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Labour's increasingly draconian anti-terrorism laws questioned by cross-party parliamentary committee

The Joint Committee on Human Rights, comprising peers and MPs of all parties, has published a report this morning questioning the Labour Government's justifications for increasingly draconian anti-terror laws in the years since the September 11 attacks.

It states:

"All too often human rights considerations are squeezed out by the imperatives of national security and public safety. Since September 11th 2001 the Government has continuously justified many of its counter-terrorism measures on the basis that there is a public emergency threatening the life of the nation. We question whether the country has been in such a state for more than eight years... We are concerned that the Government’s approach means that in effect there is a permanent state of emergency, and that this inevitably has a deleterious effect on public debate about the justification for counter-terrorism measures."

The committee also states that the Government needs properly to evaluate whether the power to detain terrorism suspects for up to 28 days without charge is still necessary, and calls for the draft Bill extending that period to 42 days to be withdrawn.

"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."

Such a review of counter-terrorism laws should be "an urgent priority" for Parliament after the general election, the committee concluded. 

9.15am update:

Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling has issued the following reaction to the report:

“We agree there is a need for an urgent review of terror laws. The committee is right to question whether all of the legislation introduced since 2001 is proving effective or necessary. But even more important is the need to stop the use of terror laws for other purposes, like routine stop and search and local authorities’ surveillance of recycling habits.”

Jonathan Isaby