Select Committee on Constitutional Affairs Seventh Report

1  Introduction

Background to the inquiry

1. The Constitutional Affairs Committee decided to undertake an inquiry into the workings of the Special Immigration Appeals Tribunal (SIAC) as part of its oversight function of the Department for Constitutional Affairs. This work had begun before the presentation of the Prevention of Terrorism Bill (now the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005) to the House of Commons. The operation of the SIAC system for the past eight years offers a number of important lessons relevant to any future provision, notably the procedures surrounding the use of Special Advocates—security-cleared lawyers appointed to represent those appearing before the Commission in cases where closed material is involved.

2. The Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 will extend the use of Special Advocates into the operation of the High Court, representing a substantial expansion in their role.[1] The evidence which we took in the course of our inquiry informed debate in both Houses.[2] The Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 will be subject to review of various kinds. We hope that our conclusions and recommendations about the workings of SIAC will prove of assistance in considering what procedural safeguards are necessary under the new Control Order system on the basis of the problems arising and lessons learned from SIAC, and the use of Special Advocates before it. SIAC will continue to exercise jurisdiction in certain deportation and removal of citizenship cases.

Terms of reference

3. The inquiry's terms of reference were to:

Scope of the inquiry

4. During our inquiry we took oral evidence from one former and two current Special Advocates, a solicitor representing some of the detainees who have appeared before SIAC and representatives of JUSTICE, Liberty and Amnesty International. We then heard from the Lord Chancellor, Rt Hon Lord Falconer of Thoroton QC and, in his first appearance before the Constitutional Affairs Select Committee, the Attorney General, Rt Hon Lord Goldsmith QC. We received a number of written submissions, including two statements signed by the majority of the Special Advocates currently acting before SIAC. We are grateful to our special advisers, Mr Nicholas Blake QC, Mr Tom de la Mare and Mr Ben Emmerson QC for their assistance in our inquiry.

1   The Attorney General has confirmed in a letter to us that Special Advocates will not be used in proceedings relating to breaches of control orders, see footnote to Q 251 Back

2   For example in reply to a question posed by the Chairman of this Committee in debate, the Home Secretary said: "I can confirm, as did my noble friend the Attorney-General, that we believe that there are aspects of the procedure that need to be improved, and that is the process that he set out yesterday in his evidence to the Committee." HC Deb, 9 March 2005, col 1576 Back

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