9 November 2005 - for immediate release
Finally, Blair's game's up. In a country still grieving from the London bombings, he staked his credibility on a law that he said would protect us, and he lost. It was his first defeat ever.
Blair told the House of Commons that it was essential to national security to give police the power to detain people for 90 days without charge, and the House of Commons didn't believe him. It's time for him to go. And it's time for Parliament to re-consider the whole of Blair's "war on terror".
MPs rejected 90-day detention by 322 votes to 291, and instead backed an increase in the pre-charge detention period for terrorism suspects from the current 14 days to 28 days. The government's 90-day proposal was internment in disguise. 28 days perhaps isn't quite that, but it's still an assault on our right to protection under the law from arbitrary arrest. It means that police can jail people first and look for evidence afterwards. It's a licence for police to harass people whose politics they dislike. Anyone who still doubts that the police would do that should remember that hundreds of people were searched under the Terrorism Act 2000 at the Labour Party Conference. The reasons police gave for these searches included wearing anti-Blair T-shirts.
It seems that Labour backbenchers are having trouble shaking off their 8-year habit of deference. They've lost confidence in Blair's policies, but this afternoon they couldn't stop themselves throwing him a few crumbs of "internment lite". They should worry more about their health and less about their manners. If Blair's police state sticks in their gullets, they should spit it out. Blair has no exit strategy from Iraq, and it's clear now that he has no exit strategy from his escalator of increasingly vicious laws.
Terrorists attacked London last summer because Britain has bombed and de-stabilised Iraq. Parliament should do a favour to the people of Iraq, the British soldiers who serve there and the British citizens threatened by bombs and arrests and bring the troops home. And the British people should demand, loudly and clearly, that it does so. Scottish anti-war groups have called a demonstration in Edinburgh this Saturday. We urge everyone who wants a future to come along and make their voices heard.
Notes for Editors
- Scotland Against Criminalising Communities is organising a petition against the Terrorism Bill. The petition will remain open until the Bill has completed its passage through both Houses of Parliament.
- The maximum pre-charge detention period for people arrested in connection with terrorism was set to 7 days by the Terrorism Act 2000, then extended to 14 days by the Criminal Justice Act 2003. The maximum pre-charge detention period for people arrested in connection with other offences was extended from 24 hours to 36 hours by the Criminal Justice Act 2003