Anti-Terror Bill: A deal claimed as victory by both sides

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Indy Politics

What is the compromise set out by Tony Blair?

Mr Blair has offered his opponents the chance to amend the legislation when new proposals on terrorism are introduced later this year. But he refused to introduce a formal sunset clause to the Prevention of Terrorism Bill and insisted he would not agree to peers' demands for a tougher burden of proof before control orders can be imposed on terror suspects.

What will the new proposals cover?

The law is designed to replace anti-terrorism legislation which expires on Monday. The Government was forced to bring new legislation after its existing anti-terror laws were ruled unlawful by the Lords.

Michael Howard said Mr Blair's compromise was a sunset clause "in all but name". Is he right?

Yes and no. A sunset clause would have made the new law expire automatically in a year's time. That means the Government would have had to produce a new law. Instead the Government has offered to let its opponents amend its new anti-terror Bill, creating an offence of acts preparatory to terrorism, which would be introduced in draft later this year.

Does that guarantee that the anti-terror Bill is reconsidered?

The compromise guarantees future debate on the law, and gives an opportunity for it to be changed next year. But under yesterday's move, Mr Blair gets the principle of anti-terror control orders on the statute book, and wins the battle over the burden of proof. The Opposition will have a chance to amend the law when new anti-terror proposals are put forward, but there is no guarantee that they would stand any chance of success.

What happens next?

The Prevention of Terrorism Act will become law immediately and an independent monitor will be appointed to oversee its operation. A draft counter-terrorism Bill will be published in the autumn. Early next year the independent monitor will publish the first report on the anti-terror law before the counter-terrorism Bill is introduced into the Commons. By July 2006 MPs and peers will have had the chance to amend the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

Who has won this battle?

A narrow victory to Mr Blair, who has secured his anti-terror law without making key concessions. All three party leaders will feel they have saved face by talking tough on terror.



11.30am Lords start debate on Prevention of Terrorism Bill after the Commons reverses defeats made during four days of debate in Upper House.

2.20pm Peers conclude first round of voting, rejecting amendments.

6pm Commons resumes.

8pm Commons votes down Lords amendments.

10pm Lords resume.

11.20pm Peers vote down Commons a second time.


1.20am MPs debate Bill for second time. Hazel Blears, the Home Office minister, offers minor concessions.

3am MPs vote down Lords.

5am Lords resume after a few hours' snatched sleep.

6am Lords throw out Commons amendments.

8am Commons resumes.

9.50am MPs vote down Lords a third time.

11.40am Lords resume debate. Liberal Democrats offer minor concession.

12.45pm Lords vote down Commons again.

1pm Michael Howard addresses Conservatives.

3.30pm MPs resume.

4.30pm Tony Blair says there is "a way through".

5.20pm Michael Howard says a sunset clause was promised "in all but name".

6.20pm Liberal Democrat Mark Oaten welcomes "a drastically improved piece of legislation".

7pm Anti-terrorism laws approved by Lords.

7.30pm Bill has Royal assent.