Listen to this article
Charles Clarke on Tuesday denied that Labour’s policy on Iraq had provoked July’s attacks on London and vowed to tackle terrorism “head on”.
In his keynote address at Labour’s annual party conference in Brighton, Mr Clarke pledged to defend Britain’s democratic values and a society fostering the “true respect” of individuals, cultures, faiths and races for one another, and denied that government policy could be held responsible for an increased exposure to the threat of terrorism.
“The harsh fact is that those who committed these atrocities believe that it is our democracy itself, our belief in a free economy and a free media, our respect for the place of women through society, our respect for those of all faiths and none, our celebration of a culture of many origins and many parts, our desire for the rule of law which make our society their target,” he said.
Mr Clarke pledged to “retain and strengthen” human rights. But he added: “The right to be protected from the death and destruction caused by indiscriminate terrorism is at least as important as the right of the terrorist to be protected from torture and ill-treatment.”
He outlined a “bold” set of reforms to policing, including local level reforms which would see every community having a dedicated team of named police and community support officers by 2008.
“This is our top policing priority and I am determined that by 2008 every household in the country will know the names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of the community police officers who are directly and personally responsible for their household,” Mr Clarke said.
On immigration and asylum, Mr Clarke said the government’s five-year plan – including the introduction of a immigration points system – was “based on the proposition that we want to encourage legal migration to work and study and that we are proud of our country’s longstanding tradition of offering asylum and refuge from tyranny”.
However, he said, those aims had to be implemented through a transparent and clear system of strict controls to prevent abuses and safeguard national security.
Mr Clarke also argued that the introduction of national identity cards would provide an effective mechanism to tackle crime, reduce identity fraud and improve legitimate access to services, as well as making transactions, such as opening a bank account or claiming a benefit, easier.
“It will not create the Big Brother state, it will help to control it,” he said.