There have been angry mutterings from the backbenches today about the passage of the Justice and Security Bill last night, with allegations of cunning play by the whips. It appears that the start of yesterday evening’s discussions was mysteriously delayed until 6.15pm and Closed Material Proceedings (secret courts) were debated at around 7pm. The first vote took place at 9.20, several hours after it was originally expected and very late in the day.
The whips were enormously active in the face of last minute amendments to derail ‘secret couts’: several peers were bussed in to bolster the government and at least one ermine-clad creature was plucked from abroad to answer the division bell. And that is not all. 007 and the queen renewed their partnership: Politics Home reported earlier today that special screenings of Skyfall and The Queen were arranged at 7.30pm to keep peers on-site to vote later in the evening.
This strong-armed chicanery follows a pattern. The report stage of the bill clashed with the vital banking standards debate, dividing MPs’ attention. And the second reading in the Commons took place 2 days before the 2012 Christmas recess, despite an informal commitment to postpone until the New Year. And, by a strange coincidence, yesterday’s debate was scheduled during Passover.
The Justice and Security Bill has enraged plenty of Liberal Democrat members. And its progress through parliament has enraged those parliamentarians who wished to challenge its often extraordinary interpretion of common law and understanding of our adversarial legal system.
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