Friday, June 13, 2008

Internment: The Inconvenient Truth for David Davis...

David Davis's basic argument is fundamentally flawed: He talks of how Parliament has nobly defended the freedom of people for centuries, until a Labour Government this week supported detention of terror suspects for a maximum 42 days without charge...

Firstly, didn't David Davis himself vote to increase the maximum detention period to 28-days just a couple of years ago...?

Why was he in favour of an increase to four weeks then, but six weeks now suddenly becomes an issue to force a by-election over...?

Secondly, at different times in our history, British governments have implemented internment - and with none of the protections for the individual which were enshrined in this week's measures.

Has David Davis forgotten that in 1971, British Prime Minister Ted Heath approved the rounding-up and indefinite jailing of hundreds of British citizens without trial and without charge?

In 1971, MPs like Mr Davis weren't given a vote on the issue as he was this week. Not even a debate in Parliament.

Just an executive announcement - after more than 300 men had already been detained indefinitely in dawn raids.

This certainly was an 'erosion of freedoms' and it happened under a British Prime Minister of the same political party as David Davis...

Incidentally, it was a Labour Home Secretary - Merlyn Rees - who finally ended the policy.

So it is wrong for Mr Davis to at least hint that no British Government since Magna Carta has ever locked anyone up for six weeks without charge.

Internment seventies-style was draconian when compared with the sensible measures which were democratically approved this week after proper parliamentary and public debate and a whole series of safeguards incorporated to ensure protection of individual rights.

An absolute maximum 42-days detention in 'exceptional and extra-ordinary' individual cases, with regular scrutiny in the interests of the suspect is very different to simply rounding up hundreds of suspects, detaining them indefinitely without charge and then announcing the policy change.

But internment wasn't invented in 1971. It simply implemented long-standing legislation previously used by British Governments in almost every decade of the 20th Century.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, for example, 300 men were rounded up by security forces and detained without charge for an average of two years.

Two years is very different to 42 days.

I made my views clear both before the vote - The answer is 42 - and in response to David Davis's Bizarre stunt or as blogger Bob Piper more eloquently put it: a cunning stunt.

But David Cameron is reportedly spitting nails with David Davis's antics - and today's headlines show why.

Here's just a few...

Daily Telegraph - Tensions with Cameron lay behind Davis resignation...

Daily Mail - Tories in turmoil..

The Times - ...frustrated Cameron

The Scotsman - Tories ridiculed...

And The Sun, who may run thir own candidate against Mr Davis - Who Dares Whinges. Shadow Home Secretary and SAS reservist David Davis plunged a dagger into the heart of his party yesterday by quitting his job in a strop over Labour’s terror crackdown.

BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson says when shocked Tory 'Leader' David Cameron said David Davis was 'courageous', it was parliamentary code for 'bonkers'.

Which coincidentally, is the very word David Davis admits that his wife used to describe his bizarre behaviour...


Bob Piper said...

Phil... the UK, not Britain. Ireland is in the British Isles, but not Britain.

I agree, David Davis raises the spectre of the magna bloody carta, but happily voted to ignore magna carta for 28 days. It's not about 28 days or 42 days, it's about the fact that Cameron wouldn't promise him he would repeal it so he threw a hissy fit to force him in to a corner.

Brynley said...

Yes, the Murdoch press took a dim view of David Davis.

The Independent and The Guardian were more supportive.

You forgot to mention that.

The point about internment in Northern Ireland was how counterproductive it turned out to be.

fairdealphil said...


Here's the Reuters assessment of how the papers viewed David Davis's behaviour:

Guardian: "Everyone at Westminster yesterday thought his decision mad..."

Independent: "the move cannot be interpreted as anything other than an act of reckless egotism which exposed divisions in the conservative front bench..."

With support like that, he's surely wondering what he's gone and done...

Agree that internment was counter-productive - certainly the 1971'Heath' version.

But my point was to show there was a fundamental difference between

1. 42-days maximum detention in extra-ordinary circumstances - the exceptions to the exception - for individual terror suspects, with a whole raft of safeguards built-in ensure justification and protection of human rights at every stage, and

2. Internment sanctioned by a tory Government with no Commons debate or vote which saw the rounding up of 300+ 'suspects' in pre-dawn raids, locking them up indefinitely without charge or trial, and announcing the change in policy only afterwards.

