The Guardian January 23, 2002


Tony Benn warns against anti-terror Bill

by Ian Morrison

Veteran left campaigner Tony Benn warned yesterday that the British people 
will "pay a heavy price" for the introduction of the repressive anti-
terrorism Bill.

The House of Lords finally agreed to the Bill, allowing it to become law 
once it gets the royal assent.

Home Secretary David Blunkett made minor concessions, which were designed 
to clear the way for the controversial Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security 
Bill to be on the statute book by Christmas.

He dropped the section outlawing incitement to religious hatred.

However, despite the concessions, the Bill gives police and security 
services significantly greater powers.

It allows foreign terror suspects to be detained without trial where they 
cannot be deported  those arrested will have a right to appeal, but not 
to a full court of law.

However, that power will have to be renewed by Parliament after 15 months.

A spokesman for Mr Blunkett said that he was "very pleased" and felt that 
the government had "largely got the Bill that it wanted".

But Mr Benn was stunned by the draconian measures, warning: "What 
Parliament has just done is take away basic civil liberties under the guise 
of defending them.

"I never thought I would live in a period when any British Government would 
do what this one has just done."

Left-wing Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn warned: "The Bill in any form is a 
dangerous departure from the right of trial in a properly constituted 
court.

"The special tribunals, without access to evidence, will become the 
miscarriages of justice of the future."

Fellow left MP Alan Simpson said: "We should be horrified at the ease with 
which such basic human rights have been removed."

Liberty campaigns director Mark Littlewood said: "This measure has provoked 
the biggest rebellion in Parliament yet experienced by this government  
and with good reason.

"It includes a string of alarmingly repressive measures, not all of them 
restricted  or even remotely connected  to tackling terrorism."

Mr Littlewood added that, although Liberty welcomed "the concessions won by 
the House of Lords, the Act still includes the power to detain people 
indefinitely, without charge or trial, without access to all the evidence 
or to judicial review  and all this on mere suspicion.

"This remains a direct attack on an ancient principle of British justice  
and one we will seek to challenge in the courts."

Passage of the Bill also gives the green light for introduction of 
draconian EU-wide laws, at the Laeken summit.

A clause enables Ministers to implement EU laws, which set a common 
definition of a terrorist as anyone committing crimes "aimed at seriously 
altering or destroying political, economic or social structures."

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Morning Star, Britain's left daily

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