Monday, March 07, 2005
In what British papers are calling a "humiliating defeat" for the P.M., Tony Blair's appalling anti-terror bill has been stripped of its most draconian provisions:
In the biggest defeat in the Lords for the current government on a whipped vote, peers insisted that only the judiciary, and not the home secretary, should impose control orders, including electronic tagging.UPDATE: See also these (pre-humiliation) thoughts from our BARBARic colleague Chuck Dupree, a/k/a Belisarius.
The government has already accepted that judges should take the decision on the most serious measure, house arrest.
Peers voted 249 to 119, a crushing defeat of 130. The government then accepted defeat without a vote on other crucial changes that it had planned to resist.
The government accepted that a judge should grant control orders only if convinced on the balance of probabilities, rather than simple suspicion, that a detainee is involved in terrorist activities.
Liberal Democrat and Tory peers were delighted that someone as prestigious and as close to the prime minister as Lord Irvine had rejected the proposals. It is the first time he has rebelled since he lost the lord chancellorship in a bitter and painful reshuffle in June 2003. Peers had heard rumours that he was unhappy at the principle of control orders, but he sat poker-faced throughout the debate without speaking.
In another blow for Mr Blair, Lord Condon, a former Metropolitan police commissioner and a crossbencher, joined the opposition, undermining the prime minister's case that the security services and police were unanimous in the need for the new legislation.
The current lord chancellor, Lord Falconer, had warned in a high-quality legal debate [Everyone's a drama critic! -- S.], attended by former law lords and home secretaries, that the higher standard of proof, the balance of probabilities, would make it "very, very difficult" to gain such orders. He added: "You will go a long way to frustrating the purpose of the act" . . . .
Some of the law lords complained that ancient liberties were being imperilled in an unjustified rush. They opposed control orders, but due to the pressure of time, were being forced to compromise and impose a measure of judicial control. The government faces further defeats in the Lords today on whether the whole set of measures should expire in November.