Prime Minister Tony Blair's government is introducing sweeping anti-terrorism measures in anticipation of national elections expected in May. The plans were unveiled by Queen Elizabeth in a tradition-steeped ceremony to open Britian's Parliament.
In time-honored traditi
on, Queen Elizabeth delivered the speech penned by the current administration. With a national election expected in May, it is clear that Tony Blair hopes to put tackling terrorism at the top of his agenda as he seeks re-election for a third term.
Plans include establishing a national identity-card program and a national crime unit fashioned after the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the FBI.
"My government will legislate to introduce an identity card scheme and will publish proposals to support the continuing fight against terrorism in the United Kingdom and elsewhere," declared Queen Elizabeth. "Legislation will be introduced to establish the Serious Organized Crime Agency and the powers police and others have to fight crime will be strengthened."
But with an election expected in six months, opposition politicians are sensing that Mr. Blair is creating a 'climate of fear' to scare voters into re-electing his Labor party to power for a third term - a feat that no other Labor government has done.
Specifically on the identity card proposal, Liberal Democrats like Matthew Taylor say it would be expensive and ineffective.
"They did not stop terrorism in America. They do not stop crime in America. What they do cost is three billion pounds for ordinary families to find which could actually be invested in having more police and we would have 10,000 more police," he said. "We would have a new national border security force which would secure our borders both against crime and to tackle the terrorism threat to this country."
And Conservative politicians like Dominic Grieve also think the prime minister is going too far.
"We believe in being tough on crime, but we do not believe in eroding our civil liberties," said Dominic Grieve. "Now clearly there is a balance to be struck between those two, but it is astonishing that really the government is missing the plot."
Also highlighted in the Queen's speech is a pledge by the government to fight the international proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the continued support of Iraq, especially in the upcoming elections there, and a renewed commitment to finding a peaceful solution in the Middle East.