No wonder internment backfired so badly.

fairdealphil said...



Sorry to you and all Brits if i got it wrong, but for what it's worth thought i'd said British, not Britain -

is it not acceptable any longer to refer to our Government as the British Government..?

Anonymous said...

Today I wish to offer my full and earnest support to David Davis and his campaign against the 42 day detention debacle.

Whilst I am fully supportive of the war on terror and my political hero, George W Bush it has to be said that the 42 day detention bill the government has just passed, courtesy of a few Northern Irish backwoodsmen, is as hollow as they come from Labour which is why I believe that enough is enough.

With a CCTV camera for every 14 people and the notorious DNA data base I believe that Britain is now so state controlled it is enough to make any left wing dictator envious.

Yet despite having a CCTV camera for every 14 people crime is still out of control and criminals are still getting away with it.

For example, in 1997 despite pin-pointing the name and address of a thus who tried to use my building society pass book in Newbury thanks to CCTV all I was told by Thames Valley Police was that "we are the ones who do the investigating" and despite pressing charges for deception against a well known criminal no action was taken and more recently it was uncovered that Poole Council in Dorset were using the government's very own terror laws to spy on someone to try and find out if they lived inside a school catchment area.

This is nothing short of authoritarianism in a democratic society and is also I believe why David Davis will be returned to Westminster and why the House of Lords should return this disgraceful bill back to its original sender!

fairdealphil said...


Thanks for your comments.

May i reply to a few points:

1. If you are against 42 days, why is your hero George Bush, who gave us Guantanamo Bay where they have locked innocent people up for YEARS not days with no charge or trial...?

2. You cannot claim to be "fully supportive" of the war on terror, if you are not prepared to take the actions necessary to protect our citizens.

3. Yes, the 42-days went through with the support of Northern Ireland MPs. You can call them names, but you must agree, they know a bit about dealing with terror.

3. If there are too many CCTV cameras, which ones, specifically, would you wish to see removed...?

4. The DNA database has helped solve crimes from years gone by - notably sex crimes and murders - and see criminals who thought they'd got away with it brought to justice and locked up.
Are you really in favour of scrapping the DNA base...?

5. Your example of an 'authoritarian' council using terror laws to spy on parents is Poole.

Did you realise that Poole Council is not actually controlled Labour. It's er, a Tory council...

So don't blame Labour for an 'authoritarian' Tory council.

Direct your criticism to where it belongs - Tory Leader David Cameron...

Brynley said...

I've just seen David Davis interviewed by Andrew Marr on the BBC website.

Davis is really impressive, no question about it.

I can't share Geoffrey Brooking's enthusiasm for George W Bush, but clearly David Davis - on this question, if not on others - is speaking for people like us.

Phil's reply to Geoffrey Brooking is very unsettling. I thought that the Labour line was that we did not use the weasel phrase 'war on terror'. As for calling the Democratic Unionist MPs, the Northern Ireland MPs, please be more accurate and sensitive, Phil.

I was pleased to hear David Davis argue his point strongly and, incidently, I was amused and gratified that he brought in the lesser order question of wheelie bin misbehaviour by local authorities.

Right both times David Davis.

fairdealphil said...


thanks for your comments:

sorry to unsettle you.

Geoffrey used the phrase 'war on terror'. i responded.

for the record, not sure what the labour line is on use of the term, but i don't personally care what we call doing the right thing for the security of our country - which i believe to be the first duty of any Government.

Sorry if i upset you, or anyone else, by describing the MPs from Northern Ireland as Northern Ireland MPs. No offence intended.

Praps I'm missing something here Brynley...

On wheelie bins which David Davis has also raised in his erosion of rights by this Labour government, interesting to note that the council which you have taken to task over wheelie bins is, like Poole, also Conservative controlled...

If David Davis has a problem with the wheelie bins, he can't simply blame Labour when Tory councils are doing what he seems to be complaining about...

Brynley said...

Am I missing something, asks Phil?


The Democratic Unionists voted for Labour because of some horse trading, not because they had discovered some matter of principle.


It is insensitive, some might argue downright dodgy, to say that the Democratic Unionists, who represent one half of a divided society in Northern Ireland, have some special insight into how oppressive anti-terror legislation should be, an insight apparently denied to non-unionists.


You make no mention of the views of Northern Ireland MPs who are not Democratic Unionist/ Paisleyites.