Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Combating terrorism - Protection of personal data

Delivered in Plenary - 23rd September 2008

Mr President

I sometimes fear that the fact that this House so frequently debates terrorism reflects a worrying absence of consensus on our response to it. Surely the terrorist atrocities perpetrated over decades around the world, including the recent bomb attack in Islamabad, should have opened our eyes to its true, evil nature and the need to stand resolutely and unequivocally against the existential threat it poses to western democracy and way of life.

I welcome, therefore, EU countries working together to define and inflict heavy criminal penalties on those who incite terrorism. I remember the demonstrations in London that coincided with the publication of cartoons in Denmark depicting the prophet Mohammed. We, of course, are proud in Europe of our rights to free speech and expression, and protesters carrying placards calling for the beheading of those who insult Islam clearly crossed the boundary between free speech and hate speech inciting violence.

In the UK we have recently been debating limits on pre-trial detention without charge on suspicion of involvement in terrorism. I am personally of the opinion that we need to give the police and security services the resources they need to protect our citizens, subject, of course, to rigid legal safeguards.

That is certainly what most people in my country and the rest of Europe want, according to opinion polls. Furthermore, with regard to data retention, I am often dismayed at the way this House takes such an absolutist rather than a balanced approach to civil liberties. Again, provided there are clear safeguarding rules in place on how the information is shared, we need to support our law enforcement authorities.

Finally, the EU should place Hezbollah on the list of proscribed terrorist organisations. Not to have done so in the past in the face of prima facie evidence demonstrates an apparent lack of EU resolve that is giving succour to those who would destroy our way of life in a democracy.