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Britain to Push for Tougher Anti-Terrorist Laws


In time-honored British tradition, Queen Elizabeth presided over the state opening of parliament, and unveiled several government proposed pieces of legislation, including new anti-terrorist measures the government hopes to pass in the new lawmaking session. For VOA, Tom Rivers reports from London.

The queen's been here many times before. An ornate horse-drawn carriage pulled up at Buckingham Palace for the short journey down the road to the House of Lords, where members of both parliamentary chambers gathered to hear her deliver a speech outlining the government's planned legislative initiatives for the new term.

Amid the pomp and ceremony, political observers were watching closely as this was Gordon Brown's first time to set the lawmaking agenda as prime minister.

And as the queen read out the words of the Brown government, it is clear that the prime minister sees more anti-terrorism work to be done.

"My government will take further action to create stronger communities and tackle terrorism," she said. "Legislation to reform the criminal justice system will continue to be taken forward."

That means Brown will try to do something his predecessor Tony Blair could not do in his final days and that is to get cross-party agreement on strengthening Britain's terrorism laws.

"My government will seek consensus on changes to the law on terrorism so that the police and other agencies have the powers they need to protect the public while preserving essential rights and liberties," said Queen Elizabeth.

And trying to find that balance will be key. Specifically, it is thought the government will try to double the time terrorist suspects can be held before formal charges must be brought from the current 28-day period.

The new counter-terrorism bill will also seek to allow for additional questioning after a suspect has been formally charged.

In addition, it is thought the government will try to ban convicted terrorists from traveling abroad after any release.

In addition to measures here, the queen's speech highlighted the prime minister's intention to work even more closely with international bodies to counter global terrorism.

"My government will continue to work with the United Nations, G-8 [Group of Eight] and [the] European Union to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction, including addressing international concerns over Iran's nuclear intentions," she continued.

Britain is behind efforts to impose a third wave of U.N. sanctions on Iran.

Meanwhile, the European Commission is currently proposing the collection of more flight data on passengers and tighter internet laws as part of its anti-terrorist moves. All EU member states would have to sign off on the new measures if they are to become law.

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