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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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? Not likely.

We've seen a string of miscarriages of justice even when there have been trials, where defendants argued against allegations of terror and jurors did not believe them -- the Birmingham Six among them. All that meant was the real culprits were never traced or caught.

So under what the Government nowplans to do, miscarriages are guaranteed and some will lead to public campaigns that will damage what the Government wants to achieve in defeating international terrorism. I want those who menace our lives and liberties locked up but by a court and not a politician.

It is simply an outrage that the signature of one Government minister, based on advice from the security services who don't always get things right, can send someone to prison, possibly for years.

That's why I insist the Government listens to voices in both Houses of Parliament -- and a majority of Members of the Lords, some of them former distinguished judges -- who want the right to final appeal to the courts to confirm that this action is lawful and justified.

Despite the speed with which the Bill is being dealt with, I dare to hope the Government will yet respond. They've already made significant changes but this remains the most important on which they must move.

The Government must, if we're not to risk doing the terrorists' work for them by chiselling away at an essential part of the rule of law.

FOR: Lord Rooker of Perry Barr

Those who do not seek to be part of society will use our tolerance and liberalism to destroy that society

Home Office Minister and former MP for Perry Barr

Extracts from a speech by Lord Rooker to the House of Lords

The Bill is needed because of what happened in the United States on September 11. Thousands of people were murdered in cold blood: office workers, airline crews and passengers, fire and police officers, men, women and children, and people from many nationalities, ethnic backgrounds and creeds.

Since those atrocities, the Government have considered whether our legal framework and security against acts of terrorism are sufficient. We have concluded that wholesale revision of our laws is not necessary.

That is also the view of the law enforcement agencies. But because of what happened on September 11, we need to protect ourselves in new ways. On that day the terrorists rewrote their rule book. We therefore need to do the same.

That means enhancing our existing anti-terrorism legislation. It means ensuring that security -- for example, at airports -- reflects the new threats that we face. It means recognising that international terrorists are well financed and willing to use weapons of mass destruction. It also means tackling the effects of what has happened in our owncommunities -- the attacks, the threats and the hatred that has been shown.

The Bill is a proportionate, measured and moderate response to the events of 11th September. Many people will offer criticisms of the Bill. However, the fact remains that it is a moderate response to the events of September 11.

The Bill contains specific and targeted measures and it strikes a balance between respecting our fundamental liberties and ensuring that they are not exploited. The problem is that in a tolerant, liberal society, if we are not guarded we will find that those who do not seek to be part of that society will use our tolerance and liberalism to destroy that society. That is a reality.

The Bill allows indefinite detention of people whose suspected involvement in international terrorism makes them a threat to national security. It applies where removal from the United Kingdom is the desirable aim but is not currently possible. Our first choice would be to prosecute and remove if we could. If not, the choice would be to allow people to roam free or to detain them.

The new power of detention will be available for use only after the Home Secretary has certified that the person is a threat to national security. The decision to issue that certificate will be subject to appeal to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission.

We believe that the Bill is justified. We haveanti-terrorist legislation for good reasons. As we have said, we are also a prime target on anyone's list given our support for the United States and our international efforts.

I genuinely believe that this is a moderate and precautionary response to which the public in general give wholehearted support.

We cannot forecast when the next act of mass terrorism will be. No-one claims that the Bill solves all the problems and will stop all terrorism. However, it is a measured response seeking to put hurdles in the way of those who seek to commit inter-national terrorism.


Tony Blair has insisted that the devastating attack on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre on September 11 should never be forgotten