It must be a sign of the times that as we mark 800 years of Magna Carta we expect a law that will tear it to shreds to pass through parliament largely unscathed. A community campaign was launched to #StopTheBill, a piece of legislation that will have a wide reaching impact, particularly against the Muslim community in Britain, giving the government Stasi-like powers to arrest, detain and render stateless, people whom the security agencies feel are at risk of ‘extremism’. Despite the large support this campaign received, this Bill has now been enacted into law. Though this may feel like the end – there are more actions that can be taken – here CAGE sets what you can do next.
As of 12 February 2015, the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill became an Act of Parliament by virtue of the Royal Assent. This means that the provisions within the legislation are part of the legal framework of the UK and applicable to all those living within British borders. Despite this being the most immoral piece of legislation to be enacted by Parliament since the Terrorism Act 2000, for now, we must accept that it has passed into law.
The final version of the CTS Act 2015 contains some amendments from the original bill as it was first introduced before Parliament, however, the vast majority of it has remained the same. The only real positive difference has been a recognition within the statute that higher education universities should be permitted the right to freedom of expression – however that is still not a complete exemption, as the Home Secretary can still order monitoring bodies to overview whether there is a balance between freedom of expression and stopping potential threats.
Unlike the draft Bill, the Act has included the requirement for secondary legislation to be implemented in order for the Home Secretary’s addend guidance to become law. Previously, it was envisaged that the Home Secretary would simply write to the bodies or individuals under the statutory duty, however, s.29 (5) sets out,
“Guidance issued under subsection (1) takes effect on whatever day the Secretary of State appoints by regulations made by statutory instrument. A statutory instrument containing regulations under this subsection may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before each House of Parliament and approved by a resolution of each House.”
The above section clarifies that in order for the Part 5 statutory obligation to implement Prevent to become workable, the Home Secretary will be required to gain validation for the guidance through a statutory instrument agreed in both houses.
The purpose of secondary legislation is to add detail to legislation that has already been enacted, although it can also be used to amend the primary legislation. The secondary legislation can be brought in without a new Act of Parliament having to be passed. In the context of the CTS Act 2015, the purpose of this secondary legislation will be to add a large amount of detail to Part 5 in particular – the duty to stop individuals from being drawn into terrorism.
The secondary legislation usually takes the form of Statutory Instruments (SIs). Depending on the way in which the SI has been incorporated into CTS Act, it can either be through an ‘affirmative’ or ‘negative’ resolution. In the case of the government’s guidance on Prevent, it would seem that an affirmative resolution approach will be taken.
If the SI is required to be passed through an affirmative resolution, then both Houses have to give their endorsement. This usually takes place without a vote or debate. Opposition MPs are able to force a vote or debate on the matter if they have the will to do so. The SI will not become law if the Houses do not back the instrument.
The oversight body for the SIs is the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments; they can take evidence and report to either House in order to assist with providing extra scrutiny.
In light of the affirmative resolution route, there should be a multi-pronged approach to dealing with the impact of the guidance documents:
- Building a wide coalition of civil society organisations to protect the rule of law and civil liberties in the UK
- Providing reassurance and confidence to the community to counter the fear mongering
- Submitting concerns to both the Joint Committee on Human Rights and Statutory Instruments.
- Lobbying MPs on the specifics of the SI
- Lobbying the Lords on similar points.
Asim Qureshi, Research Director of CAGE, said:
‘The CTS Act is the latest in a long line of anti-terrorism measures that have been rushed through parliament without proper scrutiny and which have failed to look at the reasons behind politically motivated violence. As with previous anti-terrorism measures, it will not make us any safer. Rather it will largely backfire by alienating the very communities it should be engaging in order to find peaceful solutions.’
‘The historic criminal justice system in the UK is capable of handling cases of political violence. The CTS Act further entrenches a discriminatory parallel legal system used exclusively for Muslims. Evidence of this was seen most poignantly in the discrepancies between the sentencing of a British soldier who possessed an explosive device and a number of returnees from Syria who on arrest were said to pose ‘no threat to the British public’. The CTS Act is superfluous.’
‘More can still be done to oppose this bill. Section 5 of the Act which relates to PREVENT (and here) is reliant on a March vote before it can be implemented. In order to combat this attempt to crush dissent and criminalise the innocent, now is the time to create a broad alliance between civil society organisations, workers’ unions, students’ union, health centres and other. The battle is far from over.’
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