the legislature if U.S. or allied military action begins in Afghanistan.

Blunkett admitted that some of the anti-terrorism legislation might conflict with European human rights law.

"There will be tensions between the European Convention on Human Rights and the necessary protection we seek," he said.

Simon Davies, director of Privacy International and a professor at the London School of Economics, said that citizens on both sides of the Atlantic could be subjected to the increased governmental control that is "inevitable" under an ID card scheme.

"The same thing is happening in the both the U.K. and the U.S.," Davies said. "Legislation is being pushed through in a crisis situation that would never see the light of day in normal times."

He predicts that while ID cards will likely "sail thorough" Parliament if introduced soon, opposition will grow as the events of Sept. 11 fade into history.

"Nobody has yet established why ID cards will stop terrorism," Davies noted. "People are mesmerized now, but that won't be the case a few years from now."

Britain instituted an ID card system during World War II. The system continued after the war was over, however, and was only abolished by a High Court ruling in 1953.

Copyright 2001

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Blunkett said he was very seriously considering an ID card system during an interview with the BBC on Sunday. The home secretary said that at least three anti-terrorism bills would be put before Parliament. While ID cards may or may not be part of the legislative...
U.K.,Anti-Terror,Proposals,Meet,Resistance
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2001-00-24
Monday, 24 September 2001 12:00 AM
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