04 November 2008

Uncontroversial Measures

The Landsbanki affair exposed the fact that the government can, under the anti-terrorism, crime, and security act 2001, seize the assets of any foreigner or foreign government, if it reasonably believes them to be likely to take action to the detriment of the United Kingdom's economy.

Since I found this very startling, I've been digging around to see what was said about it at the time the bill was debated and passed.

This won't be a long post...

While debating an amendment to add a sunset clause to the bill, Douglas Hogg said:

The plain truth is that, because of time constraints, we are not going to discuss the substance of any of the clauses in the group whose consideration terminates at 6 o'clock. We have reached only the first line in the marshalled list. At least new clause 6 would apply a sunset provision to all the other measures that feature in the marshalled list, but which will not be discussed at all. Some of them, such as the power of the Treasury to freeze people's cash, the power of Customs to go to the magistrates to get a seizure order in respect of "terrorist cash" and the extension of disclosure obligations are of great importance.

I shall not seek to debate the merits of those issues as you, Sir Michael, would call me to order if I did so. I point out only that, from any viewpoint, they are extremely important obligations and powers that are backed by penal sanctions. Furthermore, they apply to people's property and may also affect the property of innocent third parties. However, we are not going to discuss them at all. That is one of the arguments in favour of sunset clauses, which are a very imperfect way of dealing with the problem that we face. We should not be in this position, but as we are, we must do something to provide a remedy. A sunset clause is one way of at least expressing our dismay about the position.

That's it. That's the only mention that was made of the power that the government later used against Landsbanki.

Ah, but what about the committee stage. Surely the Home Affairs Select Committee at least discussed it?

Have a look

Why did they debate detention of suspected international terrorists, Asylum, Judicial Review, Religious Hatred, hoaxes involving noxious substances, and the EU third pillar, but not the abolition of property rights for foreigners? Chris Mullin explained:

it is not our intention to trawl through every detail of this Bill, much of which is uncontroversial, but to home in, in the limited time we have, on the three or four obvious issues that are likely to be more controversial

There we have it. It was an uncontroversial measure.

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