Clarke offers yearly reviews for terror law

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Indy Politics

The Home Secretary Charles Clarke today announced a series of concessions on new anti-terror laws, but insisted the "sunset clause" was unacceptable.

The Home Secretary Charles Clarke today announced a series of concessions on new anti-terror laws, but insisted the "sunset clause" was unacceptable.

The clause, proposed by the Conservatives, would see the legislation expire in November. Instead Mr Clarke proposed a series of annual reviews and quarterly reports to Parliament.

Mr Clarke accepted the series of changes after the Bill received a mauling in the House of Lords.

But the Shadow home secretary David Davis said: "The Bill does not need to be renewed every year. It needs to be rewritten and got right."

The Home Secretary has also rejected a Lords amendment raising the burden of proof on which an order may granted above reasonable suspicion.

The legislation, which only scraped through the Commons last week because Tories and Liberal Democrats were absent, comes back before MPs later in the day.

It replaces existing arrangements that allow the detention of suspects who cannot be tried, which lapse this weekend.

Mr Clarke again rejected the idea of a short-term extension of those powers, which were ruled illegal by law lords 12 weeks ago.

However, the new system of "control orders" intended to replace them have been drastically amended in the Lords, where the sunset clause was inserted last night.

Peers had already voted for judges, rather than the Home Secretary, to issue all of the new orders.

Mr Clarke has accepted that judges must be involved in all stages of that process.

However, he said that in the most serious situations the Home Secretary would have the power to detain suspects who might flee, subject to a judge's confirmation within a week.

"My concern had always been that there were emergency circumstances where the time taken to sort that out would mean that you couldn't deal with particular people in particularly dangerous situations," he said.

"We have been able to find a way of dealing with that which I think will assure both the Commons and the Lords that we have met the concerns that have been raised."

Mr Clarke went on to propose an annual independent review of the laws presented to Parliament; an annual review of any parts which require the UK to opt out of any European Human Rights laws and a quarterly report by the Home Secretary to MPs.

He also promised legislation in the next session of Parliament "dealing with terrorism in the round".

The Home Secretary rejected suggestions that the Government was playing "party politics" with the issue, insisting ministers were simply responding to the law lords' judgment.

Lord Strathclyde, Tory leader in the Lords, said his party had "no desire to kill this Bill".

However, the peer warned Conservatives would continue to seek the sunset clause.

"I hope that good sense will prevail over the course of the next 24 hours so that by the end of the week we will have legislation to deal with what the Government tells us is an emergency but also time for the Home Office to get its act together with Parliament to create robust legislation against terrorism in eight months time," he said.