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Blair 'to reject bombs inquiry'

BBC | July 11 2005

Tony Blair is expected to reject Conservative demands for an inquiry into the London bombings when he makes a statement to MPs later on Monday.

The prime minister is due to underline his confidence in the intelligence services after the attacks which killed at least 49 and injured 700.

Conservative leader Michael Howard has called for an inquiry, to see if any lessons could be learned.

But minister Hazel Blears said the idea was unhelpful and may distract police.

She said that in the normal course of their inquiries the police would examine how things had gone in the aftermath of Thursday's atrocities but she did not want them distracted and forced to take their "eyes off the ball".

Downing Street meanwhile said it had two priorities: identifying the dead and informing the relatives, and finding the forensic clues that would help capture the perpetrators.

"It's not time for a knee-jerk response," the spokesman added.

Contact with enemy

Conservative homeland security spokesman Patrick Mercer said it was entirely possible the terrorists would attack again and said his party wanted a quick inquiry so any lessons could be learned.

"No plan survives contact with the enemy and clearly things weren't perfect on Thursday," he told BBC News.

"I don't mean that to be antagonistic. This is designed to be helpful to the government," he added.

"Our priority is to nail these people, of course it is. But at the same time, there has got to be a quick inquiry to find out what can be done, what didn't go perfectly on Thursday and to try to protect us from a further attack."

On Sunday Mr Howard told BBC News 24 said: "It is sensible to have an inquiry with the benefit of hindsight into what was done and what wasn't done to see if there are lessons which can be learned. Perhaps there are perhaps there aren't."

Anti-terror measures

Ms Blears said all efforts were being directed towards capturing the bombers.

"For goodness sake, let's focus on what's important here and that is for the police and the security services to follow up every single lead they've got," she said.

"I genuinely think that calling for an inquiry at this point is not going to be helpful at all".

The former chairman of the Joint Intelligence committee Dame Pauline Neville-Jones told BBC Radio 4's World at One that she did not see a public inquiry as necessary.

She said her view was "that one has them when one has reason to believe that there's either been dishonesty or incompetence".

She said that did not seem to be the case here, and added that inquiries tended to take up a lot of time and bureaucratic effort.

The Home Secretary Charles Clarke is expected to propose further anti-terrorism measures at a meeting with his European counterparts this week.

These are set to include a proposal for telecommunication firms to make records of phone calls and emails available to the police.

Constructive support

Police and security agencies say they are now almost certain that they are not dealing with a suicide bomb attack.

Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten said his party would work constructively with the government on measures to improve UK security.

"I am encouraged by the home secretary's admission that ID cards would not have stopped Thursday's attacks. We remain convinced that the money for ID cards would be better spent on more resources for the police and the intelligence services.

"We will work with the government to establish plans to extend the length of time data from e-mails and phone calls can be kept."

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