118. In May 2009, the Secretary of State for Justice
was reported in the press as having indicated, in a public lecture
at Clifford Chance, that UK counter-terrorism laws built up in
the wake of the 9/11 attacks on New York and the 7/7 attacks on
London should be reviewed and may need to be scaled back.
He is reported to have said
There is a case for going through all counterterrorism
legislation and working out whether we need it. It was there for
a temporary period.
119. When the Prime Minister was asked at the Liaison
Committee whether he agreed with his Secretary of State's reported
comments that the time had come for a fundamental review of counter-terrorism
legislation, he said that "there is always a case for consolidation".
Disappointingly, however, he interpreted the question as asking
whether there was any longer any need for counter-terrorism legislation.
120. In our view, the question is not whether
counter-terrorism legislation is needed at all, but whether the
counter-terrorism legislation that we have got is justified and
proportionate in the light of the most up to date information
about the nature and scale of the threat we face from terrorism.
What is needed is not consolidation, but a thoroughgoing, evidence-based
review of the necessity for, and proportionality of, all the counter-terrorism
legislation passed since 11 September 2001. That review should
be carried out in the light of evidence of how it has worked in
practice and the reasons why it is said to remain necessary and
proportionate in the circumstances in which we find ourselves
121. Such a review could take a number of forms.
We are not advocating an internal Home Office review of counter-terrorism
legislation of the kind conducted by the Government in 2004. Nor
do we think that a review of the scale we envisage should be conducted
by a single individual such as the statutory reviewer of terrorism
legislation. One possibility would be to appoint a national version
of the ICJ's Eminent Jurists' Panel, comprising experienced and
distinguished lawyers. In our view, however, it is important that
the body which conducts the review has a degree of democratic
legitimacy and we therefore prefer the review to be carried out
by a body of parliamentarians. The Canadian Senate Review Committee
on the Anti-Terrorism Legislation provides an interesting precedent.
It conducted evidence hearings, heard from a variety of witnesses
and produced a well-regarded and substantial report reviewing
the necessity for Canada's anti-terrorism legislation. Alternatively,
the Committee of Privy Counsellors ("the Newton Committee"),
which produced the widely praised report on the Anti-Terrorism
Crime and Security Act 2001,
could be reconvened for the purpose, or a similar Committee of
Privy Counsellors be created for the purpose, or an ad hoc joint
committee if both Houses saw fit.
122. Whatever precise form the review body might
take, in our view, the case is made out for a fundamental parliamentary
review of the necessity and proportionality of all counter-terrorism
laws passed since 2001. We recommend that this be treated as an
urgent priority by the next Parliament.
87 "Terror laws built up after 9/11 and 7/7 may
be scaled back, says Jack Straw", The Guardian, 13
May 2009. Back
Oral evidence taken before the Liaison Committee on 2 February
2010, HC (2009-10) 346-i, Q72 Back
Fundamental Justice in Extraordinary Times: Main Report of
the Special Senate Committee on the Anti-Terrorism Act (February
2007).The Special Committee of the Canadian Senate was appointed
to undertake a comprehensive review of the provisions and operation
of the Anti-Terrorism Act. Back
Privy Councillor Review Committee, Anti-terrorism, Crime and
Security Act 2001 Review: Report, HC 100 (December 2003). Back