Counter Terrorism Bill

Last month I wrote to my Labour MP regarding the Counter Terrorism Bill and have received a reply to my letter which reads:

With reference to your letter received 29 April regarding the Counter Terrorism Bill.

I believe that the Counter terrorism Bill sets out measures to address the real and severe terrorist threat faced by the UK from terrorism at present. It is my understanding that the police and security services are now working to deal with more than 200 groups, totalling around 2000 individuals – the highest number ever. Further, terrorism is becoming more complex, and investigations into terrorist offences more challenging. Therefore, it is the Government’s job to ensure that they have the powers available to deal with the threat of terrorism if they need them.

In regard to the provisions of the Bill, the Government has sought to build consensus with opposition parties, and has listened closely to views of community groups and others. The current proposals are backed by Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, senior police officers, and the cross-party Home Affairs Select Committee.

Nevertheless, I believe that it must be emphasized that the Government is [b]not[/b] seeking a permanent extension to the current pre-charge detention limit of 28 days for terrorist suspects. It is seeking a reserve power to allow a temporary and non-renewable extension to the pre-charge detention limit for terrorist suspects – which could only be used in exceptional circumstances, and only if high parliamentary and judicial safe-guards were met.

Hopefully these powers will never have to be used. However, I am led to believe that to date 6 terrorist suspects have been held for between 27 and 28 days, and the Government cannot afford to ignore the possibility that in future it may be necessary to detain terrorist suspects for longer than 28 days in certain exceptional circumstances.

Further, I can assure you that I have considered the rights and freedoms of members of our society, and I paid particular attention to the fundamental right of people not to be the victim of a terrorist attack. Therefore, it is for this reason and the reasons given above, that I will be voting for the Counter Terrorism Bill.

While I appreciate that we will not see eye-to-eye on this issue, I appreciate you taking the time to make me aware of your views on this subject. Shold you wish to discuss this matter further, please do not hesitate to get back in touch with my office.

With best wishes.

Yours sincerely

Labour MP

When I read the letter I actually laughed so hard my stomach hurt.

Firstly, it could have been written by Gordon Brown himself. It sounded identical to what the Ministers have been saying right throughout the process of this Bill going before Parliament. (For the record my Labour MP holds no Ministerial posts, nor have they in the past)

Secondly, why do we need such a long time to question terrorist suspects? The United States has TWO DAYS, France has five, Ireland has seven, Russia has five and Canada has one (this is based on the nearest thing to a ‘charge’ in each respective legal system and has been provided by Lawyers practising in each state). The UK already has the longest pre-charge detention period for terrorist suspects in the Western World. Even states with Human Rights records that are often criticised such as Russia and Turkey (7.5 days) have less. There is absolutely no reason for having such long periods, plenty manage with periods of les than a week.

We already have extensive provisions that can be used in these “exceptional circumstances” such as those within the Civil Contingencies Act. There are alternatives to pre-charge detention that should be explored such as post-charge questioning instead (many of which are far less objectionable than the policies being followed by the Labour Government.) 28 days is too long as it is.