Britain 'permissive environment for terrorists'
By Philip Johnston,
Home Affairs Editor
Labour has let Britain become a “permissive environment” for terrorists and extremists, the Conservative conference heard today.
Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, the shadow security minister, said the country was at high risk of attack today because Government policies had made the nation more vulnerable.
“They have made us less safe than we were in 1997,” she added.
Dame Pauline, a former diplomat and one-time head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, said: “We live in an unquiet world and it is getting more dangerous.”
She added: “Labour failed to take precautions at home that its policies abroad demanded. The Blair-Brown government has damaged our international reputation, overstretched our Armed Forces ands weakened the cohesion of the country.”
Dame Pauline said international terrorism was the most serious threat to the UK but that this country was also exporting terrorists to other countries.
Several British nationals have been involved in attacks on overseas targets, including Richard Reid, the so-called shoe bomber.
“It”s appalling that one of the oldest and greatest democracies in the world should be exporting terrorism,” she said.
Dame Pauline said the Tories would set up a new National Security Council to co-ordinate policy against international terrorism.
They would also strengthen international co-operation between intelligence agencies and work to persuade Middle East countries to “reform their societies and political systems”.
The key to achieving security is a “strong, united, cohesive society”, Dame Pauline said.
“We have decidedly let things drift for too long. We as a society need to defend and explain our values,” she added.
She said a Tory government would establish a homeland command to protect Britain, with troops permanently based in the UK to deal with any emergency.
Dame Pauline accused the Government of underfunding the military and said: “Gordon Brown promised change. All the Armed Forces got was small change.”
Lady Warsi, the Tory community cohesion spokesman, said building a united country required more than the insistent repetition by Mr Brown of his commitment to Britishness.
“I was brought up to believe that being British meant you didn”t go on about it,” she said. “You cannot bully people into being British. You have to inspire them.”
Earlier this week, the Muslim peer faced criticism for saying that for some voters immigration had become a major issue that had to be addressed.
But she told the conference that political correctness must not be allowed to “stifle legitimate debate”.
Lady Warsi accused Labour of a “patronising approach to our minority communities by treating them as faceless homogenous block.”
She won loud applause by promising that the Tories would “reject that creed of multiculturalism that is peddled by the Government, where the focus is on what divides us rather than what unites us”.
Lady Warsi added: “We must have a pride in what we stand for and we will start by ensuring the teaching of history in our schools gives a proper sense of the origins of our great democratic institutions.”
Tories pledge immigration cuts and help for police