Police and Justice Bill

Monday was the second reading of the Police and Justice Bill on which I am leading. The Bill is one of those typical Labour efforts which has a number of sensible proposals combined with some hideous ones. And as ever – the overall trend is to centralise power over the police and police authorities directly into the hands of Charles Clark as Home Secretary. Bet they’d never have supported a Bill that put direct intervention in how the police did their work straight into the hands of Michael Howard!

Someone sent me a comment after the debate complaining that I read from a script during it. So – for the avoidance of confusion – all the frontbenchers from all three parties who make speeches of around half an hour or more in opening statement on the Bill worked from written speeches. The difference is – I wrote my own – whereas I am pretty sure that Charles Clark’s is prepared for him – and I don’t know if Nick Herbert who lead for the Tories wrote his or not. The bit that cheeses me off is the other two have a Despatch Box to lay their papers on – but I have to work in mid-air!

As frontbench spokesperson dealing with this debate – my prime duty as I see it is to get written into the record the issues of concern with the Bill and to lay down our marker for the Committee, Report and Third Reading to come – the battleground. Whilst we all add a bit of speechifying – that is the purpose. Backbench speeches vary more – in that they are generally on a particular constituency issue or particular political point – rather than having to cover the whole extent of the Bill and generally much shorter so that members who want to speak in a debate can get called within the allotted time.

You can read the speech in Hansard.

As you can see – I call the Bill ‘pernicious’ and ‘sneaky’ because it is another one of Labour’s ‘abolition of Parliament’ efforts. Outside of the power grab for the Home Secretary, the extension of surveillance of the innocent, the removal of protection for prisoners from Human Rights abuse and so on – it also has an extensive section on extradition.

Currently, and arising from hasty moves during the post-9/11 debates, the USA can extract one of their citizens from our shores and only have to prove that the person is the person they want. However, if we want to extract one of our citizens from their shores – we have to give prima facie evidence to prove that the person is guilty of the offence for which we are seeking extradition. To add insult to injury – whereas we brought that law into force by statute – the Americans never even ratified their end. So we are voluntarily complying with this unequal legislation. Moreover – it was brought into being for terrorism emergency use – but now the USA is using it for much else. So the Committee stage of the Bill will offer a good opportunity to properly debate this lopsided state of affairs – and ask why we’re letting the Americans do things here they won’t let us do over there.

Also today – the first wave of Ming’s shadow cabinet was announced Monday – and Chris Huhne gets the Environment portfolio – which is fantastic! An eco-economist – this will really give this portfolio the strength and importance it needs. Climate change is one of the biggest dangers threatening us. Nick Clegg gets Home Affairs (and so – if I stay in the Home Affairs team – my new boss).