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Terrorism Bill - house arrest

March 2005
I voted against the Prevention of Terrorism Bill and for amendments that would have confined the Bill to dealing with the measures for immediate problems created by the House of Lords’ ruling on the Belmarsh detainees. 

I thought it reasonable to allow some restrictions on such people short of house arrest (eg tagging, restrictions on electronic communications) as well as the covert surveillance that would have taken place anyway.  But I felt there was no need for legislation with wider application to be rushed in.  I also tabled amendments to restrict the current wide definition of terrorism.  In the end, I was pleased when the Government eventually agreed to a comprehensive review of the legislation in a year’s time.  This is an acceptable equivalent to the ‘sunset clause’ included in Lords’ amendments.  It will mean MPs will be able to look at this legislation again in 12 months.

My position remains that I will not support giving powers to any politician to place people, who have not been found guilty of any crime, under house arrest.  Such matters should only be dealt with by the judiciary.  I am also concerned about decisions being made on an insufficient standard of proof (reasonable suspicion rather than balance of probabilities).   I would also wish to see more done to bring terrorists to trial.  During the debates, the Government kept saying that its preferred option is to prosecute suspects, when there are good chances of a conviction.  Yet, I was amazed to learn, from their lawyer, that the Belmarsh detainees have never even been interviewed by the Police!

I have supported the following statement by Liberty: …


The plight of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay and Belmarsh has been condemned at home and abroad. Our highest court has described detention without trial on the basis of secret intelligence as "the stuff of nightmares". We agree.

We choose to live in a democracy that protects life, liberty and the rule of law. The Home Secretary is now proposing new laws to replace internment in prison with measures including house arrest at his discretion. This loss of liberty is to be based on his suspicion rather than proof before a court.

We call for:

An end to detention without trial.

Respect for precious British values of freedom, justice and the presumption of innocence in any new anti-terror laws.

Recognition that human rights must not and need not be sacrificed for effective security.

New thinking can promote these principles. Allowing intercepted telephone calls to be used in evidence will facilitate criminal trials of terror suspects. People can be detained for limited periods whilst charges are brought. This way we need not derogate from hard-won human rights.

Visible injustice debases our democracy and undermines our safety. Indefinite detention without trial is always wrong. We call on our politicians to think again.




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