Lords debate new terrorism powers

As Peers prepare to debate new counter-terrorism powers on Tuesday, the all-party parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights publishes a critical report on the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, calling for major amendments to the Government’s proposals.

JUSTICE has major concerns about the Bill and has prepared full briefing in advance of Tuesday’s debate, here. The fast-tracked measures – including provisions on exclusion from the UK and new police powers to seize passports at points of departure from the country – have been subject to limited debate.

Tuesday’s debate will take place – as many terrorism bills which have gone before – against a background of political tension, fear and threat. Too readily abandoning our values in the name of national security would pander to those who use terror for their own political ends.

As the world proclaims “Je Suis Charlie”; it says loudly that fear shouldn’t override our most precious of constitutional protections. This week, MPs and Peers from all parties lifted their pens aloft in Westminster Hall. They too were Charlie. A more tangible symbol of support and defiance would be a full and proper debate on this Bill. The UK undoubtedly faces a serious threat of terrorism, and one that poses severe practical challenges to our police and prosecutors. But the fight against terrorism requires not only measures which are effective but also measures that are compatible with our most basic constitutional principles.

As Peers prepare to debate, may they meet fear and threat with vigilance and defiance, strong in their commitment to the constitutional values we hold dear.

JUSTICE Chair, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, is also a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. Today she said:

“One of the things that has come through the recent debates following the Paris events is how important it is to hold onto our values in the face of assault”

“When you start saying ‘forget about due process and judicial oversight’; you abandon the things that make us as a society.”

“We have to be very careful not to write a blank cheque which undermines our civil liberties and which actually destroys the things which are important to us.”

Full JUSTICE briefing on the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill is available here.

JUSTICE’s Director of Human Rights Policy has produced a short comment piece on the Bill for the UK Human Rights Blog, here.