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.
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
- removal of judicial review in decisions made
by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission
6. The key questions we have addressed in this
- 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