17 March, 2005: This web log has never been party-political, and I don't intend to start now

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So, it's St Patrick's Day, and that means that in Whitehall it's National Be Beastly To The IRA Week. This time around the government have `refused to rule out' use of their shiny new house-arrest powers against the IRA; specifically, according to Baroness Amos,

The Northern Ireland Secretary has been considering carefully the application of the powers of [the new Prevention of Terrorism Act] to Northern Ireland.

Of course, the real point here is not whether the government states its intention to use the power of arbitrary detention against any specific person, but that they can be used against anyone at all if the Home Secretary feels like it; he needs only to convince a court that his application to do so is not obviously flawed. First they came for the brown people; then for Irish people, after that... who knows. Travellers, perhaps?

Quite by coincidence, I happened to receive today a letter from Anne Campbell MP, in response to a fax I sent her two weeks ago congratulating her on her remarkable and unexpected discovery of a spine during the debate on the (then) Bill, and encouraging her not to mislay this valuable extra piece of skeleton before she had a chance to get used to it. (I should say that I didn't phrase it quite like that in my letter.)

Needless to say, she caved and voted in favour of the Bill eventually, and her letter was essentially an apologia for her behaviour. She writes,

You have to balance the risk of wrongly imposing a control order on someone, against the potential risk of hundreds of people being killed by a terrorist attack. [and much more in the same vein]

Now, it is very creditable that Anne is concerned about miscarriages of justice, even if, simultaneously, she apparently lacks the imagination to realise that the Orders might be abused deliberately. Later, she continues,

... I have to conclude that detaining terrorist suspects and depriving them of their liberty is a less bad option than deportation [to their previous countries of residence] and [their] risking torture or likely death.

Well, that's a funny thing. The amendment for which Anne voted was intended to make the Bill less offensive chiefly by replacing references to `the Secretary of State' with references to `the Court'. But it also added this clause:

(11) Evidence established to have been obtained under torture shall not be admitted in any proceedings [relating to Control Orders.]

The Act as finally passed contains no such prohibition on the use of evidence obtained by torture, and yet Anne voted in favour of it.

I can, therefore, only conclude -- as might Orwell have done -- that Anne is objectively pro-torture.

Copyright (c) 2005 Chris Lightfoot; available under a Creative Commons License.