The Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill was introduced to the House of Commons on 26 November 2014.
JUSTICE is concerned that little justification has been provided for the treatment of this Bill as fast-track legislation. This Second Reading debate will take place only three working days after the Bill’s publication. Most of the proposals in the Bill have been subject to no prior public consultation or pre-legislative scrutiny. The limited time available – and the short programme planned for this Bill’s passage – will seriously limit the ability of Parliament to conduct effective scrutiny of the proposal’s impact on individual rights in practice.
JUSTICE has a number of substantive concerns about the scope of the Bill. Broadly:
- The introduction of a police power to seize passports or other travel documents – including the documents of foreign travellers – has the potential to seriously impact on the rights of individuals in practice. The Government’s explanation that these measures are necessary is scant and safeguards against arbitrary application, few.
- The Government’s plan to create an administrative power to bar British citizens and others with a right to return from entering the UK deserves close scrutiny. If the primary goal of our counter-terrorism policy is to protect the public, does forcing individuals to choose freedom in exile over controlled return serve this purpose in practice? The UK cannot dump our would-be terrorist suspects on other countries without consequence. If other countries were encouraged to take this approach, it is highly likely that the Secretary of State would routinely seek deportation. If we are aware that an individual is a risk, we know where they are and that they are seeking to return to our jurisdiction, would public safety and global security be better served by encouraging their return with a view to full investigation and prosecution of any relevant criminal offences?
- Criticism of the TPIMs regime by the police and security services does not support the case for the reintroduction of more draconian restrictions, but highlights the ineffectiveness of this kind of administrative order as an alternative to criminal investigation and prosecution.
- The further expansion of the framework for the retention of data in the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 (DRIPA) is inconsistent with the right to privacy protected by both Articles 7 and 8 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and Article 8 ECHR as highlighted by the Digital Rights Ireland decision.
- JUSTICE is concerned that the creation of the proposed Privacy and Civil Liberties Board will do little to improve the oversight mechanisms for either our terrorism legislation or our surveillance framework. The mechanism for the scrutiny of surveillance in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 is ripe for wholesale review. Parliament should exercise caution that the proposals in the Bill will, in practice, support rather than undermine the work of the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation.