Prevention of Terrorism Bill

24 February 2005

Press Release

Boris Johnson MP denounces Government’s latest Anti-Terror plans

Speaking in the Chamber, Boris Johnson MP yesterday lambasted the Government’s proposed Prevention of Terrorism Bill as an attack on the fundamental principles of Habeas Corpus:

“I hope that the House will forgive me if I begin by repeating some of the powers that the Home Secretary is about to take under this Bill: the power to lock someone up in their own house; the power to stop other people visiting that person; the power to remove any item of property from that person’s house; the power to tag that person; the power to ask that person to surrender his or her passport, to report to a police station and to produce any information demanded of him; in other words, the power to incarcerate that person.

“These powers are to be exercised against anyone whom the Home Secretary deems to be involved in a terrorism-related activity. Such a person is defined in the broadest possible terms as, for instance, someone engaged in conduct that gives support or assistance to individuals who are known or believed to be engaged in terrorism-related activities. It is the intention to detain such people without trial for an unlimited period, contrary to the most basic principles of English law.

“The Government say that our ancient liberty will be protected by the role of the judge who must review the demand of the Home Secretary for certification. On the face of it, as has already been said, that is a flimsy protection. The judge merely has to decide whether the Home Secretary has information capable of constituting reasonable grounds for the Home Secretary to make a control order. I think that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will agree that information capable of constituting reasonable grounds is a million miles away from properly satisfying a court that a man should be locked up.

“I do not doubt the security services’ good intentions. I am sure that all hon. Members agree that they have done a magnificent job in protecting us thus far from the undoubted threats that terrorists pose. However, I cannot for the life of me understand why the state feels it necessary to take new powers now. The control orders would be instantly recognisable not only to the old BOSS security services in South Africa, but to every secret police force, including Cheka, the OGPU, the NKVD and the Securitate.

“I cannot believe that Labour Members of Parliament entered politics to take away habeas corpus. I hope that the impassioned denunciation of the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) will ring in the Home Secretary’s capacious ears when he formulates the climbdown that so many of us, from all parties, hope that he will propose in the next few days.

“In a hotly contested field, the Bill is one of the worst Government measures that has been produced in my time in the House. No responsible Opposition could conceivably let it through unamended. It is reminiscent of the actions of some tottering Belgian coalition Government of the early 1970s, using the threat of terror as an excuse to enact repressive emergency measures that are never removed from the statute book”.

23 thoughts on “Prevention of Terrorism Bill”

  1. The Sun: curious coincidences and warped priorities

    You may recall that the Osbournes got robbed the last time (almost) everybody was talking about security measures and the legal advice given for the invasion of Iraq (November 22 and 23 2004) but I’m *pretty* sure The Sun doesn’t…

  2. And now, in the interests of remaining fair and balanced, I present today’s editorial from The Sun. I hope it amuses you as much as it amused me:

    “There is no reason now for the Tories to stand in the way of the anti-terror laws. The Government has listened to the concerns of those who say, rightly or wrongly, that locking up suspects solely on the say-so of a politician is wrong. On Monday an amendment will be made so that a judge is involved in this process at an early stage. That will safeguard civil liberties. So Parliament must get on with making this new law effective as soon as possible. Every delay is one more day when the terrorists could inflict a dreadful outrage on this country and its citizens. No political party would ever be forgiven if its actions caused a delay which allowed a disaster to happen.” (The Sun, 25 Feb 2005. A day they appear to suspect will live in infamy.)

  3. “It is reminiscent of the actions of some tottering Belgian coalition Government of the early 1970s”

    Funny, to me it’s reminiscent of the actions of a particular Unionist Prime Minster invoking the Special Powers act and introducting internment in Northern Ireland.

    But we don’t talk about that any more….

    I do feel that “No responsible Opposition” should have agreed with the Identity Card bill in any reading. It’s sad to see that only at the edges of propriety do the Conservations finally act as opposition party.

  4. Hear Hear Boris! Well done you.

    “No responsible Opposition could conceivably let it through unamended. It is reminiscent of the actions of some tottering Belgian coalition Government of the early 1970s, using the threat of terror as an excuse to enact repressive emergency measures that are never removed from the statute book”.

    No responsible opposition should let it through at all.

    I keep asking myself, with all the fundamental changes to our laws and way of living that ‘New Labour’ has brought about, was our country REALLY THAT BAD before they took over? And the answers no actually. We’ve done pretty well for generations with some very good laws. We’re in danger of loosing everything good about our country. Thank God for Boris Johnson who should be promoted into a key position in the Tory party TODAY!

  5. Quiet some speech Boris! It’s great to hear an MP really putting his foot down over this issue in a cognative, measured and proper way. Every day that passes I become more angered by the possibilities held inside these new powers. All I can do is thank you, and any who stand with you in opposing this bill, and pray to god that the Lords do their duty. I’m sure they will.

  6. Very good, Boris, particularly “I hope that the impassioned denunciation… will ring in the Home Secretary’s capacious ears”. 😉

  7. “I cannot believe that Labour Members of Parliament entered politics to take away habeas corpus.”

