The Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Bill received its second reading on 5th October in a debate that lasted five hours. The Bill introduces a new version of control orders with broad judicial oversight. It is intended that they will be used in relation to suspects who for various reasons cannot be prosecuted or deported. The House of Lords and the judiciary can be counted on to defend human rights, whether those of suspected terrorists or anybody else, with vigour and determination. It is important that the government defends the security of the public, for without security no other human rights can exist at all. At the same time, our security and liberty might not be worth having if the price of defence is denial of human and constitutional rights. A difficult balance to achieve, and one that various governments have been working on for years. Our judges have applied the highest human rights standards in reviewing measure after measure and have caused the legislative branch to think again about designing effective but rights-compliant measures to deal with suspected terrorists.
Just one comment from me on this difficult issue. It was not until half way through this rather depressing debate that the measures were set in context and respect paid to those victims whose plight should be at the heart of the government’s thinking. Lord Carlile is the former government independent reviewer of terrorist legislation, and a distinguished QC and LibDem. He said: “What does the threat [level] mean to the public whom the Government have a first duty to represent and protect? It means that there is a strong possibility . . of a single or multiple suicide bombing attack occurring entirely unpredictably, with consequent death and injury on at least the scale of the events in London in 2005. I remind your Lordships that in the 7/7 attacks, not only were 52 people murdered by terrorists, but more than 770 people were injured, some extremely seriously. Further, it is worrying that violent jihadist terrorism techniques have become more varied since 2005, including the technique . . of massacre by the use of automatic weapons, as in Mumbai on 26 November 2008 . .” Lord Carlile also drew attention to the increased threat of terrorism associated with next year’s Olympics.
I was upset that Parliament did not take this opportunity to pay respect and tribute to the victims of the 7/7 attacks, especially the injured of whom we now hear little. Attention paid to their situation would then have enabled us to assess the scale of the anxieties expressed elsewhere in the debate about the effect of the Bill on the rights of suspects, e.g. the possible denial of their ability to see the GP of their choice or meet old friends (Baroness Hamwee.)