Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Brown abandons 42-day detention after Lords defeat.

And so it comes to pass... or not to pass...

Gordon Brown tonight abandoned his parliamentary battle to allow police to detain terror suspects without charge for up to 42 days, after the Lords overwhelmingly rejected the proposal by 191 votes. In an emergency statement to MPs tonight, Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, said that the counter-terrorism bill would continue its journey through parliament without the 42 day measure.

But in a face saving gesture, the government will publish a bill containing the 42 day plan; this bill will be held in reserve to be introduced should there be a terrorist emergency. Ministers said they had decided to follow this course because the introduction of the counter-terrorism bill would have been delayed by a year if the government had embarked on a lengthy battle with the Lords.

"I do not believe, as some Hon Members clearly do, that it is enough to simply cross our fingers and hope for the best," Smith told parliament. "Mr Speaker, that is not good enough. Because when it comes to national security, there are certain risks I'm not prepared to take.

Smith's announcement came after the former lord chancellor, Lord Falconer, dismissed the government's arguments as "fanciful". His comments came in a lengthy debate which ended in peers rejecting the 42 day plan by 309 to 118.

I can't believe that Brown was stupid enough to think he could ever achieve success in the one area where Blair suffered his only parliamentary defeat.

There is no proof at all that 42 days is required to hold a person without charge and enough blood was left on the floor to get parliament to pass the 28 day bill, so quite how Brown thought he could take this further than Blair had managed was always beyond me. Especially as the people lined up against him could hardly be described as radicals.

Even Tony Blair's old flat mate and the former Lord Chancellor, Charlie Falconer, came out publicly against it.

The announcement by the government came after Falconer told peers how he had changed his mind after supporting Tony Blair's plan to detain terror suspects without charge for 90 days in 2005.

He had done so because police could now detain terror suspects by using the so-called "threshold test", an option under which they can charge a suspect on a lower threshold if they have a reasonable suspicion that evidence will be compiled in a reasonable time.

"It has changed in practice the basis upon which it operates," Falconer said. "The idea that extending [the detention period] from 28 days to 42 days is going to make a difference is utterly fanciful."

So Brown slinks off to lick his wounds. And I am pleased to note that the Lords have overwhelmingly rejected this further assault upon the British people's civil liberties.

It's not enough to shout "terrorists", one actually has to produce an argument as to why the police need certain powers. In this case, Brown didn't manage to name a single incident in which the 28 day detention period had proven insufficient.

It was the worst kind of headline grabbing politics, and the Lords have seen it as such.

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2 comments:

Will said...

Hats off to your Parliament for having infinitely more spine than our Congress.

Kel said...

The Lords really do know how to stand up for themselves.

During the awful days of Thatcher they were often the only people who kept most of us sane.