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Divisions 84 and 85 - Detention without charge

Division 85 (also the link) is the division for inserting 28 days.
Division 84 is the division for not inserting 90 days (see ante for reasoning).

The Birmingham Mail editorial last night made the key point that Tony Blair had not won the argument.

The underlying issue is complex and as often tends to happen the key legal issues got completely lost. After arrest there are two processes charging a suspect and then remanding in custody. Any constraints on reinterview exist only in the PACE* code and not in primary or secondary legislation.

It, therefore, rests entirely within the control of the executive (the government) to change the guidance to allow terrorist suspects to be charged quickly and remanded into custody. This would get around the difficulties that would be caused by long periods of detention without charge. Let me emphasise that the issue of detention without charge is key. This is not a matter of there not being a trial, but a matter of there being no proper identification of what people are alleged to have done. It is the absence of a charge that makes the government's proposal equivalent to Internment.

My most worrying concern about this was that senior police officers were instructed to lobby MPs. This was not a matter where the police officers were doing what they thought was right, but they were doing what they were told to do. I talk frequently to the West Midlands Police Federation and senior officers and am told what they think about things. I understand, however, that there was lobbying going on via instruction.

Over to an analysis of the divisions:
One tory MP rebelled on the 90 vote and 2 on the 28 vote. 49 Labour MPs rebelled on the 90 amendment and 51 on the 28 amendment. All 62 Lib Dem MPs voted the same way on both amendments. A further 13 Labour MPs abstained on the 28 amendment. George Galloway did turn up this time. The DUP voted with the oppposition and the UU with the government. All SDLP MPs voted with the opposition (from the government benches) all the Nationalists turned up and voted with the opposition.

At the time of writing there is not expected to be a division on the third reading of the bill.

The irony of the whole matter is that next Wednesday there will be a debate about how Tony Blair is being soft on terrorists by allowing people "on the run" to avoid going to court, whilst their victims may have to. He can have it one way or another, but not both ways.


(*PACE - Police and Criminal Evidence Act.)

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