Govt to propose new anti-terror laws

The government is expected to publish new anti-terror plans within the next three weeks.

Police minister Tony McNulty said the government has finished consulting on planned new anti-terror legislation, and it is now expected to publish the results of its consultation before the parliamentary recess.

Many of the reforms are expected to be relatively uncontroversial, although opposition MPs remain opposed to plans to increase the detention without charge period to 90 days.

The Home Office is likely to call for the introduction of post-charge questioning in terror cases, with a refusal to answer questions interpreted as an inference of guilt.

It will also push for harsher sentences for ordinary offenders committing crimes linked to terrorism.

Ministers will also seek enhanced monitoring conditions for convicted terrorists released from prison, inline with the restrictions placed on sex offenders.

More controversially, the Privy Council will also review the use of intercept evidence. Some security chiefs have warned allowing phone-tap evidence to be used in court will impede intelligence gathering efforts.

Mr McNulty also said the Home Office may seek an alternative to control orders.

He told a security conference yesterday the government would consider what other restrictions could be imposed legally on suspected terrorists when there is insufficient evidence to bring charges against them.

Control orders are set for a review in the House of Lords, after the High Court ruled they can breach human rights laws by restricting the liberty of those they are applied against.

The proposed anti-terror laws were first put forward by former home secretary John Reid and consultation was underway before this weekend’s failed terrorist attacks.

Opposition parties and civil liberties groups have so far praised Gordon Brown and Jacqui Smith for not introducing knee-jerk legislation in the wake of the latest terror threat.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg said: “Legislation is only ever a very small part of our response to terrorism, and excessive or ill-considered legislation can in fact increase feelings of alienation and resentment precisely within those communities we need on our side.”

The shadow home secretary David Davis called on the government to be cautious when adopting new restrictions.

He said: “We should remember that the liberty of the subject is the defining characteristic of the British way of life.

“So we should not give it up without very good cause indeed.

“I am very pleased that the current Prime Minister, and Home Secretary have not reacted to this very real threat with hasty or knee-jerk responses.”

Meanwhile, the independent Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre is considering lowering the UK’s terror threat from critical to severe.