PN030305Const

IMMEDIATE

THURSDSAY 3 MARCH 2005

HOUSE OF LORDS CONSTITUTION COMMITTEE PUBLISHES REPORT ON THE PREVENTION OF TERRORISM BILL

The cross-party House of Lords Constitution Committee published a report today on the Prevention of Terrorism Bill.

The Committee concluded that proposals in the bill are of major constitutional significance and that they − and any possible amendments − should be given particularly careful consideration.

It has urged that control orders should be made by the judiciary, not by Ministers, and that legislation on the matter should be subject to annual review and a  "sunset" clause.

The legislation was introduced into and had its second reading in the House of Lords on 1 March, and is designed to meet the Law Lords' criticism that previous legislation was both disproportionate and discriminatory.

The report states categorically that there is no direct precedent for the powers granted to the Home Secretary in the Bill as it was originally drafted and presented to the House of Commons, and presses for these to be exercised by the Courts, not the Government.

It also points out that the proposed control orders "make novel and far-reaching inroads" into the liberties of individuals within the United Kingdom. They therefore require very strong justification, and should be regarded as only necessary to deal with an exceptional and temporary situation, "not to become a permanent feature of statute law, available for use by any Government far in the future".

NOTE FOR EDITORS

1. The Constitution Committee's remit is: To examine the constitutional implications of all public bills coming before the House; and to keep under review the operation of the constitution. For this purpose, the Committee has defined "the constitution" as "the set of laws, rules and practices that create the basic institutions of the state, and its component and related parts, and stipulate the powers of those institutions and the relationship between the different institutions and between those institutions and the individual" (HL Paper 11 (2001−02), chapter 2). 

2. The function of the Committee is not to resist constitutional change, but to ensure that when such change takes place through legislation, it occurs as the result of a conscious decision of Parliament, reached where possible after informed debate. In scrutinising bills, the Committee asks whether the bill raises issues of principle affecting a principal part of the constitution.

3. The Committee has 12 members, 4 Labour, 4 Conservative, 2 Liberal Democrat, 2 Crossbench.  Its chairman is Lord Holme of Cheltenham (Lib Dem).

4. Copies of the report can be collected by journalists, witnesses and UK Government Departments from the reception of 2 Millbank House, House of Lords, London, SW1P 3LX.

They will also be available from the UK Press Gallery, House of Commons and House of Lords.

The report will be published on the Committee's webpage.

[ENDS]