    I doubt they gave it a thought.

    IMO, most people most of the time are driven by emotion. Politicians are no different. They don’t reason about political systems: they try to grab power; they strive to be admired; they try to please people who hand out the jobs; they work off their feelings of envy.

    That’s not an exercise in cynicism on my part: I think people have social needs and don’t merely serve their own interests. But I’m convinced that they don’t sit around making rational judments about the long-term implications of legislation. IMO, people aren’t like that.

  8. “It is reminiscent of the actions of some tottering Belgian coalition Government of the early 1970s”

    It’s worse than that. What’s taken place over the last four years is more reminiscent of the 1930s than the 1970s.

    The rhetoric used by the Government is so transparently dishonest and overblown it is hard, at times, not to suspect a darker agenda.

    Even if you believe that the scale of the ‘threat’ facing us is of the magnitude claimed by the government, and I personally don’t, the actions that are being taken are wrong.

    The objective of terrorism is to affect the lives of the communities targeted out of all proportion to the real capabilities of the terrorists.

    This is what is happening and we, as a nation, are playing into the terrorists hands, whoever they might really be. Whatever became of the stiff upper lip? It really did have its plus points.

    We need to get shot of Blair and Co before any more harm is done, whatever our personal politics. The issues now facing us are much more fundamental than a few pence either way on the rate of income tax …

  9. Prevention of Terrorism Bill

    They Work For You have the whole text of the Prevention of Terrorism Bill debate on 23 February. Some notable passages: “I suppose that once one has shown contempt for liberty by voting against it in the Lobby, it becomes easier to do it a second…

  10. Sat behind Boris at his address to the Durham Union this evening and loved every minute of it. The “3 Banners”- Freedom, Democracy and Value for Taxpayers, certainly rang true. My vote, previously a given for the Lib Dems, is now under re-think. Well done Boris. I can only hint at how annoyed I am at this government’s chipping away of peoples’ rights, be it through eroding habeas corpus or banning fox hunting (more foxes have died from being shot in Scotland than were ever killed by dogs since it was banned there, and of course, as Boris said, many are run over by cars and the government isn’t trying to ban them- animal rights my a**e, as Jim Royle might say…), and would surely welcome some common sense government which values the rights and liberties of the people who put it in power in the first place.

  11. Boris

    Hear hear … this an absolute disgrace and puts Britain in the same league as such states as Burma (or is it Myanmar now?)
    I dont understand why the streets are not filled with protesters as big as or even bigger than the anti-war protests.
    With the entirely unnnessecary Fox Hunting Debacle which has wasted so much Government time, plus the removal of the hereditary peers – etc etc. this b…y government is destroying Britain as the country sleeps.

    Keep up the good fight- so few others seem to be doing anything.

  12. Aidan: I was sitting just in front of Boris for his address at the union. Wonder just how many Durham people are going to be reading his blog now? Hmmmm.
    If I wasn’t already planning on voting Tory, I reckon I might have been swayed over to the blue side a bit by him. Very good speaker.

  13. Glad you were in the front row – I’m sure you are a true blue. Blue suits you – go on! I know from the scarf on your live journal… She of the Blue pashmina

  14. Someone once said that it was better to die on one’s feet than to live on one’s knees. Most bullies want to use terrorism as an exuse to get us on our knees. Good to see that Boris can see through the political fog …

    ‘Men do not differ much about what things they will call evils; they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable.’-G. K. Chesterton; ILN, 10/23/09

  15. Oh, I’m definitely converted to the Blue, Melissa. A tory through and through (well, as long as they stick to sensible policies)

  16. Liberty and Internment

    Liberty has a page on house arrest at the moment, with an online petition (to be presented this week). At 5:30pm on thursday, liberty will be holding a vigil in parliament square as the bill goes to the Lords. One…

  17. Prevention of Terrorism Bill II

    The Prevention of Terrorism Bill was narrowly passed in the Commons yesterday and sent to the Lords in the face of growing opposition and considerable confusion about government intentions (see also 26 February). “The scope for miscarriages of ju…

  18. the best thing about this bill is the definition of terrorist. If we assume the definition to be the same as the terrorism act 2000 then you are supporting terrorism in an illegal way if you ‘promote’ (for example, wear the T-shirt of) 25 different organisations. these include Al-qaeda and Hamas. Let us assume for a moment that there is a 20 year old boy who decides to wear a T-shirt with ‘hamas’ written on it because amoung his peers this makes him cool. This technically makes him a supporter of terrorism and under the TA 2000 this makes him someone suspected of facilitating a terrorist act, in other words, a terror suspect. Under the new proposals this could mean that a 20yr old boy who wore a T-shirt for no other reason than he thought it was cool could conceivably have his liberty stripped away, his possessions stolen and be banned from seeing his mother and father…
    what a wonderfully liberal world we live in!

  19. IMO All the scare-mongering by both the British and the US govts re the undisclosed terrorist threats is probably based on information extracted at Guantanamo, or in the more covential torture establishments of Cairo & Damascus.
    Given the coercion it’s totally unreliable and useless.

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