'Secret Justice' Reform Could Split Coalition
Brady, Brian, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)
Concessions on plans to hear cases behind closed doors are not enough, say rebel MPs
Ministers face a fresh rebellion this week over plans to allow court cases affecting national security to be heard behind closed doors - despite claims that they have "substantially rewritten" the proposals to head off protests from Liberal Democrats.
The controversial Justice and Security Bill returns to the House of Commons tomorrow, two months after it was defeated in the House of Lords. A senior government source revealed yesterday that key sections of the Bill had been redrafted following the bruising encounter "to accommodate the Liberal Democrats". Kenneth Clarke, who is in charge of the Bill, had accepted key changes, notably restrictions on the use of the "closed material procedures" (CMPs), which would allow cases to be heard in secret.
But the Conservative backbencher Andrew Tyrie dismissed the claims, and called for more fundamental concessions before the Bill is allowed to pass into law. Mr Tyrie, who will publish a pamphlet tomorrow warning that the "secret justice" proposals would prevent disclosure of practices including torture, said: "The title of the Bill is classic doublespeak; it brings us neither more justice nor greater security. To agree only to the amendments suggested by the Lords is not going far enough, as the Lords simply did not have the time to put all their concerns over this Bill in the form of amendments."
Ministers presented their proposals to allow national security evidence in some civil cases to be heard in secret for the first time in an attempt to protect the Government from having to settle out of court rather than risk sensitive information becoming public. Mr Clarke claimed the laws are necessary because terrorists are launching a "steady stream" of multimillion-pound compensation claims against the security services.
Supporters also claimed the current system - under which the Government must apply for a public interest immunity (PII) certificate to allow sensitive material to be excluded -needed to be reformed. …