The home secretary has agreed to amend the prevention of terrorism bill - when it reaches the House of Lords! This cause uproar in the House of Commons among Labour backbenchers and opposition MP´s as it prevents a proper debate, and makes any discussion in the House of Commons pointless. Kenneth Clarke called this "An intolerable contempt of the house,"
Dominic Grieve (shadow attorney general) noted ""What we are being asked to do is scandalous. You only need to look at the 260 amendments tabled to realise there is no possibility of doing justice to what must be one of the most important pieces of legislation this house has considered since the second world war."
While Robin Cook noted that the legislation would be unlikely to assist the police, noting "Internment [in Northern Ireland] was abolished not so much because of concern for civil liberties but because ... it was more successful in provoking sympathy for the IRA than assisting the police in combating terrorism."
Control orders imposing house arrest would be granted only on application to a judge while others, such as those enforcing tagging and restrictions on movement, could be imposed by Mr Clarke. The home secretary stated that this is because house arrest orders required derogation from the UN Convention on Human Rights, while others "merely restricted their liberty", for instance by limiting their contact with particular people or their freedom of movement.
The Government is having to push the bill through as the current temporary bill runs out soon. Simon Hughes pointed out "We have had this situation for three years and the Liberal Democrats have consistently said we should deal with it. It cannot be right that fundamental issues like these should be rushed through within six hours,"
However, Tony needn´t worry. Labour MP´s have sold their souls and turned their backs on their principles. The bill secured its third reading in the Commons by 272 votes to 219. Now only the Lords can protect our liberties.
I knew it couldn´t last in a further bizarre twist, the Tories dropped their role of defenders of human rights, and agreed to let the legislation pass, as long as it ceases to be law within eight months! Presumably, they fear being labelled "weak on terrorists" by Blair in the up coming election.
Charles Clarke hypocritically stated "No bill goes through parliament without detailed consideration being made."
Well, the combined committee and third-reading stages of the bill in the Commons on 28th February 2005 lasted no more than five hours in total, and there wasn't time to discuss most of the tabled amendments. Presumably, this is his idea of detailed consideration. Furthermore, to bring an amendment at the last minute, noting it will be offered to the House of Lords, but not discussed in the House of Commons is an abuse of executive power.
The real shame is not that The Labour Government couldn't care less about legal and parliamentary democracy, it's that Labour MP's are doing little to challenge this view. Only 60 backbenchers defied the three-line whip (which requires members of the party to vote in the manner directed by their leadership - very democratic).
Meanwhile, Hazel Blears (the minister responsible for counter-terrorism) warned British Muslims that they will need to get used to the "reality" that stop and search powers will be used against them by the police more often than any other group in our society.
This is particularly depressing because a senior counter-terrorist police officer (interviewed by The Observer) confirmed that the terrorists profile is "young, male, Muslim by birth or conversion, relatively educated and angry at what they believe is happening to Muslims around the world. They may also feel alienated from mainstream British society by what they see as endemic racism" - so stopping and searching anyone who looks like they could be Muslim is bound to help!
In any case, I am sure that the vast majority of Muslims (who are law-abiding, decent and compassionate people) are sick of their religion being a used as a marker for terrorism. Lest we forget, the religion that is at the root of many of the worst abuses of people throughout history is in fact Christianity, and extremist Christians have views just as dangerous and unpalatable as extremist Muslims. No one religion or race has the monopoly on cruelty or intolerance, and the sooner we figure that out, the sooner we can all get on with sharing the planet peacefully.
Instead, Tony will no doubt use the Parliament Act (if he even has to) to get his terror laws enshrined in statute. Then we can fight terrorism by "restricting the liberty" of anyone who looks suspicious (i.e. Muslim).
Can I just ask, what are we fighting this "war on terror" for? Our leaders tell us we are promoting Democracy abroad. Why does that mean giving it away here?Return to Top