[QODLink]
Archive
Blair bows to anti-terror bill opposition

The British government has bowed to intense political pressure and agreed to amend controversial new anti-terrorism laws that would allow suspects to be put under limited house arrest without tria

Last Modified: 28 Feb 2005 20:08 GMT
PM Tony Blair's cabinet have had to back down on new bill

The British government has bowed to intense political pressure and agreed to amend controversial new anti-terrorism laws that would allow suspects to be put under limited house arrest without trial.

The announcement by Home Secretary Charles Clarke on Monday means that so-called control orders would now have to be imposed by a judge, rather than himself.

  

It comes just two months after previous anti-terror laws, which these were intended to replace current legislation, were struck down by Britain's highest court of appeal which ruled that they broke human rights obligations.

  

The control orders, which can range from electronic tagging to a form of house arrest, are contained within the Prevention of Terrorism Bill which ministers are rushing through parliament before the old powers lapse in mid-March.

  

In emergency cases, police would
be able to detain suspects 

Critics had charged that not only was the law being pushed through with unseemly haste, but that it went against centuries of constitutional precedence in letting politicians order house arrest purely on the basis of suspicion.

 

Key point

 

In a letter to his opposition counterpart, the Conservative Party home affairs spokesman David Davis, Clarke gave way on this key point.

  

Clarke explained that the original plan to have control orders only reviewed by a judge within seven days of their imposition by himself would be changed.

  

"I propose to amend the bill so as to provide for ... control orders to be made by a judge in the High Court rather than as now by the Secretary of State (Home Secretary)," the letter said.

  

In emergency cases, however, police would be able to detain suspects pending the judge's decision, it added.

 

"We are being asked to pass this legislation which is of huge constitutional and legal significance - and we are being asked to do it on the basis of promises which will be fulfilled elsewhere"

Dominic Grieve,
Conservative Party's legal affairs spokesman

MPs enraged

  

Despite the concession, Clarke managed to enrage MPs all over again by saying in his letter that the bill should be rushed through the House of Commons as it stood, and then amended by the unelected upper chamber, the House of Lords.

  

Members of the Commons, who were on Monday debating the bill, slammed the government for treating the legislature with contempt.

  

"We are being asked to pass this legislation which is of huge constitutional and legal significance - and we are being asked to do it on the basis of promises which will be fulfilled elsewhere," Conservative legal affairs spokesman Dominic Grieve said.

  

The debate has been particularly charged given a looming general election, widely expected for 5 May, with all parties keen to avoid charges that they are soft on national security.

Source:
AFP
Topics in this article
People
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
More than one-quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Muslim charities claim discrimination after major UK banks began closing their accounts.
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Featured
Study says tipping point reached as poachers kill 7 percent of African elephants annually; birth rate is 5 percent.
Zimbabwe's leader given rotating chairmanship of 15-member nation bloc a year after he won disputed presidential polls.
Government regulations and security fears are choking the once thriving industry in India-administered Kashmir.
Is fast-track deportation for 60,000 migrant children from Latin America obstructing due process?
Feminist Initiative is fiercely campaigning to enter Sweden's parliament after the September elections.
join our mailing list