The Terrorism Bill 2005 finished its Report Stage in the House of Lords this Wednsday 25th January and will get its Third Reading in the House of Lords next Wednesday 1st February 2006.
There was an attempt by backbench Labour peers to amend the controversial 28 days detention without charge provisions, to 60 days, having accepted that the originally proposed 90 days had been defeated in the Commons.
The Government front bench abstained in the vote on this amendment , which, thankfully, was defeated.
Just because the House of Lords sometimes has to do the job of detailed Parliamentary scrutiny which the House of Commons cannot seem to be bothered to do, it does not mean that they scrutinise every clause in a Government Bill:
Despite the Opposition Amendments which have been passed, the Terrorism Bill 2005 still contains some extraordinarily threatening and over broad catch-all powers, such as the Clause 5 Preparation of terrorist acts which can carry a life sentence even if the "acts of terrorism" themselves, which are being prepared for, are relarively minor ones with only a maximum 2 year sentence, and even if the "acts of terrorism" are never even attempted, let alone succeed.
The recent convictions of British citizens Andrew Rowe, sentenced to 15 years in prison, and in another case, Abu Baker Mansha, sentenced to 6 years, were both for the mere possession of documents, in their own handwriting, which have been deemed to have been "useful to terrorists". This is even though neither any actual weapons, nor any explosives, nor any evidence of a conspiracy with any other people, was found.
We fear that this catch-all "Preparation of acts of terrorism" offrence will be used in similar "ThoughtCrime" situations, and even harsher sentences will be imposed without tangible evidence.
None of the Lords have bothered to query why Clause 15 Maximum penalty for contravening notice relating to encrypted information is necessary, given that it raises the penalty from 2 years to 5 years for the completely undefined "national security cases", amending Part III of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which has never been commenced by Order, even after 5 years on the Statute Book i.e. there has never been any such notice served on anyone, to hand over encryption keys or the unencrypted plaintext, so how can the Home Office claim that the existing 2 year penalty is somehow insufficient ?
Yet again, no Parliamentarian, of either House, has raised even a whimper about the clauses which no longer require the Home Secretary to personally sign Interception warrants and certificates, and also Intelligence agency warrants, which require renewal or extension. This task will now be done by faceless bureaucrats, in secret, without any public accountability when the Bill becomes law, unless there is a last minute amendment at Third Reading.