Monday, October 06, 2008

42-day detention dropped as unworkable.

I didn't understand why, when Brown came to office, that he made the passing a 42 day terrorist suspect detention bill such a central part of his platform. It simply smelt like every assault on civil liberties in the name of protecting us that Blair had indulged in. To me it looked like a silly place to spend so much political capital.

But he insisted.

Now, he's preparing for a humiliating climbdown as ministers are now admitting that it doesn't have “a cat in Hell’s chance” of making it's way though the Lords.

The Government has decided against using the Parliament Act to force the measure through after peers reject it, The Times has learnt. That decision will effectively confine the controversial proposal — which the Prime Minister fought tooth and nail to get through a Commons vote in June — to the legislative dustbin.

The Terrorism Act 2006 increased the pre-charge detention limit from 14 to 28 days. The imminent abandonment of the proposal to extend this further to 42 days comes after mounting criticism from senior figures in the fight against terrorism.

Writing in The Times today, the former police chief who was in charge of anti-terrorism operations across Britain described the proposed mechanism for triggering the emergency detention power as “not fit for purpose”.

Andy Hayman, former Assistant Commissioner for Special Operations at Scotland Yard, gave the clearest signal yet that police chiefs are unhappy with the proposals before Parliament.

Mr Hayman said that concessions made to secure the Counter-Terrorism Bill’s passage through the Commons had created a scheme that was “bureaucratic, convoluted and unworkable”. He added: “The draftsman’s pen has introduced so many hoops to be jumped through that a police case for detaining a terror suspect will become part of the political game.

It's one thing to spend so much political capital and win, it's something else when you do so and produce a bill that even Andy Hayman thinks is unworkable.

I'll never understand why, when this was the area in which Blair suffered his only Commons defeat, that Brown felt it so important to pursue a bill which many Labour supporters objected to so strongly.

The fact that he's facing defeat doesn't surprise me, what surprises me is that he didn't see this coming a mile off.

Click title for full article.


Todd Dugdale said...

Now, he's preparing for a humiliating climbdown as ministers are now admitting that it doesn't have “a cat in Hell’s chance” of making it's way though the Lords.

So you were right after all.
I was cynical enough to believe the HoL would go along with it.

Things are changing, I guess.

I seem to recall that Brown had to make some fairly expensive promises to MPs just to get this far. And now it's all for nothing.

BTW, I love the expression “a cat in Hell’s chance”.

Kel said...

I don't even know where the expression "cat in hell's chance" comes from Todd.

And I think it's understandable for you to make the assumption which you did from the US. Britain has a large Muslim population and a highly organised one. MP's have been feeling the heat on this subject for a long time. But, as you point out, Brown could buy off the MP's but he could never buy off the Lords.

The Lords had a long and honourable tradition of opposing Thatcher. In the eighties they were often our only hope of holding her back.

When the Commons go too far they are never shy about sending stuff back to them. And when the matter at hand is civil liberties, I did think the Lords wouldn't accept the bill in the form that Brown was proposing it, especially as he couldn't offer a single example where the existing legislation had been proven insufficient.

I think he was grandstanding. And they've called him on it.

Will said...

One of my favorite Englishmen is Douglas Adams, author of the endlessly hilarious Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy "trilogy" of five books. One of those books is called Life, the Universe, and Everything, after a pivotal passage in the series.

Wracked by existential angst, a civilization on a planet far away builds a computer to tell them the answer to life, the universe, and everything. After waiting religiously for many millennia for the computer to give them the answer, the civilization gathers and listens, rapt, as the computer finally spits it out: "Forty-two".

"Forty-two?" they ask, incredulously. That's the answer to it all?

"You never said what the question was," replies the computer.

Hilarity ensues when, now that the civilization has the answer, they construct another computer to define the question--a computation that will take yet millennia to come.