Show them who is boss

Wednesday March 2, 2005
The Guardian


As a new home secretary, Charles Clarke has tried hard to bring some overdue calm and civility to the discharge of his ministerial duties. But he cannot be permitted to get away with the remark he made in a Today programme interview yesterday morning. “No bill goes through parliament,” he said, “without detailed consideration being made, but I believe that what I announced yesterday will be sufficient to secure the agreement of the House of Lords.”

Whatever else can be said about the prevention of terrorism bill, the claim that it is receiving detailed consideration as it goes through parliament is simply nonsense. A normal bill can expect to receive about 25 hours of detailed scrutiny during its committee stage, and at least a further four or five hours on report and third reading. Yet the combined committee and third-reading stages of the bill in the Commons on Monday lasted no more than five hours in total. During that time, MPs faced the task of discussing dozens of amendments, clustered together in nine or 10 groups. Not surprisingly, given the seriousness of the issues, the Commons duly completed just one of these groups – on which the government’s notional majority of 161 was reduced to a mere 14. None of the remaining groups of amendments was able to be called because the timetable motion that MPs had themselves agreed precluded it. This cannot possibly be described as detailed consideration, or anything approaching it. … …

The failure to do so is not merely the too familiar Labour slapdash mode. It is also an abuse of executive power. And not an unintended one, either. The government has known both the scope and the essential content of the bill for many weeks. It was obvious that its importance and sensitivity would rouse strong feelings and require careful scrutiny. The decision to push the whole bill through in less than a month therefore amounts to a deliberate attempt to deny parliament the proper time that the bill requires. This attempted fast-tracking was not forced on the government by forces beyond its control. It was adopted by the government in an attempt to limit the damage. Judging by the independent mood being expressed in the Lords in their second reading debate yesterday, this may yet prove a miscalculation.

But it is not just for the government to learn the lesson of this unattractive episode. MPs need to raise their game too, and stand up to this kind of executive bullying. It was within the power of MPs to vote against the timetable motion on Monday, and it is within their power to shape the timetable more effectively when the amended bill returns after its expected mauling in the Lords. MPs need to decide if parliament belongs to its members or to the government. At the moment, the executive is being allowed too much control. It is time that MPs reclaimed the power for themselves, and for the people they represent. They should show Mr Clarke who is boss.


این ماجرای به تصویب رساندن قانون ضد تروریسم در این بلاد بریطانی دارد به جاهای باریک می کشد. سرمقاله گاردین را کوتاه شده اینجا آوردم تا دوستانی که اهل نظرند از این دقیقه غافل نشوند. مساله این است که گاردین دارد روی این نکته پافشاری می کند که این لایحه با دقت کافی در پارلمان بحث نشده و دولت دارد تلاش می کند به لطایف الحیل آن را هر چه زودتر به تصویب برساند. وارد تحلیل ماجرا نمی شوم که چرا و در آستانه انتخابات این برای راضی کردن کدام دسته از رای دهندگان است و اصلا این مدل آمریکایی چه جوری سر از این بلاد درآورده است. اما دو نکته مهم در این کشمکش جدی وجود دارد: یکی اینکه مخالفان می گویند با تصویب این طرح آزادیهای ۸۰۰ ساله ای که در این کشور رعایت می شده به دست دولت نابود می شود و مثلا می توان بدون حکم قاضی کسی را بازداشت کرد و مدتی مدید بدون اعلام اتهام نگه داشت مثل همان اتفاق که در گوانتانامو افتاده است؛ و دوم اینکه نشان می دهد اینجاها هم دولت بدش نمی آید اختیارات عجیب و غریب پیدا کند و بر همه چیز کنترل بدون نظارت بیابد اما راهش ایستادگی پارلمان است در مقابل زیاده خواهی دولت. توصیه گاردین این است که آقایان نمایندگان به این حضرات نشان بدهید که اینجا کی رئیس است. البته این هم قابل تحلیل است که چرا چنین گرایشی در دولتهای غربی به وجود آمده است و چه چیزی در معادلات جهانی و فلسفه سیاسی تغییر کرده که این دولت ها با کمال شجاعت می توانند قوانینی را طراحی کنند که خلاف اصول مسلم جوامع دموکراتیک است. ضمنا تیتر از من است بر اساس جمله آخر سرمقاله.

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