UK passes anti-terror law
LONDON, England -- The British Government has finally passed its emergency anti-terrorist legislation but only after being forced to ditch a key element of the bill.
The upper chamber, the House of Lords, inflicted bruising defeats on the government during the passage of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill because of concerns about freedom of speech.
Home Secretary David Blunkett was forced to abandon the controversial attempt to make a new criminal offence of inciting religious hatred, in order to get the bill onto the statute books before Christmas.
The House of Lords finally passed the bill -- which includes powers to intern overseas terrorist suspects without trial -- shortly after midnight, having earlier in the evening sent it back to the House of Commons for a final time.
The peers had again underlined their determination to oppose the religious incitement provision, rejecting it by 234 votes to 121, after it had been reinstated in the bill by the Commons on Wednesday.
Blunkett decided to back down in order to get the bill approved despite the government having said it was determined to get it through in full.
Blunkett said: "My instincts are that people would never forgive us if we were engaged at this stage in party political wrangles."
Despite a number of other concessions agreed with shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin, the Home Office insisted that it had left the bill largely intact.
The changes were welcomed by the opposition Conservatives.
Letwin said: "We backed the need for emergency legislation throughout, but we were deeply concerned about those aspects of the bill which bore little or no relation to the terrorist crisis and which undermined fundamental civil liberties."
The anti-racist provision had been introduced by Blunkett following pressure from Muslim groups who had seen a rise in the number of attacks on Muslims in Britain following the September 11 attacks in the United States.
The government also offered another concession, limiting new powers in the bill for the police and security services to look through confidential records.
UK MPs vote for anti-terror bill
November 20, 2001
Prodi calls for EU unity on terror
November 15, 2001
Germany tightens security net
October 28, 2001
France toughens antiterror laws
November 1, 2001
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