Clarke to water down Terror Bill to head off opposition in Lords

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The Independent Online

The Home Secretary is preparing to make fresh concessions over the Terrorism Bill to see off a revolt in the House of Lords, as a powerful committee of MPs and peers prepares to pull apart the Government's proposals in a damning report published tomorrow.

Charles Clarke is poised to offer a deal to the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats by agreeing to soften a key proposal to outlaw the glorification of terrorism when the Bill is debated in the House of Lords this week.

Sources close to Mr Clarke said they were prepared to offer concessions where by only those deliberately intending to incite terrorism would be charged. "We can do a deal over intent if it is matched by an agreement to unblock the Religious Hatred Bill. We are prepared for a trade-off," said one source.

Mr Clarke would dilute a proposal to outlaw indirect incitement to terrorism in return for support to push through the Bill outlawing the incitement to religious hatred.

A report published tomorrow by the Joint Committee on Human Rights will raise concerns that the Terror Bill breaches the European Convention on Human Rights. The committee is expected to say that parts of the Bill could infringe civil liberties and could even act as a recruiting agent for extremists.

The Government will also come under the spotlight over allegations that "torture flights" are refuelling at UK airports. The committee plans to investigate whether the Government has turned a blind eye to "extraordinary rendition" and summon ministers to give evidence.

An all-party group of MPs will tomorrow open an investigation into the secret flights, which take prisoners to undisclosed locations for interrogation. The MPs will also look at intelligence information extracted from "ghost prisoners" held in undisclosed locations by the US.

A report by the Intelligence and Security Committee found that the UK had "received intelligence of the highest value from detainees, to whom we have not had access and whose location is unknown to us". The Home Secretary, Jack Straw, has written to Condoleezza Rice about the controversial practice.

The report by the committee, which is chaired by Labour, will prove embarrassing for the Government. After a split on the committee, the report is expected to express concern that journalists who report on terror stories could be charged under anti-terror laws. The committee is also expected to question the definition of a terrorist and whether the use of violence is ever justifiable in the overthrow of oppressive regimes.

The Tories and Lib Dems had expressed fears that people could be jailed even if their statements had not been intended to incite terror. Mr Straw has already met Tory, Liberal Democrat and independent peers in an attempt to see off opposition.