DAILY MAIL COMMENT: A welcome U-turn over secret courts
Daily Mail Comment
00:48 GMT, 29 January 2013
10:04 GMT, 29 January 2013
This paper warmly welcomes Ken Clarke’s U-turn over some of the more sinister provisions of his plan for secret court hearings.
As the Justice and Security Bill returns to the Commons today, it emerges that he has heeded crucial objections raised by defenders of our ancient liberties, who gave it a deserved savaging in the Lords.
Most important is the former Justice Secretary’s concession that judges, not ministers, will have the last word on which sensitive cases – if any – should be held behind closed doors.
Ken Clarke has further to go before he satisfies those who treasure the principle of openness, which has underpinned British justice for centuries
They will also have the power to open proceedings to the public at any point.
Indeed, if the Bill had gone through in its original form, it would have been as certain as night follows day that ministers would have abused it to cover up their own embarrassments or the wrongdoings of the security services.
But deep worries remain about a Bill that may still deny litigants the right to know the evidence against them – absurdly leaving it to security-cleared Special Advocates to try to guess how their clients would challenge it.
Throughout our No to Secret Courts campaign – backed by most of the Special Advocates themselves – this paper has acknowledged the importance of protecting the security services who risk their lives for our country.
Nor is anyone more sickened to see terrorist suspects awarded out-of-court compensation to avoid putting witnesses or their contacts in danger.
But as we have passionately argued, catch-all considerations of national security cannot be an excuse to overturn the most basic principle of justice – that it should be seen to be done.
This is why it is vital the new law should spell out that if secret hearings are to be allowed (and far better not), it should only be when a judge believes there is no other way to avoid putting lives at risk.
Even then, summaries of evidence should be shown to every party involved.
Yes, the concessions are welcome. But Mr Clarke has further to go before he satisfies those who treasure the principle of openness, which has underpinned British justice for centuries.
Jobs for our firms
The Mail remains deeply sceptical that the HS2 high speed rail link between London and the North will bring the economic benefits claimed for it by those who seek to justify its huge cost to taxpayers and homeowners on the route.
Indeed, far from boosting the regions, similar schemes in other countries have served only to benefit capital cities.
But since the immediate purpose of the new line is to create jobs and contracts for British companies, can we at least be sure it’ll do what it says on the tin
Or, like the 1.4billion for building Thameslink trains, which went to Siemens in 2011, will this just be another job-creation scheme for German engineering firms and Eastern European labourers
A healthier solution
With his plan to restrict new arrivals’ access to the NHS, immigration minister Mark Harper deserves full marks for trying to hold back the expected stampede from Bulgaria and Romania next January.
But like so many other ingenious schemes for deterring migrants, isn’t it highly likely to fall foul of EU rules
And since living standards here – with or without the NHS – are vastly higher than in Eastern Europe, is it really likely to have more than a marginal effect
The Mail has a far better idea for re-establishing control of our borders.
How about a radical renegotiation of our terms of EU membership – followed by a referendum on staying in or pulling out