Page last updated at 00:09 GMT, Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Asset-freezing terror Bill rushed through Commons

Houses of Parliament
The anti-terror legislation has been rushed through Parliament

Emergency legislation has been rushed through the House of Commons that will allow the assets of suspected terrorists to be frozen.

The government was forced to bring forward fast-track new laws after the Supreme Court quashed existing asset-freezing orders.

They were ruled unlawful because Parliament had not voted on them.

Treasury Exchequer Secretary Sarah McCarthy-Fry described this latest move as an "urgent temporary measure".

Ministers had to get an agreement from banks not to release the funds while it seeks to pass the Terrorist Asset-Freezing (Temporary Provisions) Bill.

The Bill cleared all its Commons stages on Monday and will be debated in the House of Lords on Tuesday.

The aim is to have it become law before the short parliamentary recess which begins on Wednesday.

In these times of severe threat to our national security, we cannot afford to fail to take the necessary steps to disarm terrorists or to disarm them of their financial power
Liam Byrne, Treasury chief secretary

Ministers pledged to allow Parliament detailed scrutiny of a more comprehensive new regime before the temporary measures expire at the end of the year.

In January, the Supreme Court ruled Treasury orders which froze the assets of terror suspects were unlawful because Parliament had not voted on them.

And when making its judgement, the Supreme Court had also said it could not delay its decision to allow ministers to formulate more detailed proposals.

'Proper controls'

Treasury Chief Secretary Liam Byrne said the ruling meant there was "something like £16,500 linked to about 14 people which could, suddenly, have been made available".

He added: "In these times of severe threat to our national security, we cannot afford to fail to take the necessary steps to disarm terrorists or to disarm them of their financial power."

Tory spokesman Mark Hoban lent his party's backing because "there needs to be proper controls in place to prevent terrorists and suspected terrorists from having access to their financial resources and the financial system".

But he added: "The government needs to recognise that we are here, pushing through this emergency retrospective legislation because the government has failed, despite many warnings, to put the asset freezing regime on a proper legislative footing."

The Liberal Democrats have questioned the entire validity of the legislation, and also said the new measures lacked proper safeguards.



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SEE ALSO
Q&A: Freezing terror assets
27 Jan 10 |  UK
Q&A: UK Supreme Court
30 Sep 09 |  UK

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