Constitutional Affairs Committee

Press notice 7 of Session 2004-05                      24 January 2005


Details of the witnesses who will give evidence to the Constitutional Affairs Committee inquiry into SIAC, the court that sits in secret to hear appeals from terrorist suspects facing deportation or detention, were announced today.

Details of the evidence sessions are as follows:
Tuesday 22 February, Grimond Room, Portcullis House
Ian MacDonald QC, former special advocate
Gareth Peirce, a solicitor acting on behalf of detainees
Martin Chamberlain, currently a special advocate

This part of the session is expected to last just over an hour and is aimed at exploring practical issues and difficulties faced by SIAC practitioners.

To be followed by:

Shami Chakrabarti, Director, Liberty
Eric Metcalfe, Director of Human Rights Policy, JUSTICE
Amnesty International (representative to be confirmed)

This part of the session will look into issues of principle and is expected to last approximately one hour.

Tuesday 1 March, Grimond Room, Portcullis House
Rt Hon Lord Falconer of Thoroton QC, Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor

Transcripts of the sessions will be available on the Reports and Publications page of the Committee’s website.

The Committee’s inquiry will:

> examine the workings of the Special Immigration Appeals Tribunal
> consider how the operation of SIAC impacts upon the legal and human rights of appellants
> question whether it offers appropriate safeguards against inappropriate detention or deportation
> investigate whether procedures established to deal with immigration rights are adequate for decisions involving lengthy periods of custody.

The Committee announced this inquiry on the 12 January (see Press notice 5) and invited submissions relating to the terms of reference above from relevant interested parties. These should be sent to the Clerk of the Committee at the address above by Monday 7 February 2005. An electronic version in MS Word or Rich Text format should also be submitted, either by e-mail to [email protected] or on a disk and this should be accompanied by a letter stating clearly who the submission is from, together with relevant contact details. Submissions should be as brief as possible, and certainly no more than 3,000 words. Paragraphs should be numbered for ease of reference, and it would be helpful to include a brief executive summary. Attention is drawn to the guidance on the submission of evidence which can be found at 

Notes for Editors:
1. Following the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, the remit of the SIAC was extended to cover appeals by aliens who have been indefinitely imprisoned without charge because they are suspected of involvement in terrorism, but cannot be deported without the risk of torture or ill-treatment in their own countries.
2. The SIAC is the sole court of appeal for foreigners living in the UK, whom the Home Secretary intends to deport on national security grounds when evidence against them is considered to be too secret to be disclosed.  The Chairman at each SIAC hearing is a High Court judge. 
3. In deportation cases, the SIAC can act in closed session and neither the appellant nor counsel is entitled to hear the evidence, which may include intelligence reports.  In closed sessions, the interests of the appellant are represented by a ‘special advocate’.  Once the special advocate has seen or heard the secret evidence denied to an appellant, they are barred from contact with the appellant or his/her lawyers.
4. The Committee announced this inquiry on 12 January 2005 (Press notice 5, Session 2004-05, available on the Press Notices page of the Committee’s website.
5. Committee Membership is as follows: Rt Hon Alan Beith MP (Chairman), Peter Bottomley MP, Mr Hilton Dawson MP, Mr James Clappison MP, Ross Cranston QC MP, Mr Andrew Rosindell MP, Mr Clive Soley MP, Mrs Ann Cryer MP, Keith Vaz MP, Mr Jim Cunningham MP, Dr Alan Whitehead MP
6. Press notice: 7