Friday, March 11, 2005


The Lords are holding firm against Blair terror

The anti-terrorism bill known as the Prevention of Terror Act has, as of last count, been to the House of Lords three times and is now on its way for a fourth. Parliament has just completed an extraordinary all-night session. Each time the bill was sent up, the Lords have properly amended it and sent it back to the Commons along with some of the finest rhetoric on civil liberties heard for some time. And meanwhile an immigration judge has rendered moot the supposed urgency of the bill's passage.

Though both the Conservatives (Tories) and Liberal Democrats are resisting the bill, the Tories especially are taking a browbeating from Blair and his henchmen. Blair said,

This is an issue of judgment for Michael Howard and the Conservative party. They have simply got to understand: to continue to water down and dilute this legislation is not responsible. It is wrong. They should stop it.

But now there are suggestions that Blair never intended the bill to pass. Rather that he is using it as a ploy to trump up charges of being "soft on terrorism" against the Tories in the upcoming election.

The Daily Mail editorialized

With the government's anti-terror bill facing another defeat in the Lords ... Tony Blair makes no secret of his determination to blame the Tories for being 'soft'.

"How ripe. Our anti-terrorist defences are only in this mess because of his government's crass Human Rights Act. Moreover, he has refused every Tory offer to improve the wretchedly botched terror legislation ... Michael Howard is not alone in suspecting this untrustworthy prime minister of playing party politics. Mr Blair's record encourages such suspicions ... No wonder voters are so bitterly disillusioned.

Former Prime Minister Lady Thatcher is standing doddering but firm in solidarity with the Tory leadership. Her awareness of the need for the protection of civil liberties in cases of detention has perhaps been quickened by the recent experience of her son Mark in South Africa, who, if truth be told, was far more up to his eyeballs in efforts to overthrow a sovereign government than any of the unaccused being held illegally in Belmarsh.1

In the midst of this Parliamentary hubbub it was announced that the immediate threat to the Realm—the release of the Belmarsh prisoners without bail—by which such urgent action on the bill was being justified, had been averted. The immigration judge overseeing their case is expected to order their release under conditions of bail that are in fact little different from those that the government would have imposed under the new act. According to reporters from the Guardian

Mr Justice Ouseley, chairman of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac), ordered the immediate release of an Algerian national known only as A. He also ordered the release on bail "in principle" of eight other detainees. Restrictions on a 10th detainee, G, who has been released on bail, were due to be relaxed.

Their release was set after an all-day hearing during which human rights lawyers and the Home Office argued over the precise details of their release.

The terms, which include tagging and controls over who they can meet and talk to, mirror those of the orders that the government was still battling to get on to the statute book. They include a ban on meeting anyone without the prior approval of the Home Office.

The release of the detainees was triggered after Mr Justice Ouseley's patience ran out with the home secretary, Charles Clarke, for whom he has been waiting for more than three weeks to negotiate the details of their release on bail.

Current speculation is that the Tories and Liberal Democrats will maintain their resistance by insisting on a "sunset clause." The Lords had originally set the bill to expire in November, but Michael Howard seems willing to extend its life up to 12 months.

According to the Guardian, Howard expressed his views on BBC Radio this morning—

"If Mr Blair insists on having this bill and thinks it is necessary to fight the terrorist threat, he can have the bill. He can have it for 12 months."

"During that 12 months period we should all work together to come up with a better way of fighting the terrorist threat.

"We believe that terrorists should be brought to trial and put in prison, not wandering around with an electronic bracelet. The notion that a tag of this kind is going to be a serious inconvenience to an al-Qaida operative takes a great deal of swallowing."

Stay tuned.

Previous post
House of Lords tears into the Terrorism Bill (3/9/05)

Related posts
Mud-wrestling: Dyncorp vs. Aegis (Updated) (7/22/04)
Anti-human-rights law to go to the Law Lords (12/14/04)
The Law Lords have decided — Let those people go! (12/16/04)


1 The Irish National Caucus, an American lobby for ... well ... Catholics in Northern Ireland, demanded that the Bush doctrine on terrorists be applied to Sir Mark.

Capitol Hill. Thursday, January 13, 2005 ---- Irish-Americans feel that — if there is to be a fair and balanced policy — Mark Thatcher should not be allowed to enter the U.S. , having pleaded guilty to involvement in the Equatorial Guinea coup attempt.

"Such an attempt surely comes under the heading of international terrorism", said Father Sean Mc Manus, President of the Capitol Hill-based Irish National Caucus. "If Irish persons have been banned from entering the U.S. for far lesser reasons, then surely this would-be mercenary should be banned, too? 'If you harbor a terrorist, you are a terrorist', is the Bush doctrine. Then President Bush should apply it to Thatcher and bar him entry to the U.S.

Fr. Mc Manus went on to explain: "President Bush has already shown a double standard by funding a terrorist, Tim Spicer, with a $293 Million contract in Iraq. He must not now compound his error by giving safe harbor to Thatcher, a buddy of Spicer."

"Both Thatcher and Spicer belonged to a gang of English white guys out to plunder Africa, 'white man's burden and all that.' Spicer, now moved to Iraq, is plundering the American tax payer to the tune of $293 Million, with the blessing of President Bush"


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