Anger rises over 'secret justice' Bill

Changes to plans for some cases to be heard behind closed doors are not enough, say MPs

Ministers face a fresh rebellion this week over plans to allow court cases affecting national security to be heard behind closed doors – despite claims that they have "substantially rewritten" the proposals to head off protests from Liberal Democrats.

The controversial Justice and Security Bill returns to the House of Commons tomorrow, two months after it was defeated in the House of Lords. A senior government source revealed yesterday that key sections of the Bill had been redrafted following the bruising encounter "to accommodate the Liberal Democrats". Kenneth Clarke, who is in charge of the Bill, had accepted key changes, notably restrictions on the use of the "closed material procedures" (CMPs), which would allow cases to be heard in secret.

But the Conservative backbencher Andrew Tyrie dismissed the claims, and called for more fundamental concessions before the Bill is allowed to pass into law. Mr Tyrie, who will publish a pamphlet tomorrow warning that the "secret justice" proposals would prevent disclosure of practices including torture, said: "The title of the Bill is classic doublespeak; it brings us neither more justice nor greater security. To agree only to the amendments suggested by the Lords is not going far enough, as the Lords simply did not have the time to put all their concerns over this Bill in the form of amendments."

Ministers presented their proposals to allow national security evidence in some civil cases to be heard in secret for the first time in an attempt to protect the Government from having to settle out of court rather than risk sensitive information becoming public. Mr Clarke claimed the laws are necessary because terrorists are launching a "steady stream" of multimillion-pound compensation claims against the security services.

Supporters also claimed the current system – under which the Government must apply for a public interest immunity (PII) certificate to allow sensitive material to be excluded –needed to be reformed. But the Bill threatened to open a split within the coalition, particularly after the proposals were defeated – against the wishes of the party leader Nick Clegg – at the Lib Dem conference last year.

Critics pointed out that the "secret justice" measures could have been used to suppress revelations about the ill-treatment of UK residents and terror suspects Binyam Mohamed and Bisher al-Rawi, and Afghan farmer Serdar Mohammed. Donald Campbell of the human rights group Reprieve said the Bill could also prevent disclosure of key details in military compensation cases.

In November, the House of Lords forced through amendments that removed a secretary of state's exclusive right to apply for a secret hearing and gave judges more discretion to decide whether hearings should be held behind closed doors.

A government insider said Mr Clarke had bowed to concerns raised by the Lords and by Parliament's Joint Human Rights Committee (JCHR). The source said: "The Bill is being substantially rewritten to accommodate the Lib Dems and clauses have been rewritten to achieve what the JCHR wanted. The Bill will accept that judges may, rather than must, consider a CMP."

But it was clear that the concessions would not be enough to assuage the Bill's critics. Mr Tyrie and a vocal band of colleagues are calling for further measures, including allowing judges to exhaust the PII system before considering a CMP, imposing a "sunset clause" limiting the time the powers would be available to ministers, and enabling a judge to balance the "interests of justice" against national security in deciding whether information can be disclosed.

Lib Dem MP Mike Crockart, who sits on the committee that debates the Bill this week, has also proposed amendments including a requirement for the new system to be monitored by the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation.

He said: "The question was really whether the proposed response was proportionate and I was clear that the balance wasn't right. The Government must not try to roll back the changes made in the Lords."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Junior Web Developer - Kent - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Junior Web Developer - ne...

Recruitment Genius: Production Team Leader / Chargehand

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a Chargehand to join ...

Ashdown Group: Client Services Manager - Relationship Management - London

£30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Recruitment Genius: Credit Controller / Customer Service

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding business...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project