With the by-election in Haltemprice and Howden scheduled for 10 July, civil liberties and the way in which the Government is tackling the terrorist threat are central issues. Politicians on both sides of the debate have argued that their policies best represent the interests of taxpayers. Whatever one’s views on the merits of 42 days’ detention, where do the interests of taxpayers really lie? This research note analyses the cost and effectiveness of the different measures the Government has used to combat the terrorist threat to Britain, which some would argue have amounted to a new “Big Brother Government”. The key findings of the report are:
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The total cost of Big Brother Government is almost £20 billion (not an annual cost). This works out at almost £800 per household. This includes spending on the following measures:
Despite the enormous cost of these measures, the Government has been soft on the preachers of hate and other extremists who pose a real threat to the safety of British citizens:
- Abu Hamza, despite being convicted of a number of charges in the UK in 2006, has still not been deported to the US, who first requested extradition in 2004 on terror charges. The total cost to taxpayers to date of welfare benefits, council housing, NHS treatment, trials, legal appeals and incarceration is £2.75 million.
- Abu Qatada, a preacher who has openly advocated the murder of non-Muslims and who is known as Osama Bin Laden’s “right-hand man” in Europe, has not been deported to Jordan to face terror charges because of human rights legislation. The total cost to taxpayers to date of welfare benefits, incarceration, legal appeals and police monitoring is almost £1.5 million.
Unfortunately Abu Hamza and Abu Qatada are not isolated examples of the Government’s failure to deal effectively with extremists. This report gives details of a number of similar cases, together with the costs to taxpayers, which total over £5 million.
A real boost to counter-terrorism efforts could be made by spending a fraction of the £20 billion currently spent on Big Brother Government on schemes that would have real, tangible benefits at little or no cost to taxpayers:
- Introduce a national border police force that would record when people enter and leave the country. The Government has estimated that it would cost £104 million a year to provide 24-hour cover at all ports of entry to the UK.
- Replace CCTV with improved street lighting. This could be funded entirely from the savings made by reducing the number of CCTV cameras.
- Allow intercept evidence in court. This would represent a negligible cost.
- Better enforce existing legislation. This would also be a negligible cost.
- Pull out of the European Convention on Human Rights. This would not represent an extra burden on the taxpayer.
- Ban Hizb ut Tahrir. The Government itself has promised to do this, but has so far failed to carry it out.
Glyn Gaskarth, Policy Analyst for the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:
“The Government’s £20 billion Big Brother measures are a costly way of making us less free but no more secure. The Government should target the real extremists rather than eroding the civil liberties of ordinary, law-abiding people, and in the process, wasting billions of pounds of our money.”