Govt drops more counter-terror plans

The government has dropped plans for sensitive coroner’s inquests to be held in private.

The plans formed a part of the counter-terrorism bill before the Lords.

They would have barred juries, family members and the public from certain hearings.

Peers already threw out the section of the bill establishing 42-day pre-charge detention for terrorist suspects, but civil libertarians are equally concerned about the section concerning private coroner’s inquests.

Minister said the powers would only be used selectively.

The reform was intended to stop sensitive matter of national security being revealed to the public, including phone-tap details.

But there are strong signs the government will attempt to reintroduce the reform in a future bill, probably the coroner and death investigation bill.

The Liberal Democrats welcomed the news.

“The powers that the government wanted would have allowed ministers to remove a case from an independent coroner and put it in hands of a ‘special coroner’, remove juries from establishing matters of fact in coroners’ courts and hold inquests in secret,” said Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne.

“It would have been far too convenient for the government to be able to hide a proper and independent inquiry into cases like the death of Jean Charles de Menezes or Dr David Kelly.”

Shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve, said: “We welcome this decision. The counter-terrorism bill was no place for debating this extremely controversial measure, which should be in the coroners bill.

“It is vital that the independence and transparency of the coroners system is maintained – not undermined.”

The move comes just after the government ditched plans for 42-day detention.