Prime Minister David Cameron is set to unveil a new counter-terrorism bill on Wednesday that is expected to place major restrictions on organisations and individuals who authorities believe could pose a “threat to the functioning of democracy,” according to a statement from the Conservative party.
In his Queen’s speech on Wednesday, Cameron is expected to announce that the new measures will extend existing police powers to clamp down on “harmful activities” of extremists, the statement said. To do this, it will extend the legal definition of “harmful” from “public disorder, a risk of harassment, alarm or distress” to also include activities deemed to be for the “purpose of overthrowing democracy.” More specifics on the types of activities considered to be promoting militant ideologies were not provided.
Those subject to anti-terrorism orders will be prevented from broadcasting and must run any written material that they are seeking to publish past the police first. The bill will also give the police the ability to shut down premises that are being used to spread extremism, including mosques.
According to the party’s statement, Cameron will tell the national security council on Wednesday:
For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone. It’s often meant we have stood neutral between different values. And that’s helped foster a narrative of extremism and grievance.
This government will conclusively turn the page on this failed approach. As the party of one nation, we will govern as one nation and bring our country together. That means actively promoting certain values.
Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Democracy. The rule of law. Equal rights regardless of race, gender or sexuality. We must say to our citizens: this is what defines us as a society.
The Guardian reports that the government plans to introduce a separate bill later in the parliament to revive the so-called “snoopers charter.” Home Secretary Theresa May has long championed the bill, which would require internet and mobile phone companies to keep records of customers’ browsing activity, social media use, emails, voice calls, online gaming, and text messages for a year, but it was blocked by the Liberal Democrats in the last parliament.
Critics of the bill, such as human rights watchdog Privacy International, have dubbed it an “assault on the rights of ordinary British citizens” and a further encroachment by the state into people’s privacy.
However, although Labour, the SNP, and the Lib Dems are unlikely to look favourably on the legislation, May is expected to put the bill back on the table and will seek to get it passed by the newly-returned Conservative majority in the House of Commons.
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