Brown plans tougher counter-terrorism law

Other News Materials 7 November 2007 03:01 (UTC +04:00)

Prime Minister Gordon Brown unveiled proposals on Tuesday to toughen anti-terrorism measures and address a crippling housing shortage in a new policy platform meant to revive his ruling Labour Party.

"This is a legislative programme that takes the next step forward for a stronger, fairer Britain," Brown told parliament after the Queen announced his first legislative slate at a colourful ceremony drawing on centuries of tradition.

But the Conservatives and at least one legislator from Brown's own party accused the prime minister of failing to deliver a vision of where he wants to take Britain.

Brown, who took over from Tony Blair in June, has been forced onto the defensive since he pulled back from calling an early election last month following a surge in the Conservatives' popularity.

That led to grumbling among some Labour insiders that the party is stuck in a rut after a decade in power.

Brown's programme includes a plan to build 3 million houses to tackle a housing shortage and a climate change law -- the first in the world, according to Brown -- that aims to cut carbon emissions by 60 percent from 1990 levels by 2050.

The government also announced plans for a shakeup of the framework for dealing with banks in financial difficulties and for protecting bank deposits.

The failings of the existing system were cruelly exposed in September when mortgage lender Northern Rock suffered Britain's first bank run in more than a century.

The government promised a law to ensure people stay in education or training until 18, rather than 16 today.

The annual state opening of parliament is laden with pomp and ceremony. The Queen arrived in a gilded horse-drawn carriage to address lawmakers, some clad in red and ermine robes.

Conservative leader David Cameron later launched a stinging attack on Brown, saying he could not deliver change for Britain.

"People are beginning to wonder what is the point of this government, just where is the prime minister's vision for Britain?" Cameron asked as his supporters roared him on.

Left-wing Labour legislator John McDonnell said Brown's legislative slate "has failed to lift morale among Labour supporters because it isn't providing any clear direction."

Labour built a strong poll lead over the Conservatives in Brown's first months in power but has since dropped back. A poll in The Times on Tuesday showed Labour a point ahead but another survey last week showed the party trailing by five points.

A key plank of Brown's programme will be a new law allowing police to continue questioning terrorism suspects after they have been charged -- something they may only do now in limited circumstances.

The government also plans to introduce a foreign travel order that may be used to ban people convicted of terrorism offences from travelling overseas.

The government said it was considering its options on extending the period that suspects in terrorism cases may be held without charge -- but did not propose a specific period.

Parliament blocked Blair's plan to extend the pre-charge detention period in terrorism cases to 90 days from 14 in November 2005, compromising on 28 days. Police Minister Tony McNulty has indicated Brown wants to extend this to 56 days. ( Reuters )