Did I miss something?
(with apologies for double posting)
Did I miss something?
I read the newspapers yesterday and found that Gordon Brown (our prime minister - it's hard to get used to the change) was threatening a state of emergency. No-one seemed shocked or surprised. No-one made it the lead story in the papers this morning.
I keep looking at accounts of what was said. I keep hoping I've got this all wrong.
Gordon Brown said that he planned to ask parliament to double the time suspects could be detained without trial. He said there were two main options: either parliament would vote as he said or, whenever he wanted to hold suspects for longer, he would declare a state of emergency which would allow him to detain suspects for a further thirty days.
Presumably Mr Brown is talking about the Civil Contingencies Act 2004. This allows the Prime Minister or other Ministers to make legislation without consulting parliament in certain situations. According to section 19 of the Act, these are:
(a) an event or situation which threatens serious damage to human welfare in the United Kingdom or in a Part or region
(b) an event or situation which threatens serious damage to the environment of the United Kingdom or of a Part or region, or
(c) war, or terrorism, which threatens serious damage to the security of the United Kingdom
Presumably Gordon Brown will claim that section (c) applies. That won't be accurate. Gordon Brown is threatening MPs and peers with a state of emergency should they dare to vote against him. The "emergency" he claims is the failure of parliament to do the bidding of the prime minister. That's not how parliament is supposed to work.
Parliament is supposed to be a democracy. Our elected representatives are supposed to vote on the law.
The Civil Contingencies Act is a very dangerous law. It allows the Prime Minister, acting alone, to amend any Act of Parliament except the Human Rights Act 1998 for the period of the emergency. When the Act was debated, Members of the House of Lords attempted to protect laws that they regarded as fundamental to the British constitution. They were unsuccessful. If the Prime Minister declares a state of emergency he can even suspend the following laws:
Bill of Rights 1689
Act of Settlement 1700
Habeas Corpus Act 1816
Parliament Act 1911 (limiting parliaments to five years)
House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975
After thirty days, he has to ask for parliament's approval.
We have a new prime minister who has warned our elected representatives that if they don't do as he says, he'll stamp his foot and rule without them for a month. If they won't let him lock people up for longer, he'll say it's an emergency and do it anyway.
What else might Mr Brown do in those thirty days of emergency?
What would be left when the emergency was over?
Where are the protests?