Select Committee on Home Affairs First Report


The Home Affairs has agreed to the following Report:—



  1. This country has more anti-terrorist legislation on its statute books than almost any other developed democracy. Much of it, rushed through in the wake of previous atrocities, proved ineffective and in some cases counter-productive and needed to be amended. Often it was supposed to be temporary and turned out to be permanent.[3] It, therefore, behoves us to examine carefully the latest proposals in the wake of the atrocity on September 11.

  2. At the outset, let it be said that many of the measures proposed in the Bill are obviously justified and ought not to be controversial. The events of September 11 brought a wholly new dimension to terrorism and it is inevitable that they have prompted a major review of the powers available to those charged with countering the terrorist threat. It is important, however, that the response should be a considered one and we are grateful that the Government has resisted the temptation to rush through new measures in the immediate aftermath.

  3. We are grateful, too, that the Home Office, the Security Service and the police have gone out of their way to co-operate with this Committee in its attempt to engage in at least some pre-legislative scrutiny. Even so, the speed with which it is proposed that these new measures should be passed into law makes effective scrutiny difficult. We have had to commence our inquiry without a copy of the Bill. Oral evidence has been taken from witnesses who were only able to make an educated guess at what the Bill might contain. And now it is to be passed through the House of Commons in a matter of days. This is far from satisfactory. We express the hope that, in time, all Government departments will acquire the habit of making Bills available in draft form far enough in advance for evidence to be taken from interested parties and assessed by the relevant select committee.

  4. We make no claim to have conducted a detailed review of the Bill's 125 clauses and eight schedules in 114 pages. Our aim in the short time available has been to highlight what seem to us the most important and controversial measures, to lay out the arguments for and against and to reach a tentative conclusions in time for the second reading debate on Monday 19 November.

  5. The main measures are listed in the annex to this report on page ... Of the 14 Parts of the Bill, we regard Part 4 as containing the most significant provisions in terms of finding the right balance between the civil liberties of the individual and the need to protect society against terrorism. We have looked in particular at the provisions for:

  • detention of those who are threat to national security but who cannot be removed
  • rejection of asylum claims made by persons certified to be excluded from the protection of Art.33(1) of the Refugee Convention
  • removal of judicial review in decisions made by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission

  6. The key questions we have addressed in this inquiry are:

  • Do the Government's proposals represent a proportionate response to the current situation and are they all strictly necessary to combat terrorism?
  • Is there any alternative to the proposal for indefinite detention of suspected international terrorists who cannot be removed from the UK?
  • Why is it not possible to prosecute and convict people in this category under the broad powers and offences contained in the Terrorism Act 2000 and can these problems be addressed?
  • If it is necessary to introduce a power of indefinite detention, then what safeguards ought to be in the Bill to ensure that a fair balance is struck between the twin objectives of combatting terrorism and protecting individual rights?
  • Should the principal measures, such as detention, be permanent or temporary?

  7. The list of those who have given oral or submitted written evidence is listed on pages .... Their evidence is being made available to the House for the debates on the Bill. We are most grateful to all those who have helped us in this way, not least because of the speed with which they have provided that evidence. To assist us in this inquiry, we re-appointed as a specialist adviser, Angus McIntosh QPM; his experience and guidance have been invaluable.

3   The Prevention of Terrorism Bill 1974 Bill was intended to introduce short-term measures in response to the Birmingham pub bombings and was due to expire after six months of being passed. When introducing the Bill, the then Home Secretary, Roy (now Lord) Jenkins said: "I do not think that anyone would wish these exceptional powers to remain in force a moment longer than is necessary." ( H.C. Deb., Vol.882, col. 642.) In fact the Act was renewed periodically by order (initially every six months, then annually from 1976) and, it was completely re-enacted in new legislation in 1984 and 1989. In 2000, Parliament placed terrorism legislation on a permanent footing in the Terrorism Act 2000. Back

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Prepared 19 November 2001