I see that my MPA colleague James Cleverly has fallen (despite being a Tory) into the typical trap that usually catches the LibDems of having a Pavlovian reaction every time the words “counter-terrorism” or “anti-terrorism” are seen.

He has repeated the myth that the UK Government wrongly used counter-terrorist powers to freeze the assets of Icelandic banks when it looked as though British citizens and institutions might suffer when the banks appeared to be about to default.

The powers used were in the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001.

LibDems and James Cleverly should notice that, although the Act’s title contains the magic word “anti-terrorism”, it is also about “crime and security”.

The specific power used was the freezing power and the Act specifies the following:

“(1) The Treasury may make a freezing order if the following two conditions are satisfied.

(2) The first condition is that the Treasury reasonably believe that—

(a) action to the detriment of the United Kingdom’s economy (or part of it) has been or is likely to be taken by a person or persons, or

(b) action constituting a threat to the life or property of one or more nationals of the United Kingdom or residents of the United Kingdom has been or is likely to be taken by a person or persons.

(3) If one person is believed to have taken or to be likely to take the action the second condition is that the person is—

(a) the government of a country or territory outside the United Kingdom, or

(b) a resident of a country or territory outside the United Kingdom.

(4) If two or more persons are believed to have taken or to be likely to take the action the second condition is that each of them falls within paragraph (a) or (b) of subsection (3); and different persons may fall within different paragraphs.”

Even a LibDem (and especially someone who is usually more sensible – like James Cleverly) might recognise that these powers are not about combatting terrorism.  They are more general powers and are about protecting the UK economy and/or the property of UK nationals.

The question that James Cleverly has to answer – I don’t expect a coherent response from the LibDems – is why repeat something that is wrong and more particularly is he against protecting the UK economy and the property of British citizens?

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