Normally we complain about politicians and journalists, about their shallowness and their lack of proper technical analysis of the implications of current political policies and legislation. However, there is another section of society which is also failing to do this either, namely the British "political blogosphere".
Some people bemoan the lack of influence which British political blogs seem to have, compared with those in the USA. Perhaps they are just not bothering to analyse or discuss the relevant political issues ?
Why is this modest Spy Blog, according to Google or Technorati etc. searches for the terms "Terrorism Bill 2005" or "UK Terrorism Bill 2005", one of the very few United Kingdom blogs trying to discuss or analyse this astonishing "catch all" legislation, which is due for its Committee Stage, on the floor of the House of Commons this Wednesday ?
There are more blogs discussing the details of the Australian Anti-terrorism Bill 2005 (which has not yet even been officially published) than there are taking an interest the United Kingdom Terrorism Bill 2005.
Neither the mainstream media, nor even the main political parties offer any discussion of the details, not just the headline soundbites, of current legislation going through Parliament.
Where is the exposé of the logical inconsistencies, of the excessive use of "catch all" language, of vested commercial interests, of possible hidden agenda, of glaring omissions, of the lack of cost / benefit estimates, of the lack of assessment of the impact of proposed legislation on other parts of society or even on other Government policies and exisiting overly complex,laws and regulations ?
One would have hoped and expected the political blogosphere to fill this gap, but apparently it does not.
Where, for example, is the British political blog discussion about the Regulatory Impact of the Bill on the vast amount of Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) health and safety literature and training material, promoted by the Government's own Health and Safety Executive as laid down by the Statutory Instrument 2002 No. 2677 -
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 ?
Why does it seem that nobody else is worrying about the risk of a 10 year prison sentence, for "disseminating" COSHH training material, which is a legal requirement for all UK employers and employees who manufacture or work with, what under the Terrorism Bill 2005 are defined as "noxious substances". The Bill also raises the penalty under the Terrorism Act 2000 to 10 years in prison for "possession" of "anything" which "might be of use" to a terrorist.
Training in the proper handling and use of hazardous chemicals or biological pathogens is essential to both public health and to the UK economy.
In what way is detailed technical information on how to safely handle toxic chemicals or lethal pathogens not "of use" to potential terrorists ?
How are companies or academic institutions meant to be able to determine if the employees or students to whom they are providing COSHH or other training, should be suspected of misusing knowledge, not just for any actual terrorist plot, but merely for assisting one, sometime possibly in the future, somewhere in any part of the world ?
There are only 2 days left to lobby your Member of Parliament to make sure that they address this point in Committee.
"12. - (1) Every employer who undertakes work which is liable to expose an employee to a substance hazardous to health shall provide that employee with suitable and sufficient information, instruction and training.
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of paragraph (1), the information, instruction and training provided under that paragraph shall include -
(a) details of the substances hazardous to health to which the employee is liable to be exposed including -
(i) the names of those substances and the risk which they present to health,
(ii) any relevant occupational exposure standard, maximum exposure limit or similar occupational exposure limit,
(iii) access to any relevant safety data sheet, and
(iv) other legislative provisions which concern the hazardous properties of those substances;
(b) the significant findings of the risk assessment;
(c) the appropriate precautions and actions to be taken by the employee in order to safeguard himself and other employees at the workplace;
(d) the results of any monitoring of exposure in accordance with regulation 10 and, in particular, in the case of a substance hazardous to health for which a maximum exposure limit has been approved, the employee or his representatives shall be informed forthwith, if the results of such monitoring show that the maximum exposure limit has been exceeded;
(e) the collective results of any health surveillance undertaken in accordance with regulation 11 in a form calculated to prevent those results from being identified as relating to a particular person; and
(f) where employees are working with a Group 4 biological agent or material that may contain such an agent, the provision of written instructions and, if appropriate, the display of notices which outline the procedures for handling such an agent or material."
"(3) The skills are—
(a) the making, handling or use of a noxious substance, or of substances of a description of such substances;
(b) the use of any method or technique for doing anything else that is capable of being done for the purposes of terrorism, in connection with the commission or preparation of an act of terrorism or Convention offence or in connection with assisting the commission or preparation by another of such an act or offence; and
(c) the design or adaptation for the purposes of terrorism, or in connection with the commission or preparation of an act of terrorism or Convention offence, of any method or technique for doing anything.
(4) It is irrelevant for the purposes of subsections (1) and (2)—
(a) whether any instruction or training that is provided is provided to one or more particular persons or generally;
(b) whether the acts or offences in relation to which a person intends to use skills in which he is instructed or trained consist of one or more particular acts of terrorism or Convention offences, acts of terrorism or Convention offences of a particular description or acts of terrorism or Convention offences generally; and
(c) whether assistance that a person intends to provide to others is intended to be provided to one or more particular persons or to one or more persons whose identities are not yet known."
There are similar worries about how this Bill will have a chilling effect on Libraries.
We have plenty of other worries about this Bill, apart from the very controversial plans for 90 days detention without charge, which we fear will consume all the Opposition's time during the Committee stage on Wednesday.