News story

Taking urgent action to restore rights

An article by Home Secretary Theresa May, published today in the Pakistan-based publication The News/Daily Jang, explains the reasons for the counter-terrorism review announced this week, and what she hopes it will achieve.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The article is reproduced below in its entirety. Or you can read it on the The News/Daily Jang’s website.

UK laws too authoritarian

Yesterday, in the House of Commons, I announced an urgent review of the UK’s key counter-terrorism and security powers. Over the past decade the British state has become too authoritarian. We need to take urgent action to restore the rights of individuals, in keeping with our proud British traditions of freedom and fairness.

There is a widespread concern that counter-terrorism laws have gone too far, that they are being misused and are eroding important civil liberties. In the coalition Programme for Government document published in May we made our commitment to review controversial counter-terrorism powers clear. Of course, national security is the first duty of this government but it is crucial we do not interfere with people’s rights and freedoms unnecessarily.

The review announced yesterday is an important first step in meeting our commitment to reversing the substantial erosion of civil liberties this country has seen in recent years and in creating a counter-terrorism regime that is proportionate, focussed and transparent, striking the right balance between security and civil liberties.

No stop and search without reasonable suspicion

Last week The Daily Jang wrote about changes to the way police are allowed to use section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which gives the police powers to stop and search. Following a judgement by the European Court of Human Rights, I have ceased the use of section 44 powers to stop and search individuals without reasonable suspicion. Section 43 can still be used but, importantly, there must be reasonable suspicion. The way section 44 was being used contravened the European Court’s ruling, but more importantly, it contravened our civil liberties.

Stop and search powers will be examined further under the review.

Control orders to be reviewed

Control orders, the detention of terror suspects before they are charged and the banning or organisations which promote hatred or violence will also be considered, as will the way the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) is used by local authorities.

The review will also take a view on whether we can increase deportations with assurances which allow Britain to deport foreign nationals who threaten our security, to countries where there are guarantees that they will not be tortured.

This important review will allow us to look at all the evidence relating to these six areas which make up some of the most sensitive and controversial counter-terrorism and security powers. Where it is clear that powers need to be rolled back, we will do so and where laws need to change, we will change them.

Prevent, a programme which aims to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting violent extremists, is not included in this review and will be examined separately. I will give further details on this in due course.

Impartial oversight to ensure review is fair

The review is being led by the Home Office but I have asked the former Director of Public Prosecutions, Lord Ken Macdonald, who has considerable experience of security issues, to provide expert independent oversight of it. Lord Ken Macdonald will ensure that the review is properly conducted, that all the relevant options have been considered and that the recommendations of the review are balanced.

The police, Crown Prosecution Service and the security and intelligence agencies will also be fully involved.

This significance of this review cannot be overstated and so I have asked for it to be completed as soon as possible. I will report back to Parliament on the outcome of the review in the autumn.

‘We will not hesitate to take action’

The terrorist threat to the UK remains severe which shows it is serious in scale and duration. It continues to be both home grown and international. That is why we will not hesitate to take the action needed to tackle terrorism and its causes at home and abroad.

This review will play an important role in ensuring that, in so doing, anti-terrorism legislation protects both the public and civil liberties. No government can provide security for a country without the trust and support of its citizens.

Published 14 July 2010