Secret courts threat graver than ever after government overturns Lords amendments to Justice & Security Bill
Posted: 06 February 2013
Amnesty International, JUSTICE, Liberty and Reprieve have warned that the threat of secret courts is graver than ever after ministers defied the House of Lords and reverted back to the original version of the highly damaging Justice and Security Bill.
Yesterday - as Westminster and the media concentrated on same-sex marriage - the House of Commons Committee responsible for scrutiny of the Bill passed new government amendments which reverse changes to the Bill made by the Lords in November.
In November the government suffered several large cross-party defeats on the legislation in the House of Lords, as Peers introduced a series of amendments. Those changes - supported by Labour, Liberal Democrats, Crossbenchers and some Conservatives - improved the likelihood that secret courts would be used only as a genuine “last resort”.
Amnesty International UK Head of Policy and Government Affairs Allan Hogarth said:
“The government has stubbornly refused to listen to widespread criticism of this dangerous and fundamentally unjust Bill.
“If the Bill becomes law we will end up with victims of human rights violations being prevented from seeing secret evidence against them and even being prevented from talking to their own lawyers. It’s ludicrous and totally contrary to basic principles of open justice.”
The Justice and Security Bill now moves to Report Stage in the House of Commons - where there is likely to be a showdown vote to either entirely scrap Part 2 of the Bill (which contains the provisions for secret courts), or to reintroduce the House of Lords’ original amendments. Labour has reserved the option to vote against the legislation if the government fails to make the case for it, while minority parties, excluding the DUP, are against Part 2 and a growing number of Conservative and Liberal Democrat backbenchers also oppose the Bill.