Select Committee on Home Affairs First Report



  68. The Anti-Terrorism, Security and Crime Bill should be given a second reading but will need close examination in committee.

(a)  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 (paragraph 3).
(b)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 (paragraph 11).
(c)Whilst we do not, for a moment, suggest that the Government should send people back to countries where they would be at risk of torture or ill-treatment, we do think that the Government should engage in a review with our European partners, with a view to finding some acceptable solution that might avoid the need to exercise a power of indefinite detention. It would be desirable for the Home Secretary, who is accountable to Parliament, to be able to exercise his discretion within the framework of Article 3 (paragraph 20).
(d)We reluctantly accept that there may be a small category of persons who are suspected international terrorists who cannot be prosecuted, extradited or deported and therefore will have to be detained (paragraph 27).
(e)We are concerned that the power of detention is exercised only as a last resort, i.e., in circumstances where it is clearly not possible to proceed with prosecution, extradition or deportation. The Committee understands that, in some cases, prosecutions do not proceed because certain types of intelligence, such as telephone intercepts, cannot be admitted in court. We believe that within the law enforcement community there is a variety of views on whether such evidence should be used in court. We suggest that the Government conduct a review of the law and procedure relating to the admissibility of intercept evidence in court, with a view to extending the circumstances in which such evidence could be admitted (paragraph 34).
(f)The proposed safeguards about the process for individual cases are acceptable in the circumstances. Given the previous experience with similar powers of detention, we shall take a close interest in the way this power is implemented (paragraph 36).
(g)We welcome the provisions that the power of detention will only continue in force for 15 months and then will require annual renewal by Parliament for one year. We recommend that such renewal should be based on an annual report by an independent commissioner (paragraph 40).
(h)This measure can only be described as "temporary" if it will expire after a set number of years - subject to Parliament passing new primary legislation. We recommend that a "sunset" provision - such as that contained in the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1984 - should apply to the immigration and asylum provisions in part 4 of the Bill after five years. Any revival or continuance of the detention and other powers would then depend on the full parliamentary consideration given to a Bill and not just the 90 minute debate in a standing committee required for an annual renewal order (paragraph 43).
(i)We are reluctantly persuaded of the case for removal of judicial review in decisions made by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (paragraph 53).
(j)We welcome the measures designed to improve data-sharing between government agencies which we recommended in our report on Border Controls earlier this year. The various provisions for preventing terrorists moving money around to finance their activities are also desirable (paragraph 55).
(k)We have not seen sufficient evidence to justify the proposition that extending the law of incitement to include religious as well as racial hatred will work in practice. The proposals in the Bill would be difficult to enforce. We note in particular the evidence from a group of distinguished Muslim organisations and individuals: "we have grave reservations about the extension of this criminal power to cover religious groups at this particular time." We therefore see no reason for this measure to be included in this emergency terrorism Bill (paragraph 61).
(l)We accept that there is a strong case for a new offence for hoaxes and threats involving noxious substances. We welcome the decision not to make it retrospective (paragraph 64).
(m)We view with concern the broad power to implement justice and home affairs measures under the third pillar of the Treaty of European Union - whether concerned with terrorism or not - by means of a secondary rather than primary legislation. This would enable a wide range of EU measures on police and judicial co-operation on criminal matters to be brought into effect in the UK. We believe that the power to do so in this Bill should be confined to EU measures contained in the proposed Framework Decision on combatting terrorism (paragraph 67).

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