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Thursday, 6 December, 2001, 16:48 GMT
Anti-terror plans 'face defeat'
Police at the Labour Party conference this year
Fears have been raised about police powers
The government faces defeat over key parts of its anti-terror legislation, opposition peers in the House of Lords have predicted.

Conservative peers inflicted the government's first parliamentary defeat since the general election on part of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill last week.


The government should be in no doubt that, if need be, we are ready to fight for the right balance

Lord Strathclyde
Tory Lords leader
Now the Tories plan to work together with the Liberal Democrats to cause more problems for ministers as the bill goes into its report stage in the Lords.

A sign of the looming trouble for the government, which wants the bill on the statute book by Christmas, came late on Tuesday night when the Commons went into secret session for the first time since 1958.

The procedural move, which saw the chamber cleared of public, media and even the Hansard reporters who record proceedings, was forced by the Liberal Democrats.

EU-wide measures

It comes as new measures to fight crime and terrorism across Europe - including a fast-track extradition system - are due to be agreed by EU governments in Brussels.

Home Secretary David Blunkett is pressing for a Europe-wide arrest warrant.

He wants the euro laws to be as wide as possible, to complement the UK initiatives.

But Lib Dem and Tory peers are protesting at timetabling of the anti-terror timetabling of the anti-terror bill, which opposition MPs have described as "monstrous" and "tawdry".

Neither the Conservatives nor the Lib Dems say they want the bill to fail but both parties agree on the need to rewrite sections of the anti-terror plans.

Conservative Lords leader Lord Strathclyde said the next week would decide whether the legislation provided what the country wanted.

The result could be a tough anti-terror bill "focused on the powers needed to deter and defeat terrorism".

Consensus call

The alternative was a bill "put to Parliament by the government, which goes far beyond anti-terrorist measures and encroaches on ancient freedoms of British people".

The Tory peer went on: "We want a sensible, balanced effective measure, built on consensus and built to deliver justice and to protect justice."

Key areas where the opposition parties want the government to make concessions include:

  • Plans to create a new offence of religious hatred.

  • Disclosure of information about suspected terrorists.

  • A suspect's right to judicial review where their face detention without trial or deportation.

  • The so-called "Third Pillar", where ministers can create new criminal offences through agreements with other countries without primary legislation.

  • What the Tories say are "excessive powers to eavesdrop" on people's e-mails.

    Both the disclosure and judicial review issues are expected to be particular flashpoints when the Lords begins its report stage consideration of the bill on Thursday.

    Both opposition parties also want all the new anti-terror laws to be subject to a "sunset clause", forcing it to be renewed by Parliament after a fixed time.

    Home Office Minister Lord Rooker, who is steering the bill through the Lords, has argued the plans are a proportionate response to the terror attacks.

    But Lord Rooker has hinted the government might be prepared to make some concessions to get the new laws in force quickly.

  •  WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Vicky Young
    "It is hard to see how this bill can escape from the Lords intact"
    Home Office minister Lord Rooker
    "We will listen to what people have to say"
    Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, Labour peer
    "We do not need this new law"

    Key stories

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    See also:

    06 Dec 01 | UK Politics
    Peers and MPs battle over terror bill
    29 Nov 01 | UK Politics
    Anti-terror plans suffer first defeat
    06 Dec 01 | UK Politics
    Minister backs EU-wide warrant
    29 Nov 01 | UK Politics
    Head-to-head: Anti-terror Laws
    26 Nov 01 | UK Politics
    Religious hatred law survives
    22 Nov 01 | UK Politics
    Labour MPs rebel on terror bill
    13 Nov 01 | UK Politics
    Terror laws at-a-glance
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