Anti-terror Bill is attacked by peers

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Indy Politics

Ministers were attacked from all sides last night for trying to rush anti-terror laws through the House of Lords.

Peers complained that sweeping measures in the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill were not designed to crack down on terrorists but were being "slipped through" in the aftermath of the 11 September attacks on America.

The Conservative peer, Lord Waddington, claimed the offence of incitement to religious hatred, which the Bill would make a crime, has been on the Home Office agenda since 1985.

The former Home Office Minister said it had been introduced as a "sop to Muslims" in return for their support in the action against the Taliban.

Lord Waddington said the House of Lords "should certainly not allow the present and immediate threat to be used to put on the statute book offences which have no bearing" on terrorism or improving security.

Peers warned the Government they would not give them a "blank cheque" in the House of Lords although they admitted new powers were required to clamp down on terrorists.

Lord Dixon-Smith, the Tory spokesman, compared the Bill to "a premature baby dragged kicking and screaming into the world far too soon". He said the legislation was in need of "intensive care".

The Liberal Democrats warned they were not prepared to "let things slip through" which would, under normal circumstances, fail if subjected to parliamentary scrutiny.

Lord McNally urged the Lords to use their "collective wisdom and experience" to improve the Bill. Lord Maclennan of Rogart, making his maiden speech, said the plans to detain terrorist suspects without evidence were "repugnant."

But Lord Rooker, the Home Office Minister, defended the Bill as a "moderate and precautionary response" that, he said, was accepted as necessary by most of the public.

He added: "We can't forecast when the next act of mass terrorism may be. Nobody is claiming this Bill will solve the problems and stop it all but it's a measured response to try and put hurdles in the way of those who seek to bring international terrorism."