Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/489/2459
Stop and question
A dangerous kite to fly
NEW LABOUR'S departing Home Secretary John Reid has flagged up the possibility of introducing a new law giving the police unprecedented powers to 'stop and question' anyone in Britain. The law, based on Northern Ireland legislation, would be even more draconian than the current 'stop and search' measures.
At present, under the 2000 Terrorism Act, police can challenge people, whether or not they are suspected of breaking the law, in areas considered at risk of terrorist attack, such as Westminster and around political party conference meetings. The new law would give police an automatic right to question anyone anywhere about suspected terrorism.
But such intrusive laws do not reduce the threat of terrorism that has increased mainly as a result of New Labour's Iraq policy. Only 1% of people arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, brought in throughout Britain against the IRA in the 1970s, were convicted of any crime. The 'anti-terror' legislation brought in after the 9/11 and 7/7 bombings has a similarly low 'success' rate.
The vastly increased 'stops' under existing legislation have led to very few charges and most of those on non-terrorist issues. These new proposals would instead alienate more people, particularly Muslims, and would fail to stop the threat of terrorism.
It brings back memories too of the infamous 'SUS' (suspicion) laws that were jettisoned after the police used the legislation to arrest hundreds of people, mainly in black communities. These led to protests and rioting in the 1980s.
New Labour are flying a dangerous kite to see whether the climate of opinion would allow for 'toughening up' the laws even further. Don't let Reid and Co. strengthen repression. The trade union movement must campaign against repressive laws that will in the end be used against trade union and workers' struggles.
In The Socialist 31 May 2007:
G8 Summit protests
Socialist Party campaigns
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party feature
War and terrorism
Marxist analysis: history
Socialist Party LBGT
Socialist Party workplace news