Clarke should look closer at home

By Geoffrey Van OrdenYESTERDAY, Home Secretary Charles Clarke addressed the European Parliament. I do not doubt his integrity or his earnest desire to take robust measures against terrorists.

By Geoffrey Van Orden

YESTERDAY, Home Secretary Charles Clarke addressed the European Parliament. I do not doubt his integrity or his earnest desire to take robust measures against terrorists. In doing this he deserves our support.

But I cautioned him about the EU route. Before getting too excited about what Brussels might do, I suggested he start by putting our own house in order, at home.

In the UK there is scant evidence that the Government is doing what is required: border controls are so lax that the Home Office has had to admit that it doesn't have a clue how many people are living in the UK without the legal right to do so; and it has no idea who enters and leaves our country.

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We needed the Pakistan authorities to tell us that the London suicide bombers had been to Pakistan, and probably on to Afghanistan, where they undertook terrorist indoctrination and training. The protections of our free society have consistently been abused by extremists living in Britain while supporting, financing and recruiting for a host of well-known terrorist organisations. No wonder London is widely dubbed “Londonistan” by foreign intelligence services.

Given that Britain is not a member of the EU "Schengen system" there is no reason why we should not put our borders under proper control and the integrity of our passport system re-established. UK-based organisations that support terrorism in Britain or abroad should be closed down.

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The typical EU response to any crisis is to see what opportunity there is for extending its own powers. We saw this after 9/11 and we see it again following the Madrid and London atrocities. Of course, there are some useful measures that can be taken on an EU-wide basis, provided they are well designed.

For example, it makes sense to require service providers to retain data on mobile phone and internet use, which can be made available to national security agencies. But international liaison between those agencies does not require EU involvement. When I visited Europol, they told me that 75% of their information exchange took place directly between Member States - on a purely bilateral basis.

Airlines should be required to forward flight manifests to arrive before the plane lands in another country. EU legislation here would be useful, as would regulations on money laundering and common standards for recording biometric data - provided the recording is by national authorities, and not some EU agency.

Common sense, practical measures that genuinely add value to the fight against terrorism should be supported. Mere extensions to EU power should not.

Geoffrey Van Orden is the lead Conservative MEP for the East of England. He can be contacted at: 88 Rectory Lane, Chelmsford, CM1 1RF or email:

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