Select Committee on Home Affairs First Report



  8. Legislation on terrorism was only recently revised in the Terrorism Act 2000, most of which came into force on 19 February 2001. This followed a period of consultation on the Government's proposals[4] and an inquiry into legislation on terrorism, conducted by Lord Lloyd of Berwick.[5] In their consultation paper, the Government stated that the aim was to:

    "...create legislation which is both effective and proportionate to the threat which the United Kingdom faces from all forms of terrorism - Irish, international and domestic - which is sufficiently flexible to respond to a changing threat".[6]

  9. On moving the Second Reading of the Bill, the Home Secretary (then Jack Straw) said that he had sought carefully to follow the four principles set down by Lord Lloyd of Berwick in his report, namely:[7]

  • legislation against terrorism should approximate as closely as possible to the ordinary criminal law and procedure
  • additional statutory offences and powers may be justified, but only if they are necessary to meet the anticipated threat. They must then strike the right balance between the needs of security and the rights and liberties of the individual
  • the need for additional safeguards should be considered alongside additional powers
  • the law should comply with the UK's obligations in international law.

Parliamentary consideration of terrorism legislation

  10. Since 1974, at least eight Acts have been passed by Parliament, dealing with terrorism. Those in 1974, 1996 and 1998 were passed by the House with great speed. The other five were taken at the normal pace, with intervals between stages and detailed examination in standing committee.[8] The three Bills which passed quickly were relatively short - between seven and 13 clauses or 12 to 14 pages - and passed all stages on a single day at sittings of up to 17 hours. The most recent of these was the Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Bill (comprising 10 clauses) passed on 2 September 1998 following the Omagh bombing. It is proposed that this Bill (which is ten times longer) should be considered at three sittings - one day for second reading and two days for Committee of the whole House and remaining stages.

  11. We question whether it is appropriate for this Bill to be passed through the House of Commons in exactly two weeks with only three days of debate on the floor of the House. A Bill of this length - 125 clauses and eight schedules covering 114 pages - with major implications for civil liberties should not be passed by the House in such a short period and with so little time for detailed examination in committee.

4   Legislation on Terrorism, (Cm.4178), December 1998. Back

5   Inquiry into Legislation on Terrorism, (Cm.3420), October 1996. Back

6   Cm.4178, para.8 of the Introduction. Back

7   Official Report, Vol. 341, col.153. Back

8   Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976
Suppression of Terrorism Act 1978
Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1984
Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989
Terrorism Act 2000 

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