Campbell: Anti-terror laws will not improve security

The “raft of authoritarian legislation” introduced by the Labour government has done little to improve security, Menzies Campbell has warned.

The Liberal Democrat leader admitted that the “extraordinary threat” posed by international terrorism required a “different balance between our hard won liberties and our security”.

But he warned the reaction to this should not be the “abandonment” of these liberties, arguing that the July 7th bombings had gone ahead despite the existence of several anti-terror laws.

Instead, the government must be aware that its behaviour at home had a major impact on the effectiveness of foreign policy, he said, insisting both should be based on “permanent values”.

“How we act as a nation domestically to tackle threats that have international reach, such as terrorism, has a decisive impact on how we are perceived abroad. This can support or undermine our attempts to influence others,” he said.

Sir Menzies warned the recent “raft of authoritarian legislation that has been passed in the name of security has done nothing to enhance security”. By contrast, the war in Iraq had played a major part in radicalising people against Britain, he suggested.

“In the meantime, our own personal liberties – our personal security from the over-weaning state – have been completely undermined,” the Lib Dem leader continued.

“State control over freedom of speech, over freedom of assembly and movement and over personal information, has been coupled with increased powers for the executive over the legislature. The sum total is a vast reduction in personal autonomy.”

He highlighted as examples the Serious Crime and Police Act, which bans unauthorised protestors from within a kilometre of parliament, the Identity Cards Act and plans to abandon trial by jury in some cases.

“Fundamental and historic liberties are under threat as state control increases. How secure can the individual feel then from state control in this environment?” he asked an audience at the Tom Paine festival in Lewes this lunchtime.

The Lib Dem leader also attacked David Cameron’s call for the Human Rights Act to be scrapped as an “outlandish suggestion”, saying that in a country with no written constitution the law was a necessary guarantee of people’s basic human rights.