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A stitch-up heading for an unravelling

The House of Commons gave the Counter Terrorism Bill its second reading on April Fool's Day. It's a stitchup the looks set to come unravelled. When the last Terrorism Bill was given it's second Commons reading in October 2005, 95 MPs voted against it - even though the debate was held in the shadow of the 7/7 London bombings. But the new Bill's second reading was unopposed. Parliament's fixers had made should there would be no chance for MPs to reject the idea that this country needs more terrorist legislation. No chance for them to reject yet more "emergency" laws in this seventh year of the post 9/11 "emergency." No chance for them to vote against adding another bandaid to the lucky-bag of terrorism laws. No chance for them to say that a better way would be to bring the troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan. No chance to to call a halt until the government makes good it's forgotten half-promise of a wide-ranging overhaul and rationalisation of the laws. Parliament should be ashamed of itself, and so should the opposition parties who didn't object to this dirty deal.

Fortunately, even in the fog of fake consensus many MPs can see very clearly that the powers contained the Bill to allow police to hold suspects for 42 days without charge are an outrage that a free society can't tolerate. When the Bill reaches the Committee stage amendments to remove this part of it are certain to be tabled and to receive wide support.

The safeguards the government says it has attached to 42-day detention are nonsense. Before using the internment powers contained in the Bill, the government would have to come back to Parliament to ask for authorisation. In other words, the government is asking Parliament to defer until a moment of panic a decision that it can't stomach taking now. That isn't justice, it's government by scare story - and many MPs know it.

This is a battle the government is set to lose, however thoroughly they try to stitch it up. We hope that every MP of conscience and commonsense will vote against any extension of pre-charge detention when the Bill next comes before Parliament. And we hope that every citizen of integrity and conscience will tell their MP that that's what they expect.

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