Monday, 8 February 2010

Terrorist Assets: that which was legally void will be made valid

The Terrorist Asset-Freezing (Temporary Provisions) Bill is being rushed through Parliament.  It is discussed very well on the "Of Interest to Some Lawyers" blog.  The purpose of the Bill is to reverse the Supreme Court's decision in Her Majesty' Treasury v Ahmed [2010] UKSC 1 which was discussed on this blog 28th January (below).

This is an interesting legal situation - indeed it is rather a mess.  The legislation was declared void which means that it was void ab initio and therefore of no legal effect.  The purpose of the Bill is to render that lawful which was unlawful but there will not be retrospective criminal liability.  The Act will remain in force until the end of 2010 by which time, no doubt, further legislation will have been enacted.

The whole process casts some light on the little understood Privy Council which legislates by means of Orders in Council.  They are frequently used in Foreign Affairs and they receive very little parliamentary time.  In 2009, the Privy Council met 11 times with, typically, only a handful of Privy Councillors in attendance.  There was a considerable amount of law-making much of which is important though one cannot be so sure that everything is important - e.g. Orders approving the promotion of certain members of the Royal Family to the higher ranks of the Royal Navy (October 2009)!  Surely, there ought to be a requirement that any Order in Council be approved by Parliament within a stated time period.

This 2005 document describes the Privy Council as - "... an ancient and dignified instrument of government, which has its origins in the earliest days of the monarchy."  It might also be said that it has the appearance of a body which lacks democratic legitimacy in its law-making powers.

Addendum 10th February - Here is the Terrorist Asset-Freezing Act 2010.

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