Copyright 2004 Associated Newspapers Ltd.
Mail on Sunday (London)
November 28, 2004
SECTION: FB; Pg. 9
HEADLINE: MPs were misled in terror law row
BYLINE: JASON LEWIS
DAVID Blunkett has admitted he misled Parliament to justify the use of anti-terror laws against Iraq war protesters.
The Home Secretary was forced to withdraw claims that demonstrators armed with 'cudgels and swords' converged on RAF Fairford, from where B52 bombers targeted Saddam Hussein's regime.
Hundreds of people were searched, detained or sent home by police as they tried to vent their anger outside the Gloucestershire base in March 2003.
At the time Mr Blunkett told MPs he 'entirely supported' police actions at Fairford. Anti-terror measures were used to 'prevent people with potentially dangerous weapons... from achieving their goals,' he said. The Home Secretary claimed there was a threat to the base and to the American aircraft taking off from there.
Now, in a unnoticed Commons written answer, he says that police acting under the anti-terror powers found no 'cudgels'. The admission puts the Home Secretary's future use of the far-reaching powers in serious doubt.
Human rights group Liberty called for an apology. A spokesman said: 'We will be studying Mr Blunkett's comments carefully. The Government is using these powers, brought in to protect us from terrorists, against ordinary lawabiding citizens.
'It is possible that people who were stopped and searched under these powers could bring actions against the Home Secretary.' Jesse Schust, one of 120 protesters on coaches turned away from Fairford, said: 'His lack of care in the use of these laws discredits them and puts us all at risk.' The police action has already been declared unlawful by the High Court, although the Appeal Court is due to rule on its review of the case early next month.
Yesterday sources close to Mr Blunkett said the use of anti-terror laws at Fairford were justified because the police and security services believed there was a 'genuine threat'.