Wed, Oct 11, 2006 - Page 7 News List

UK minister calls for new powers

TACKLING TERROR FINANCE To reassure the public the new executive tools will be used properly, Treasury will set out proposals for much greater parliamentary scrutiny

AGENCIES , LONDON

British Metropolitan Police officers scuffle with anti-war protesters on Parliament Square in central London yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown was scheduled yesterday to call for new powers to fight the funding of terrorism that could allow the government to freeze assets using covert intelligence for the first time.

In a speech aimed at bolstering his credentials as a future prime minister, Brown would also touch on issues from North Korea's missile test to the battle for hearts and minds within Islamic communities in Britain.

Brown would outline new government proposals designed to stop funds reaching anyone in Britain suspected of involvement in terrorist plots, a government source said.

Treasury minister Ed Balls was scheduled to brief parliament on the proposals yesterday.

The proposed new powers will involve controlling access to benefits and, more controversially, using covert intelligence to freeze assets pre-emptively.

Only publicly available material can now be used as a justification for freezing assets and a toughening of legislation could draw criticism from human rights groups.

"It's very important that we respect the rights of the individuals, the role of the courts and the role of parliament," Balls told BBC radio. "But at the same time, we've got to be able to act when we can see there's a problem developing."

To reassure the public the new powers are being properly used, the Treasury will set out proposals for much greater parliamentary scrutiny of its actions.

The government has tightened laws to clamp down on militant groups since four British Islamist suicide bombers killed 52 people on London's transport network on July 7 last year.

Brown will say he still believes police should have the power to detain terrorist suspects without charge for longer than 28 days.

In related news, Britain will announce a pay rise on Tuesday for soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan as recognition for the ferocity of the fighting there.

Government sources called accurate a report in the Sun newspaper that soldiers would be given a special bonus to cover their tax bills when they returned from war.

The British commander of NATO troops in Afghanistan has described the fighting there this year as the toughest British forces have faced since the Korean War 50 years ago.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said Defence Secretary Des Browne would cover the issue of soldiers' pay in a statement to parliament.

"The work that the troops are doing in Afghanistan is vital for the world's security" Blair said.

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