This House ought not to legislate in such a mood: examining parliamentary scrutiny of Government-introduced anti-terrorism legislatio

Leah Rea

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Terrorist acts pose a threat to state security, and in the aftermath of domestic terrorist attacks, states are often under pressure to respond in order to ensure state security and public confidence. States utilise a wide array of measures against terrorism including legislative responses, by the passage of anti-terrorism legislation. Given the propensity for such legislation to provide for extensive state powers, parliamentary scrutiny should be paramount. In 1974, the UK Government introduced landmark emergency anti-terrorism legislation in response to the Birmingham Pub Bombings. Against a backdrop of public demands for tough counter-terrorism measures and a charged political atmosphere, the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1974 completed its passage in the UK Parliament and became law just one week after its introduction. This established a pattern in the UK in relation to legislative responses to terrorism: Bills are introduced and expedited by the UK Government in response to a perceived security emergency, and so efficiency of the legislative process is restricted to ensure the passage and implementation of fast-tracked legislation.

The paper examines the ramifications of the political decision to expedite anti-terrorism legislation with regards to the impact upon the constitutional role of the legislature. Through content analysis, it critically analyses the operation of parliamentary scrutiny during the progress of fast-tracked UK Government-introduced anti-terrorism legislation in the timeframe 1974-2020. It posits that despite voiced concerns of MPs, there was a marked focus on the swift passage of anti-terrorism legislation, to the detriment of the operation of parliamentary scrutiny, including successive amendments.


ConferencePower, Struggle and Terror Queen's University Belfast Senator George Mitchell Institute Annual Postgraduate Research Conference
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