Howarth calls on Campbell to stop supporting house arrest

February 24, 2005 9:00 PM

David Howarth has called on Cambridge's MP, Anne Campbell, to reconsider her position on the government's controversial new anti-terrorism legislation. At the bill's second reading yesterday Mrs Campbell supported the government and, despite opposition from both the Lib Dems and Conservatives, the motion was passed. The government's majority was severely reduced, however, from 161 to 76, as over thirty Labour MPs rebelled and more abstained.

David Howarth called on Mrs Campbell to join their ranks when the bill comes before the Commons for its third reading on Monday:

"This legislation will give a politician the power to keep you in your home and prevent you from contacting or communicating with family or friends. It goes against the very principles of justice and liberty that are long established in this country. The people of Cambridge don't want these authoritarian measures, and Cambridge's MP should be fighting against them, not lining up in the lobby to register her support."

Some Cambridge residents have been commenting on the proposals via a BBC website - Ralph Williams was outraged:

"This is a fundamental attack on the rights of all UK citizens. The law lords have declared the incarceration of foreign nationals without trial as illegal - so this government extends the procedure to all of us!"

These views were echoed in yesterday's Commons debate, with Labour rebels delivering some of the most passionate speeches. Robert Marshall-Andrews, Labour MP for Medway, was disgusted by the bill:

"In part, the Bill is incomprehensible. I have been reviewing statutes for 35 years, and this Bill is one of the worst, despite its brevity. [But] if its form is bad, its substance is truly dreadful. It is almost certainly one of the worst pieces of legislation that any Government has attempted to put through this House for 200 years. It offends against the cardinal and root principle of our democracy - the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary."

The Liberal Democrats have called for communication intercepts, such as phone tapping, to be allowed as evidence in court, as happens in many other countries. This would allow a much larger number of suspects to be brought to trial. Judges asked to prepare the cases could be cleared by the security services.

Control orders should only be used when absolutely necessarily - and they must be issued by a judge, not the Secretary of State. To protect civil liberties from being undermined by future legislation, the Liberal Democrats have proposed a five point plan:

1) Abolish the Royal Prerogative. We need a proper framework for Ministers so that their actions are subject to full parliamentary scrutiny.

2) Ensure all Bills are accompanied by a Privacy Impact Assessment that measures proposals against the effects on the right of the individual to privacy.

3) Make it easier for the public to see the legal advice given to Ministers by amending the Freedom of Information Act.

4) End the politicisation of the Civil Service with a robust Civil Service Act.

5) Strengthen Parliament's ability to scrutinise legislation.

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