Do you remember the Parliamentary "ping pong" which the passage of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 entailed about this time last year ? Debates into the late hours, much gnashing of teeth and cries of "Habeas Corpus" and "European Convention on Human Rights" etc. and "hundreds" of people who pose an "Immediate Terrroist Threat" ?
There was a promise to review the "Control Order" legislation in the early part of 2006, with the so called "sunset clause concession" by the Government.
Well, the "sunset clause" is no more, it has been passed without a vote
The motion to accept the continuation of this dreadful legislation has been passed, "on the nod", without a vote, by the House of Commons, after a mere 90 minutes of debate, attended, at one point by only 13 Members of Parliament.
What an utter disgrace and mockery of Parliamentary democracy this is !
There have beeen 18 people subjected to "house arrest" without charge, trial or evidence being brought against them.
Currently there are 9 such orders, one against a British citizen.
These Control Orders, and the effort to keep those served with them under surveillance, not in secret to get intelligence on any possible terrorist contacts, bit simply to enforce the conditions of the Control Orders themselves, did nothing to prevent the terrorist attacks in July last year.
Former conservative Home Secretary Kenneth Clarke, whose words we will look up in Hansard tomorrow, seemed to sum up this wretched situation very well, and warned that the whole scheme had slipped from being at the top of the political agenda last year, to having been virtually forgotten by MPs and the media now.
UPDATED with link to the "debate":
15 Feb 2006 : Column 1516
Mr. Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe) (Con):
The number of Members in the Chamber today scarcely reaches double figures, and the debate, which is restricted to an hour and a half, is being held on the eve of a recess. The vast majority of hon. Members are well on their way to wherever they will spend the weekend.
Mr. Carmichael: I intervene merely to place on the record the fact that there are 13 hon. Members in the Chamber.
Hazel Blears for the Government delivered her excuses in the usual Home Office way.
This awful debate and lack of a vote is a dire warning to those of us who are worried that this is exactly what will happen with any of the Orders or "super affirmative Orders" allowed for in the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, the Identity Cards Bill 2005 or the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill 2006.
It is a travesty of Parliamentary Democracy that such sweeping powers for the Executive branch of Government have not been rigourously examined or challenged properly by Members of Parliament.
The promise made by Charles Clarke in the cross party negotiations with David Davies for the Conservatives and Mark Oaten for the Liberal Democrats, in the wake of the July bombs last year, to decouple the substantive issue of Control Orders from the other measures i.e, what is now the Terrorism Bill 2005, with a draft Bill in early 2006, also now looks to have been renaged on, with talk of this only happening in 2007 !
Earlier, the Lords' Amendments to this Terrorism Bill 2005 were all rejected by the Commons, so unless there is some temporary "ping pong" between the Lords and the Commons that overbroad and vaguely worded Bill will also be inflicted on us, without any prospect of preventing real terrorists like those of last July in London, but with every chance of scooping ip the innocent, and having a chilling effect on freedom of speech.