Reid calls for ‘common effort’ against terrorism

Opposition parties, the media and some aspects of the judiciary “just don’t get” how much of a threat terrorism poses to the UK, the home secretary has argued.

John Reid said the only way to tackle what he described as most serious threat to the country since the second world war was for every section of society to “evolve our thinking for the 21st century”.

“It is up to each and all of us to ask the questions – what price security? At what cost preservation of freedom? What values are at stake? And what is the cost of making the wrong choices?” he warned.

In a keynote speech to the Demos think tank on what is his 96th day in the job, the home secretary also stressed the need for a “mature debate” about one of the major problems in fighting terrorism – mass migration.

“There is greater potential to create wealth and expand opportunities for individuals and national communities, but the volume and speed of movements can also carry insecurity into the heart of our communities,” he said.

Mr Reid continued: “We have to get away from the notion that anyone who wants to talk about immigration is somehow a racist.

“People recognise that migrants can bring great skills to the UK but they also want to be assured that immigration will be properly managed and our public services and benefits systems protected from abuse.”

The home secretary has spent much of his first three months at the Home Office reviewing every aspect of its operation. He has already announced radical overhauls of the criminal justice system and the immigration directorate.

Turning to the issue of national security today, Mr Reid praised his predecessors for the work they had done in entrenching temporary anti-terror law into permanent legislation and introducing measures such as control orders.

He also noted that funding for counter-terrorism had more than doubled from about £200 million to almost £2 billion, and by 2008, the number of people working for MI5 will have doubled on pre-September 11th levels.

But he insisted opposition from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats; from the media; and from the courts, which refuse to allow government to deport terror suspects because it breaches human rights law, made his job “very difficult”.

“When I see and hear all of these things then I sometimes feel that so many people who should be foremost in recognising the serious nature of the threat just don’t get it,” he told the think tank.

“We cannot afford any misunderstanding, in any quarter about the nature and scope of the threat which we are facing.”

He warned the UK’s common security would only be assured by a “common effort” from all sections of society, and warned sacrifices would have to be made.

“Sometimes we may have to modify some our own freedoms in the short term in order to prevent their misuse by those who oppose our fundamental values and would destroy all of our freedoms,” he said.