Comment, Comics and the Contrary.
XX Xxxxxxxxxxxx Xxxxxx
24th February 2005
Charles Clarke MP
The Labour Centre
59 Bethel Street
Dear Mr Clarke,
You are reported by the press as justifying the new anti-terror legislation, which includes provision for house arrest and lesser categories of ‘control orders’ by saying: “I cite only the most recent example in Europe. The Madrid atrocity took place in the Spanish general election campaign. Maybe such things can be possibilities here too. In those circumstances, it’s necessary to be able to take what steps are necessary to stop that happening.”
Citing the example of Madrid raises several important questions. Are you implying that it was the case that the Spanish authorities could have prevented the train bombings of 11th March 2004 had the ability to impose control orders been available? If so, are you implying that the Spanish authorities were wilfully lying when their early statements placed the blame on ETA? Or, if this is not the case, are you implying that control orders will be imposed on a widespread basis on the justification of the low standard of evidence and intelligence that would have allowed the Spanish authorities to ‘control’ not only the ETA suspects that were honestly, if mistakenly fingered, presumably on the basis of poor intelligence, but also the Islamist terrorists, who they claimed not to immediately suspect, but who later emerged as being responsible? If the latter is the case, how many people do you envisage ‘controlling’ in Britain? I ask because, if we are to take Madrid as our case exemplar, as you suggest, I suspect that the net of control orders would have to be cast extraordinarily wide, with significant human rights implications.
Or is it the case that you do not believe that ‘control orders’ would have prevented the Madrid bombings of 3/11/04, and that you have deployed this case as a trump card in the security debate, raising the level of public fear and winning unwarranted support for your proposals? Such a tactic does not belong in democratic debate.
I wonder if he will respond any sooner than Michael Howard. I'm still waiting for an answer to this letter