Divided by Terrorism; the Government's Controversial Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill Has Seen a Split in Labour Ranks in the House of Lords. Political Correspondent Jonathan Walker Examines the Bill, and Former Midland MPs Lord Rooker and Lord Corbett Explain Why They Are for and against Its Contents

The Birmingham Post (England), December 13, 2001 | Go to article overview

Divided by Terrorism; the Government's Controversial Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill Has Seen a Split in Labour Ranks in the House of Lords. Political Correspondent Jonathan Walker Examines the Bill, and Former Midland MPs Lord Rooker and Lord Corbett Explain Why They Are for and against Its Contents


Byline: Lord Rooker and Lord Corbett

We should not ``dim our outrage'' at the events of September 11, Tony Blair insisted yesterday.

The Government has frequently attempted to summon up the image of the Twin Towers collapsing and thousands dying as it argues the case in favour of supporting US action in Afghanistan.

But the Prime Minister yesterday was fighting on the home front, using the threat of further atrocities to win support for the controversial Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill.

His comments came after a string of defeats in the Lords over the Bill.

It finally cleared the Upper House on Tuesday after peers voted down Government proposals on ten occasions over eight days.

Home Secretary David Blunkett wants the Bill to become law by the end of the week, but it cannot gain Royal Assent until both Houses have agreed on its details.

Conservatives and Liberal Democrat peers have attacked the Bill as an attack on civil liberties. However, Labour politicians such as Lord Corbett, formerly Erdington MP Robin Corbett, have also expressed heartfelt opposition.

Ironically the Minister charged withsteering the Bill through the Lords is another former Birmingham MP, Lord Rooker, who as Jeff Rooker represented Perry Barr.

Measures in the controversial Bill include: l Detaining foreign nationals who are considered to be dangerous, and cannot be deported. Civil liberties campaigners argue that this overturns a fundamental right not to be held without trial.

l Allowing the little-known Special Immigration Appeals Commission to make decisions about foreign nationals considered dangerous. This is appointed by the Home Secretary and meets in secret.

l A new offence of incitement to religious hatred. The Government insists this would not affect free speech or damage community relations. Critics disagree.

l The British Government will gain the power to pass into British law any new crime legislation agreed in Brussels without needing the consent of Parliament. Opponents say this is an attack on British democracy.

l Police and other law enforcement agencies around the world will have the power to see personal records such as medical or internet-use details of any Briton they are investigating. Critics say this is an invasion of privacy far greater than that required to combat terrorism.

AGAINST: Lord Corbett of Castle Vale

I want those who menace our lives and liberties locked up but by a court and not a politician

Imagine that one day the man living next door to you is no longer there, though his family is. You ask his wife what's happened and all she can tell you is that he's in prison.

Neither she, nor her husband, knows what he was charged with; there was no trial, and the sentence is indefinite. He has been locked up on the say-so of the Home Secretary and there is no appeal to the courts on whether the Minister acted reasonably and within his powers.

This could be Britain 2001 under the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Bill now being rushed through both Houses of Parliament.

The Government, properly, wants extra powers in the wake of the terrorist outrage in New York and Washington on September 11, the better to thwart the work of those whose trade is terror. It argues that there will be some foreign nationals legally living here who are suspected international terrorists.

But the security services cannot get enough evidence to charge them and they cannot be deported because in their home country they would be subject to degrading treatment, torture or even execution. The security services say they present a real and present risk to us all. I understand the problem and know that there are people who will abuse our democracy and openness as part of their work to try to destroy it. But lock them up indefinitely without knowing the detail of the accusations against them and so be unable to respond to them?

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Divided by Terrorism; the Government's Controversial Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill Has Seen a Split in Labour Ranks in the House of Lords. Political Correspondent Jonathan Walker Examines the Bill, and Former Midland MPs Lord Rooker and Lord Corbett Explain Why They Are for and against Its Contents
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