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."
* * *Morning Star, Britain's left daily