Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001

Home Department written statement – made on 20th January 2004.

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Photo of David Blunkett David Blunkett The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I am today laying before Parliament a draft Order to continue the powers of detention in the Anti-terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001 (ATCS) for a further twelve months. It will be debated, by both Houses of Parliament, by early March.

The public emergency which necessitated the introduction of these powers—and which arises principally as a result of the threat of international terrorism posed by foreign nationals—still exists. Where terrorism is concerned, our paramount responsibility is to ensure public safety and national security. Where a foreign national is suspected of terrorism of the sort which led to September 11 2001 and is considered to be a threat to national security but cannot currently be removed—and for whom a criminal prosecution is not an option—we believe that it is necessary and proportionate to provide for extended detention, pending removal. The person would be free to leave the United Kingdom if he wished to do so.

The draft Anti-terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001 (Continuance in force of sections 21–23) Order 2003 provides for the continuation of the immigration powers under Part 4 of the 2001 Act to certify, and to detain pending removal, suspected international terrorists, subject to safeguards. The continuation is from 14 March 2004 until 13 March 2005.

To date, 16 people have been certified and detained under the powers contained in Part 4 of the ATCS Act. Two of these have chosen to leave the United Kingdom as the detainees are free to do at any time. One further individual has been certified but is currently detained under other powers.

My decisions to certify and detain these individuals were made on the basis of detailed and compelling evidence. All those certified have appealed to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) including the two who left the United Kingdom. SIAC have rejected the appeals against certification made by the first ten ATCS detainees which were heard between May and July last year. The determination for a further two cases that have been heard have not yet been handed down.

The Special Immigration Appeals Commission is a superior court of record. It has the power to overturn the certificates which I have issued in respect of these detained.

The detention powers in Part 4 of the Anti-terrorism Crime and Security Act are a cornerstone of the UK's anti-terrorism measures. It is essential that we are able to take firm, swift action against those who threaten the safety of this country. We will be looking carefully at the conclusions and recommendations of the report of Lord Newton and his Committee, which I laid before the House on 18 December 2003, together with the reports of Lord Carlile, the second of which will be laid before the House shortly. We will be reporting to the House when we come to debate Lord Newton's report and the renewal powers, and I look forward to a full and vigorous debate. Nonetheless, we continue to believe that the part 4 powers are a necessary and proportionate response to the current threat.