» Monday, February 28, 2005

Terror Bill

Questioned as to why the Home Secretary seemed to be making further concessions on the proposed counter-terrorism legislation, the PMOS said he did not recognise the word concessions. In terms of the substance of the proposals, in extreme cases, where the Security Services or the Police deemed someone to be such an extreme threat that they needed to restrict that person’s liberty in a considerable way then the key question was that we were able to act quickly. Concerns had been raised about the speed of judicial input into that process with regards to the most severe end of the control orders where it might be necessary to restricts someone’s liberty to such an extent that it would mean derogating from the ECHR. The Government had listened to those concerns and had now come up with a method which allowed us to achieve the end we wanted, allowing the possibility of detaining someone, whilst at the same time immediately getting the judicial process underway. It was the best way forward. The important thing however was that the substance had not changed. The substance being that if we had intelligence that someone was a threat to national security then we could act on that intelligence immediately.

Asked if that went against the Home Secretary’s wish that it was a politician rather than a judge who decided whether someone has their liberty taken away, the PMOS said that the position was that the Home Secretary would apply to the High Court for an order. At the same time if it was believed that a suspect was in danger of absconding that person could be detained. In terms of initiating the process it did mean that we had a situation where someone could be detained if they were thought to be a significant threat to national security. The key issue all along had been that if you believed that there was intelligence about someone who was a threat to national security, could you act quickly if you had to? These proposals passed that test. We had speeded up the judicial input without sacrificing the ability of the state to act if we believed there was a threat to national security. That was the key point.

Put to him that this was a concession, the PMOS said that we had retained the ability to act quickly so in terms of the substance we were in the same place. Put to him that we had, in Charles Kennedy’s words, "moved" on the issue the PMOS said that we had listened. Asked if there would be any more movement, the PMOS said that was it.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Search for related news

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