Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Blair Faces New Rebel Challenge over Bill on Terror

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Blair Faces New Rebel Challenge over Bill on Terror

Article excerpt

Byline: JOE MURPHY

TONY BLAIR'S authority was being tested again today in a showdown with rebels over new terror laws.

Rebel Labour MPs joined forces with Tories and Liberal Democrats in the Commons to oppose a bid to ban the "glorification" of terrorism.

Government whips seemed confident they would win this afternoon's crunch vote but with Mr Blair's majority stripped to a third of its usual 65.

Nerves were strained by defeats on the religious hatred Bill two weeks ago and on plans to hold terror suspects for 90 days, and by last night's vote to ban smoking in pubs and clubs, in which Labour MPs dumped part of their manifesto.

The row comes as former Cabinet minister Clare Short was criticised for inviting MPs to meet representatives of Hizb-ut-Tahrir in the House of Commons. The radical Islamic group faces a ban once today's Anti-Terror Bill becomes law.

Labour MP Andrew Dismore said: "I think they made their position on free speech pretty clear at the demonstration over the Prophet Mohammed cartoons.

I think Clare Short has lost the plot."

The plan to ban the "glorification" of terror was drawn up in the weeks after the London bombings last year.

MPs backed the plan by a narrow margin of 305 to 289 but it was promptly thrown out by the House of Lords.

Critics say "glorify" is too vague a term and that a new law is not needed if existing legislation is properly enforced.

Downing Street made a last pitch by suggesting the proposed law could have been used against protesters who called for the "massacre" of cartoonists accused of insulting Islam.

But Opposition MPs today charged Mr Blair with creating a "bogus" fight.

Shadow attorney general Dominic Grieve said: "The Prime Minister's determination to restore the word ' glorification' when it is undefined and risks criminalising the legitimate expression of opinion is regrettable and shows a classic belief in spin over substance. …

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