Brown announces unified border force
By staff and agencies
Last Updated: 2:25am BST 26/07/2007
Gordon Brown has announced plans to set up the UK's first unified border force as part of his new terror strategy.
Officers from the Border and Immigration Agency, Revenue and Customs and UKVisas will be brought together, creating a single checkpoint for travellers at ports and airports.
The Prime Minister also announced consultation on doubling the time police can hold terror suspects to 56 days, and on an alternative proposal which would allow a maximum of 58 days pre-charge detention.
Mr Brown told the Commons in a major statement on security: “To strengthen the powers and surveillance capabilities of our border guards and security officers, we will now integrate the vital work of the Border and Immigration Agency, Customs and UKVisas overseas.
“At the main points of entry to the UK we will establish a unified border force.”
The Cabinet Secretary has been asked to report on plans for implementing the proposal by October, and also on whether there is a case to go further, Mr Brown added.
The PM also gave his backing to the development of the controversial ID card scheme.
Mr Brown this morning challenged David Cameron to “put party politics aside” and act in the national interest to strengthen police powers.
But a Conservative spokesman said the party regarded increasing the 28 day limit as a “distraction” and ID cards as “a fraudster's dream”.
David Davis, the shadow home secretary, has suggested that the Conservatives will maintain their opposition to increasing the limit – insisting such a move risked alienating local communities and “driving young Muslim males into the arms of extremists”.
A Conservative spokesman added this morning that the Government could use existing legislation to hold terror suspects for up to 58 days.
He said: “We have an alternative proposal – in the event of a national emergency the Government can give police the power to detain suspects for an extra 30 days, on top of the 28 day limit, under the Civil Contingencies Act.”
Given these existing powers, he said the evidence was that 28 days was “enough”.
Last night Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, teed-up the debate on detention without trial by saying there was now evidence to go beyond the 28-day limit.
She told MPs new developments including the attempted suicide bombings of a London nightclub and Glasgow Airport, and a growing number of suspects being looked at by police, made it legitimate to reconsider the issue.
Her position contradicts that of her predecessor, John Reid, who said earlier this year he had not seen evidence which showed it was necessary to extend the 28-day limit.