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Watching the 42 day detention debate live: An Overview

Another Slime | 13.10.2008 19:48 | Analysis | Terror War | London | World

Highlights of the debate, written chronologically from notes I made whilst watching the entire 3 and a half hours or so on the parliament website today. Including points made for and against the bill, though mainly focusing on points made against.

3 minutes to go. Lord Laird has said that he would be 'staggered' if the bill goes through. 42 writers have poured their outrage into a series of angry poems and stories about the bill (why do I find that funny? maybe it's this coffee...) Amnesty and a host of other NGO's have condemned it, as has Andy Hayman, former Assistant Commissioner for Special Operations at Scotland Yard.

And so begins nearly 4 hours of earnest, if repetitive debate in those sonorous, cut-glass accents. And there's some great little phrases ('shabby charade' is one of the good ones). Six clear cut reasons are presented against the governments case, which re-occur frequently throughout the proceedings.

Firstly, the point is made that there has not as yet been any evidence to indicate that the police have ever run out of time whilst detaining a terrorist suspect without charge. The longest time that a suspect has so far been held is 14 days, well within the current 28 day limit.

Secondly, the point is made that no other western or comparable country has extended detention beyond 12 days (Australia), the US and Canada only detaining for 1 and 2 days respectively. Later in the debate, as this point is raised time and time again, opponents dismiss the comparative argument as irrelevant, stating that it need only be argued that the bill is by its own merit humane. Guantanamo is predictably mentioned in protest against the statement that the American detention period is a mere day, but this is dismissed, amazingly only on technical grounds. No one points out that Guantanamo is certainly no path to be following.

The aforementioned NGO's, the DPP, and particularly Andy Hayman are gleefully paraded as examples of qualified objectors. A host of phrases accorded to Hayman are quoted directly from The Times - quotes such as 'bureaucratic and unworkable', 'cumbersome' and 'this bill is about politics and it won't work'. Later a sneaky remark, very casually delivered, is made about professionals who have been out of the job for a while.

It is asserted that the existing law can be made to serve the new purpose of matching what have already been acknowledged by all to be more difficult and complex times for police investigating terrorist cases. The proposal is made that more serious charges should be brought forth only when they come to light.

Finally, the broader points are made that the bill would justify terrorist propaganda about 'our repressive regime', alienate communities and erode precious civil liberties. The speaker finishes, with a classical and therefore weighty (if somewhat misguided) flourish by quoting from the magna carta: 'we will not delay right or justice'.

(later this leads the debate off into a rather bizarre tangent about the sexism/racism of the magna carta)

The bumbling ex commissioner, Sir Ian Blair is quoted as asserting that (the police) have never put forward a case which demonstrates the need for detention. Another quotable classic is produced as debaters grapple with the difficulties of prediction - 'anything is possible, but is it remotely likely?'

A fairly powerful (if true) pincer-style point emerges that even if the bill were desirable, it is flawed on numerous practical levels, and therefore 'unworkable'.

Police reliability and the possibility of abuses of power is discussed hotly throughout the debate, supporters in the later stages take the opportunity to accuse opponents of the bill of mistrusting the police. 'why would anyone put a suspect through that, for a laugh?' one speaker muses. No one dares mention recent expositions of institutionalized police racism that have been freshly re-visited after years and years of festering.

A breathless gentleman uses the phrase 'death in computers', as if the fear of lurking zealots has driven him to a state of incoherency.

There's some similarly pointless and emotive ranting about our poor possibly blown-up children (won't somebody please think of the children?). Also, young people in 'dance halls'.

The Joint Select Committee for Human Rights delivers its unanimous and unwavering support for the contention that the bill is unnecessary, I make some rice pudding, and the outcome is just as predictable as everybody thought.

The end.

Another Slime
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