Peers throw out planned crime of 'glorifying' terror

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Peers have dealt a devastating blow to the Government's proposed anti-terror laws, throwing out plans to create a new offence of "glorifying" terrorism.

The House of Lords set the scene for a fresh showdown in the Commons after they voted to remove the offence by 270 to 144, a majority of 126.

Tony Blair's majority was cut to just one in the Commons last year when he narrowly thwarted a backbench attempt to block the planned offence.

Yesterday, peers backed the former law lord Lord Lloyd of Berwick who condemned the measure as "unworkable". He told the Lords: "We are creating a new criminal offence in this section which should not be on the statute book."

Peers lined up to attack the proposed offence, claiming it was unnecessary and could erode free speech.

Lord Goodhart, the Liberal Democrat, said: "It seems to me that the glorification of terrorism, having that in the Act, is at best useless and at worst could cause serious problems."

He claimed that, for example, praising the American war of independence on 4 July would be caught by the Bill. He said: "The whole question of glorification is simply going to confuse and trouble the courts. The definition is amazingly wide."

The Bishop of Winchester, the Right Rev Michael Scott-Joynt, warned that the "oppressive" legislation may give assistance to totalitarian regimes.

He said: "We are legislating for this country but it is very important at every point in this Bill, much of which I find profoundly questionable, to remember the political and educational and legal influence of our work elsewhere, especially in those Commonwealth countries who to a very significant extent share our legal traditions."

And Baroness Helena Kennedy, the human rights lawyer, said: "It is really important we take account of the great influence our law has on the common law world." She quoted a letter by Louise Arbour, the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, who said the Bill "could pose grave challenges to effective human rights protection and set worrying precedents in the global struggle against terrorism".