24 February 2005
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”.