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The indomitable Lord Tebbit

Tebbit I don't think it'll come as a surprise to anyone, or be considered a breach of confidence, if I reveal that Lord Tebbit often exasperates his successors on the Conservative green benches. But he is to be admired for stating his opinions without fear or favour.

A victim of terrorism, Lord Tebbit spoke out against Conservative policy in a House of Lords debate on the Counter Terrorism Bill. He supported the Government's wish to extend detention without charge to 42 days.

Here's a passage from his speech:

"If the lack of this provision causes the police to fail to prevent a major terrorist outrage, what then? It might mean multiple fatalities, a strike against economically important infrastructure with great consequences, or it might mean that we fail to prevent an outrage as great as the detonation of a dirty nuclear device in a city centre, leaving it uninhabitable for years. We have to take into account that things are changing, that what was unforeseeable a while ago has become terribly foreseeable in terms of the world economy. What was also unforeseeable a while ago is that there is a very weak and potentially bankrupt Government in Pakistan, a country which is a nuclear power with all the dangers that that may bring to us. The weights in the scales are simply disproportionate.

It is very difficult indeed to rectify the injustice which has been done to a dead terrorist victim. Victims have human rights just as much as suspects. Finally, I should say to my noble friends on the Front Bench—to whom it will come as no surprise that I am going to support the Government today—that I do so for one other reason. Let us think about the dilemma if the Government are denied these powers tonight, but at some time in the future a Conservative Administration conclude that they need them. How would that Administration go about coming back to Parliament and asking it to grant those powers? My party might come to rue the day if it wins this vote. So although I find myself in strange company—not least in the company of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, with whom, as he well knows, I do not always agree, and with many Peers on the opposite side of the Chamber with whom I do not often agree—when I vote with the Government tonight it is partly with the thought of protecting my friends in my party from the position in which they may find themselves if they are in government in the reasonably near future."

Lord Tebbit's colleagues defeated the proposals by a majority of 191, and the Government has said it will not now seek to force the issue. David Davis, who fought a by-election on this issue, says he has been vindicated.

Which of these tough customers do you agree with? They're debating it over here on Tory Diary.


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