Blair’s Parting Gift

New “anti-terror” legislation is to be pushed through before Tony Blair leaves office giving police to powers only ever used before in wartime.

John Reid, the home secretary, who is also quitting next month, intends to extend Northern Ireland’s draconian police powers of interrogation.

Under the new laws, police will not need to suspect that a crime has taken place and can stop and question people about who they are, where they have been and where they are going.

If suspects fail to stop or refuse to answer questions, they could be charged with a criminal offence and fined up to £5,000.

The proposed measures have been described by civil liberty campaigners as “one of the most significant moves on civil liberties since the second world war”.

John Reid is reported to be planning to push through a counter-terrorism bill next month before both he and Blair leave office.

In addition to powers to stop and question individuals, the home secretary also wants to introduce two new police powers in the name of of combating Islamic terrorism: the power to take documents away for examination even if their value as evidence is not immediately obvious; and the power to remove vehicles in order to examine them.

According to Jane Winter, director of British Irish Rights Watch, the proposed legislation was “a sledge hammer to crack a nut.”