Political life resumes at Westminster this week, with the Government's anti-terrorism legislation once again high on the agenda. And already there are hopeful indications that the upper echelons of the judiciary will take up where they left off in their defence of civil liberties and human rights.
The recently retired Lord Steyn has some sharp things to say about the proposed measures in his interview with The Independent today. He describes plans to extend the permitted period of detention without charge as 'exorbitant and unnecessary'. He also challenges the usefulness of the proposed new offence of incitement to religious hatred, suggesting that it could fall foul of the European Convention of Human Rights.
In addition, he issues a stern warning to the Government that it must respect the independence of the judiciary. This is his response to the Prime Minister's statement after the London bombings that the 'rules of the game' had changed. The law is not a game, Lord Steyn retorts, stressing that it is for judges to apply the law in determining whether rules have been broken.
Lord Steyn's remarks chimed with comments made by the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, as disclosed by the Independent on Sunday. Lord Goldsmith reportedly believes that, while the present 14-day detention period might be too short, three months would not be justified. He is known to have support within the Cabinet for his views, and from sections of the Home Office. The Liberal Democrats have also voiced opposition to a 90-day period of detention.
That such hostility is emerging at this stage to key sections of the new anti-terrorism proposals suggests that Mr Blair will face a battle to get them through the Commons, even before they start their passage through the Lords. The Home Office has already been forced to drop its planned charge of …