Thursday, 20 January 2011

Liberty Vs Security - Lib Dems get Detention without Charge Progress

An issue of much discussion within the Coalition government seems to have found a reasonable compromise as the BBC News website reports here.

Detention without Charge
Home Office Minister Damian Green announced in the House of Commons this morning that the Government is not intending to maintain the 28-day limit to detain terror suspects without charge when its 6 month extension lapses next Tuesday. Instead, it will revert back to 14 days. Home Secretary Theresa May is to report fully on anti-terror measures in Parliament next Wednesday.

The Liberal Democrats campaigned to reduce the limit after Labour in Government continued to increase it and in doing so, erode fundamental liberties in the name of security. Indeed, in November 2005, Tony Blair suffered his first ever Commons defeat as Prime Minister after 8 years, when he tried to increase the limit to a mind-boggling 90 days. How would you like to be detained for 3 months without charge? Well thankfully, 49 Labour MPs rebelled against their leader and the amendment was lost by 322-291 votes. The 28 days amendment won the day by the similarly narrow margin of 323-290 votes.

Control Orders
In the wider debate, there is a power struggle going on within the coalition between the securocrats and those who deem a re-balancing between liberty and security as essential.

This decision is most certainly a step in the right direction. Personally, I think 14 days detention without trial is too much. What about the terrorists the securocrats will bellow. Well, what about the fundamental tenet that underpins (or is supposed to underpin) our legal system - that of innocent until proven guilty?

Before jumping onto the security bandwagon, people should ask that question of themselves. How would we like it if a member of our family was detained without charge? Not very nice is it.

It was Benjamin  Franklin who framed it in a way that those who value liberty have failed to better in the 200 years since.

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Getting the balance right is of vital importance and the Government's first responsibility is to protect its citizens. But it must also ensure that it protects us from an overwhelmingly powerful state.

We should not wish to be an authoritarian state. Labour got the balance wrong and even their senior members now admit so.

This is not George Orwell's 1984 and I hope it never will be, because what kind of living is that?


  1. Brian Haw outside parliamnets tent is being removed by the Governmnet toay, yet when in opposiition they were criticisng the law to not have prostests near parliament, and what of extending section 60searches, Normally only used outisde football matches to be used anywhere, considering that even the old anti terror stops the police had to have an inkling that there was the chance of terror,Also david davis criticised Labour for introduding trials without juries( only having been used once in the last 10 years) yet the governemnt wants to let magistrates put people away for longer),and what happened to stop and accounts,introduced after Stephen Lawrence report, also scrappedm Now lets criticies Italy who has 24hrs beofre charge,except when Meredith Kerchers susoects were held for months wothout beign charged,

  2. It'll be interesting to see what is in the report from Theresa May next Wednesday and how the different factions within the Coalition wrangle with it.

    But the developments noted in my post are a step in the right at least.