Al-Qaeda 'on streets of Britain' The former head of London's police has said up to 200 "Al-Qaeda trained terrorists" are operating in Britain. Sir John Stevens, who retired from the Metropolitan Police recently, wrote in the News of the World that the threat of attacks was real.
He urged the government to press on with its controversial anti-terrorist legislation as quickly as possible.
Civil rights groups have criticised the government's plans, calling for an end to detention without trial.
They say the principles of justice and human rights are fundamental to British law and should not be lost.
But Sir John said any delay in enacting the legislation would bring "comfort" to al-Qaeda.
He said there were small networks of militants who had been trained by Osama bin Laden and had "spawned and continue to fester" in British towns and cities.
The Prevention of Terrorism Bill would allow authorities to impose curfews or tag suspects, as well as banning them from using telephones or the internet.
"The main opposition to the Bill, it seems to me, is from people who simply haven't understood the brutal reality of the world we live in and the true horror of the terrorism we face," Sir John wrote.
Sir John's comments, which are critical of politicians opposing the proposals, may be seem by some as highly political.
The BBC''s Danny Shaw said: "The language is very strong and may put some people off from the central thrust of what he's saying.
"But what he is saying, quite clearly, is the threat that is faced in the UK at the moment is not understood by people opposing the bill."
Mr Shaw said Sir John had stated the nature of the threat was very different to that
Last December Law Lords ruled that detaining foreign suspects without trial was unlawful, prompting the government to introduce alternative measures before the law changes on 14 March.
He said he had read intelligence on all of the foreign suspects currently being held without trial in prisons isuch as Beklmarsh, and said they should be kept under "lock and key".
Sir John did say he believed it should be down to judges, rather than just for politicians, to decide whether suspects were placed under house arrest.
He said he his hair had been made to "stand on end" reading reports of attacks militants planned to carry out in Britain.
He said the conviction of British-born militants such as Richard Reid and Saajid Badat showed the threat did not just come from overseas.
"The brutal truth is that there are more just like them, as much British citizens as you and I, living here now just waiting to kill and be killed in their awful misguided cause," he wrote.
"I like long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me." - Noel Coward
Posted 08 March 2005 - 11:41 AM
Terror bill faces more opposition
Ministers are facing more opposition in the Lords to their anti-terrorism bill, after a series of defeats was inflicted on the plans by peers on Monday.
One of these, backed by 249 peers to 119, was that any "control orders" issued against terror suspects should only be made by judges, not ministers.
Minister Hazel Blears suggested on BBC Radio 4's Today that the government may be considering making more concessions.
The BBC's Andrew Marr says Tony Blair may have to make a "major retreat".
Twenty Labour peers - including ex-Lord Chancellor Lord Irvine, Mr Blair's boss when he was studying for the Bar - backed the amendment saying judges and not politicians should issue control orders. Former Met police chief Lord Condon also backed it.
The government had wanted only the more serious control orders involving house arrest to be overseen by judges.
Opposition peers now plan to back a "sunset clause" amendment which would see any new law lapse on 30 November.
The prime minister has previously refused to accept such a clause.
The second amendment pushed through on Monday raised the standard of proof for making a control order from "reasonable grounds" for suspicion, to a requirement that the judge must be satisfied on the "balance of probabilities" that it is justified.
The third required a statement by the Director of Public Prosecutions to the court asserting that there was no reasonable prospect of a successful prosecution before an order was made.
The sunset clause amendment was tabled by shadow Lord Chancellor Lord Kingsland.
Lord Kingsland's call was backed by Lib Dem Lord Goodhart, Conservative Lord Newton, and Labour ex-minister Baroness Hayman.
Lord Kingsland said: "The speed with which this legislation is going through this House and has already gone through the Commons, I believe, is evidence enough that we need such a clause on the face of the bill."
However, Home Office minister Baroness Scotland said: "The government's view is that a sunset clause would not be appropriate.
"This bill should not be seen as a very short stopgap."
The Liberal Democrats are planning a series of further amendments, including a ban on the use of evidence from abroad which was obtained under torture.
MPs will get the chance to look again at peers' amendments when the bill returns to the Commons on Wednesday.
In an interview with BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Home Office Minister Ms Blears suggested that the government could be considering further concessions.
"I'm going to be looking at the Lords debate today extremely carefully and looking at the points that have been made to see whether or not there's any room for further agreement here," she said.
But BBC Political Editor Mr Marr said: "It is an extraordinary mess and I think Tony Blair is going to have to make a major retreat."
The government tabled new legislation after the Law Lords ruled in December that current provisions for detention without trial were unlawful.
Current laws expire next Monday, and if some legislation is not in place by then, the 12 or so men held under anti-terror laws in Belmarsh and Woodhill prisons will have to be released.