Wed, Jul 20, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Home Secretary secures support on terror laws

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

British Home Secretary Charles Clarke won backing on Monday from the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats to get his new anti-terror laws on to the statute book by the end of the year.

The deal was reached after an hour of talks at the Home Office during which it was agreed to set aside the renewal of the controversial "control orders" on terror suspects until the new year.

The opposition parties also agreed not to press for the introduction of phone-tap evidence in terrorist cases in this package of measures.

In return the home secretary agreed to look again at the language in his newly proposed offence of "indirect incitement to terrorism" and to clarify exactly who it is designed to catch.

The package also includes a new law clamping down on terrorist training camps and the creation of a new offence of planning a terrorist act.

It is expected the legislation will be published in draft in September and could now reach the statute book by December.

"We believe that this is the right way to go and we believe that it will enable us to address the threat we face with a unity and determination which is critical," Clarke said, with the Conservative spokesman, David Davis, and the Liberal Democrats' Mark Oaten by his side.

Davis said he welcomed the government's decision to accept his proposal to "decouple" the renewal of the controversial control orders on terror suspects and promised the Conservatives would ensure an easy passage for the legislation.

Oaten said he supported in principle the new offences of "acts preparatory to terrorism" and the measures to tackle the training of terrorists.

He said that following the London bombings it was vital for the three parties to reach consensus on anti-terror legislation.

The decision to put to one side the controversial issue of control orders means that the government has avoided a rerun of the divisive debate that dominated parliament earlier this year.

The control orders, which the government has promised to review, give the home secretary the power to order that a terror suspect should be tagged and tracked and kept under surveillance, up to and including being put under house arrest.

The politicians have now agreed to wait until December for a report by the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Carlile on the first year's operation of the control orders before they decide on their future.

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