March 4, 2005

A few choice words for the Government’s Terrorism Bill

Posted in Totalitarianism at 3:21 am by David Gould

Kenneth Clarke said the proceedings were “a complete outrage” and the Government was treating the Commons with “intolerable contempt”.

“It is something which undermines the liberties of each and every one of us and this House should have no part of it” – Tory former Cabinet minister Douglas Hogg.

Dominic Grieve said the committee stage of the bill had been “completely corrupted.” On control orders – “Unpleasant, repellent and disgusting.”

Mark Oaten said the home secretary’s letter made a “nonsense” of the Commons proceedings.

The Prime Minister’s wife, Cherie Blair is said to be “vehemently opposed” to her husband’s plans to place terror suspects under house arrest at the behest of the Home Secretary.

Lord Lloyd of Berwick said ministers “have produced this illiberal Bill and told us that, unless it is passed by March 14, the heavens will fall. I do not believe it.”

Lord Kingsland: “We do not like what the Government has done from first to last”

The Earl of Onslow said: “This is not a bill to reorganise Scunthorpe borough council! We are being asked to overturn 800 years of British history!” and “I personally hope (the Government) does not get this Bill at all. It is a rotten, stinking Bill.”

Lord Peyton of Yeovil said: “I am an extremely reluctant passenger in the vehicle which my noble friend is driving.”

Cabinet Minister Lord Peyton of Yeovil protested that the Lords was being treated by the Government “as its washpot” and “We have been reminded over and over again that we are inferior to! And subordinate to! The other place! Now we have been put into the driving seat. I believe it is an impertinence!”

96-year-old former MP Lord Renton said that in all his 60 years in Parliament he had never witnessed the way in which the Government was conducting a Bill of such national importance.

The Bishop of Worcester, the Rt Rev Peter Selby, condemned the legislation as representing a “victory for terrorists”, declaring that it threatened the “spirit” of British life.

The Liberal Democrat Lord Goodhart said: “It is entirely wrong that the Home Secretary, or indeed the courts, should have power to restrict liberty in ways that are not specifically authorised by Parliament. The Government needs to sit down with the opposition parties and work out what it can legitimately do in the 10 days before the anti-terrorism Act runs out of time. What it cannot do is force this Bill on us. That would be an affront to the constitution.”

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Conservative home affairs spokesman, said: “It was a shocking way to treat the elected chamber by a Home Secretary who has legislated in such haste that we face the very real danger of getting the proposals in this Bill wrong.”

“Security is no justification for the breach of the fundamental principles which underpin our democratic system. No deprivation of liberty by ministerial say so, no midnight secret knock on the door, no gulags whether in Siberia or in Guantanamo.” – Lord Thomas, Liberal Democrat, former High Court judge.

“When you are dealing with the orders that are to be made to keep a person in his own house, when you are basically destroying his liberty albeit for a short time, then the burden of proof should be the ordinary criminal standard – beyond reasonable doubt.” – Lord Ackner, former law lord.

“Throughout modern history, our sea defences against unfair executive power have been serially attacked by the threat of erosion. The executive, like the sea, will always come back. Provisions that commit such wide incursions into liberty as these do need to be examined by other minds as well [as the police and security services].” – Lord Mayhew, Conservative, former attorney general.

“The Home Office practice now is to bring forward new legislation which is absolutely abhorrent and totally disgraceful in its abuse of civil liberties and then, when there is uproar, replace it with something only slightly less abhorrent and tell us a major concession has been made. The concession being made should provide this House with no comfort.” – Baroness Kennedy, Labour, human rights barrister.

Cabinet Minister Lord Forsyth said: “I really would like to protest in the strongest possible terms.

“I cleared my diary because of the importance of this and as far as I can see there isn’t even a Minister on the bench responsible for the Bill.

“People have had to work all night on these amendments and if ministers can’t get their act together it really is outrageous when we are faced with the presentation of legislation on this kind of timetable.

“I have struggled this morning to try and understand the Government’s amendments and amendments made by other members of the House.

“It is impossible to follow it because what the Government is doing is re-writing the whole Bill by amendments – amendments that have not been considered by the Commons.

“If I were a member of the Commons, I would feel grossly offended by the Government’s treatment of the House of Commons, particularly given the Government’s past treatment of the House of Lords.

“It is ironic that we should be here to save the Government’s bacon, pursuing procedures which are unheard of and which are making it impossible for this place to do its job properly.”

Any others, please let me know.

PS. I suspect the ID Card Bill would have even worse criticism if anyone understood it.

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