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June 2008
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Farewell Liberty – It was nice knowing you

Gordon Brown

No real surprise that last night the government managed to push it’s new anti-terror legislation through Parliament, albeit with the narrowest of margins.

Despite the fact that this bill is likely to be killed before it reaches the statute books (either in the house of Lords unless the government invokes the parliament act, or in the EU human rights commission, which the government can’t influence too much), I can’t help but wonder what the hell the Whitehall worms are thinking.

Here we have a piece of legislation, which is universally unpopular, to the extent that several key departments in the home office itself (including the Crown Prosecution Service) have publicly stated is not required or necessary. as well as the CPS, some of the most senior chief police officers from across the UK have condemned it. Not a single member of ACPO has come out in support of it. Some of the more respected Law Lords have also said it is just plain illegal.

In order to push it through the house, the government have bribed, threatened, cajoled and intimidated MPs on an unprecedented scale. By the time voting began, they had made more concessions that a closing down sale in a used car lot.

Yet despite their best efforts, the legislation scraped through the first round with only a 9-vote majority.

Of course, this did keep the media spotlight largely off the other piece of government legislation issue – a little known clause in the terrorism bill which give the home secretary powers to remove juries from some inquests and would also enable the home secretary to change the coroner if deemed to be in the national interest.

This effectively signals the end of open inquests in controversial cases such as the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes and gives license to the Home office to act with impunity. It also provides a major ass-covering facility which will allow culpable police forces to avoid public censure in the future.

So while we can probably look forward to the 42-day clause being eventually given the kicking it deserves, it’s unlikely that the Whitehall worms will withdraw the secret inquest clause.

…which is probably what they wanted in the first place.

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