Anti-terror laws 'should be temporary measure'

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Proposals in the Government's bitterly contested anti-terrorism bill are of "major constitutional significance" but should be regarded only as a temporary measure, an all-party committee of peers warned today.

Proposals in the Government's bitterly contested anti-terrorism bill are of "major constitutional significance" but should be regarded only as a temporary measure, an all-party committee of peers warned today.

Just hours before the House of Lords begins its line by line scrutiny of the legislation, members of the Constitution Committee said the proposals should be given "particularly careful consideration".

Their report recommended that the proposals should be regarded as only necessary to deal with an exceptional and temporary situation, "not to become a permanent feature of statute law, available for use by any Government far in the future".

The Bill is intended to introduce control orders for terrorist suspects enabling the authorities to impose curfews, tagging, bans on telephone and internet use and in the most serious cases, house arrest.

Both the Tories and the Liberal Democrats have warned that they intend to push through changes in the Lords where the Government has no majority.

However, the Constitution Committee says the control orders should be made by the judiciary, not by Ministers, and that legislation on the matter should be subject to annual review and a five-year so-called Sunset Clause.

The Bill was introduced and had its second reading in the House of Lords on March 1 and is designed to meet the Law Lords' criticism that previous legislation was both disproportionate and discriminatory.

The report states categorically that there is no direct precedent for the powers granted to the Home Secretary in the Bill as it was originally drafted and presented to the House of Commons and presses for these to be exercised by the Courts, not the Government.

It also points out that the proposed control orders "make novel and far-reaching inroads" into the liberties of individuals within the United Kingdom.

Peers are due to debate the Bill at committee stage today and next Monday March 7. It is expected that remaining stages will take place later next week.