Today Andrew Tyrie MP and Anthony Peto QC have published their follow-up paper on the Justice and Security Bill for the Centre for Policy Studies. It makes for harrowing reading.
The Bill now heads back to the Lords today, where it started. The House of Lords voted for major amendments, introducing more discretion for judges and making the use of CMPs a last resort. The Government removed most of these amendments during Committee stage, in most cases by a single vote, despite repeated warnings that the Bill’s proposals constitute a radical departure from fundamental constitutional principles.
As Andrew Tyrie MP says: “The Lords did good repair work on the Bill, but the Government has undone much of it. The Lords now have a final chance to restore their original sensible amendments and further improve the Bill. I very much hope that they will do take it.”
The report makes nine recommendations for amendments, almost all of them supported by the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR).
- Closed Material Procedures (CMPs) should be a last resort
- The Court, not the Secretary of State, should consider whether a claim for Public Interest immunity (PII) could have been made in relation to the sensitive material.
- Even where a CMP is approved, the judge should be able to balance the interests of justice against those of national security in deciding if information should be disclosed.
- Where CMPs are used, summaries of the national security sensitive information should be provided to the excluded party and his or her legal representatives.
- There should be a periodic review of the legislation conducted by an independent reviewer.
- The Bill should contain a periodic renewal clause.
- The definition of “sensitive information” under the Norwich Pharmacal provisions should be amended.
- The Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee should be elected, consistent with the proposals of the House of Commons Reform Committee (Wright Committee).
The report is absolutely right. A civil and open society cannot do justice in secret. If there is to be a bill, these safeguards are essential and we urge the Lords to restore them.