Secret courts aim to reduce ‘political costs’ & will cost millions, new Govt document reveals

March 3, 2013

The Government’s plans for secret courts will cost millions more than they save and are aimed at reducing “reputation and political costs to the UK,” a new civil service assessment has revealed.

The revelations are contained in a new Impact Assessment of the plans, which was quietly slipped out in December last year.  They appear to be at odds with ministers’ claims that secret courts – or ‘Closed Material Procedures’ (CMPs) – will save the taxpayer money, and are not aimed at covering up embarrassment.

The document also finds that the Justice and Security Bill, which sets out the plans for a roll-out of secret courts and is to be debated on Monday by the Commons, “may lead to negative impacts on UK nationals and residents; and businesses”.

Reprieve’s Executive Director, Clare Algar said: “This demonstrates that the main motive for secret courts is to spare the embarrassment of ministers and their officials. It is appalling that the Government is undermining centuries-old British legal freedoms in order to avoid “political costs” – or in other words, embarrassing headlines. Contrary to what ministers have claimed, these secret courts will also cost millions of pounds more than they save. Almost nothing that has been said by Ken Clarke in defence of these dangerous plans can be believed – MPs must vote against them next week, or they will be sacrificing long-held freedoms solely to spare the blushes of their political masters.”

ENDS

1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: 07791 755 415 / donald.campbell@reprieve.org.uk

2. The full Impact Assessment can be found here.  References to cost are on p1; the finding that the Bill “may lead to negative impacts on UK nationals and residents; and businesses” is on p2; and on p9, the document notes that a “significant” benefit of the legislation is “A reduction in reputation and political costs to the UK.”

3. The Justice and Security Bill is expected to be debated at Report Stage in the House of Commons on Monday 4 and Thursday 7 March.  Further information on the Bill can be found here.

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