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
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before