Unionist split over 42 days’ detention

That allegation of a “dirty deal” with the DUP to win the Commons vote on the government’s proposal for a 42 days detention limit for certain suspects, just won’t go away, however much it’s denied. It features again in the skirmishing before tonight’s vote in the Lords, with the Ulster Unionist Ken Maginnis claiming Labour peers ( presumably rebels!) were “spitting nails” over “the dirty Deal.” Two other UU peers, the regular attenders Lords Rogan and Laird will join Ld Maginnis in the Conservative lobby – on the other side of the issue from Sylvia Hermon in the Commons who supported the Government. Poor old UUs, ever shrinking but still splitting..

The Lords are less biddable than MPs and are expected to reject the 42 days in the next move in a long game of parliamentary ping pong between Lords and Commons. The DUP’s Lord Browne of Belmont said in advance of the debate:

“I would fundamentally refute the assertion by Ken Maginnis that 42 days
detention could be used as a substitute for better intelligence gathering.
The entire purpose of the proposal to allow detention for up to 42 days
is to ensure that sufficient intelligence can be gathered to safeguard the
public and prosecute those engaged in terrorism”.

A flattering piece from Amnesty’s Peter Corrigan in the Our Kingdom website and first noted by Chris Donnelly, urges the 15 non-DUP NI peers to”restore Northern Ireland’s Westminster reputation”by voting against the government”!

Whatever can he mean?

  • Blackmouth

    Lord Kilclooney will be voting with the DUP.

  • Basil Brush

    This really makes the deal look stupid.As it looks pretty certain that the lords will reject this Bill.It really makes you wonder what the government was thinking about

  • Mike C

    Basil Brush

    The Lords can only delay the legislation….how does that make you wonder what the government was thinking about?

  • Basil Brush

    Doesn’t the bill not just go straight back to the HOC to be voted on again if the Lords reject it.Anyway if the legislation is delayed and with the likelihood of a Tory government in 2010 this Bill will just be scrappped

  • Mike C

    The Government may use its powers under the Parliament Act….usually used sparingly but if the Government is determined….

  • Basil Brush

    I never relised Mike that the government had enough power to do that.Thanks for clearing that up.

  • Brian Walker

    Mr Brush, “parliamentary ping pong” is the term used to describe the to-ing and fro-ing between the two Houses in cases where neither House will bend, before the Parliament Act is invoked and Commons superiority is asserted.

    Peers would only be able to reject the Bill for two years over three successive parliamentary sessions. After that it could become law in spite of their objections, by the government applying the Act 1911 as amended 1949.

    The Act was first passed because there was deadlock between Lords and Commons over Lloyd George’s budget which would have stung peers with a land tax. For centuries, it was established practice that the Commons only voted on financial measures. In this case, the Lords defied convention but lost what was really a far wider power struggle and an important episode in the evolution of British democracy. It was quite a struggle, requiring two elections to pass it and leaving the Liberals dependent on the Irish nationalists for a majority. This meant they were forced to bring in an Irish Home Rule Bill. But that’s another story…

    Since those days, governments have used the Parliament Act willy nilly; more than ever in fact in the last few years, as the partly-reformed Lords, shorn of the hereditaries, has become more assertive over its scrutiny function, and some would say, on several occasions more representative of public opinion than the over-whipped MPs.

    Over 42 days,David Davis in his lonely by-election campaign argues that the government shouldn’t employ the Act “as it has no democratic mandate to do this because 42 days was not in its manifesto. Its legal basis is uncertain… ”

    I think he’s wrong.

  • Basil Brush

    Excellent Brian and thank you for explaining the Parliament Act.As the saying goes you learn something new every day.

  • Mike C

    Brian is it not the case that the 1949 Act actually reduced the time the Lords could delay legislation to a mere one year?

  • Brian Walker

    Mike C. Absolutely,yes. Sloppy writing, sorry. The 1949 amended Act reduced Lords’ delaying powers to just one year.