The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 14th December 2007

Climate change march in London

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by Daphne Liddle

is growing within the House of Commons to Government plans to extend the length of time that terrorism suspects may be held without charge or trial from 28 days to 42 days.

 The new powers were announced last week by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, when she proposed the extension as part of a new Counter Terrorism Bill due to be debated early next year.

 As a sop to opponents she promised the measure come into force only in exceptional circumstances; would be debated and agreed by Parliament and would lapse automatically after two months – unless MPs voted to extend it.

 But when the details of her proposals were examined it was found that Parliament would have to debate the extension to 42 days within 30 days of the Home Secretary bringing it in.

 Opponents pointed out that the measure was most likely to be initiated when a detainee had already been held for almost 28 days. This means the debate could happen at any time up to 58 days from when the detainee had first been arrested.

 Furthermore the proposals confuse the role of MPs and judges. If MPs are called upon to make a judgement on a particular case they are likely to compromise the chances of that person getting a fair trial.

 And a parliamentary vote on someone’s detention could tie the hands of a judge.

 Shami Chakrabarti, the director of the civil rights group Liberty, accused the Government of constitutional illiteracy. She said: “This is not just a dangerous proposal but constitutionally illiterate. It fails to understand the proper distinction between the legislature and the courts.
rubber stamp

“If you had anything like a real debate approving this in relation to an individual case, the suspect would immediately say this had prejudiced his right to a fair trial. It only works if parliamentary approval is a rubber stamp.”

 Tory and Liberal Democrat leaders have all said emphatically that the Government has failed to produce any evidence that such an extension is necessary. Even Smith has had to admit there has never been a time when 28 days has not been enough.

 The strongest opposition is coming from backbench Labour MPs – mainly the same group who two years ago voted against Tony Blair’s plans to introduce 90-days detention without charge or trial and helped to bring about Blair’s first defeat in the House of Commons.

 Former health secretary Frank Dobson has called a meeting of the 49 Labour dissidents from that vote. Dobson said: “Even George ‘Guantanamo Bay’ Bush has got only 48 hours detention without charge in the United States and yet we have already got detention without charge for 28 days. I think that is quite enough.

 “We have already got the longest period of detention without charge in the democratic world. I cannot see any reason for making it longer.

 “I have been the principled advocate of allowing suspects to be interviewed after being charged. That should be sufficient.”

 Other Labour dissident MPs include David Winnick, Mark Fisher and John McDonnell, leader of the Labour Representation Committee, who accused Brown and Smith of trying to “bounce” Labour MPs into supporting the measure.

 “Most of us thought those discussions were still going on and we’d meet after Christmas and then we’d arrive at a consensus.”

 The Government is also facing stiffer opposition to the introduction of biometric identity cards and the mass database that will be created to back them up.

 Since the admission by HM Revenue and Customs last month to losing two discs containing personal data of some five million child benefit claimants, reports of other information leaks have hit the newspapers almost daily.

 HMRC has admitted another seven major data losses and the DVLA has also admitted losing discs containing personal details on millions of motorists.

 Few people now believe the Government can be trusted with their personal information.

 A recent study by the think tank Demos has revealed that the average economically active person in Britain is listed on 700 databases – many in the private sector. Banks, supermarket loyalty schemes, travel cards and social networking websites all store people’s personal information and are often no more reliable than the Government.

 Now the Government uses private sector agencies to do much of the work – for example private courier services for internal civil service mail – it is often the interface been public and private sectors where control and accountability are confused that the risk of lost data is highest.

 The identity card data base would probably be contracted to a private sector IT company to run and few people now feel safe with entrusting so much of their personal information to it – and that it would actually make identity fraud easier.
 Now there are calls to scrap the planned database listing England’s 11 million children for fear it will put their safety at risk.


The sepoys return

THE PRIME MINISTER has returned from lightning visits to Iraq and Afghanistan firing reports that Britain will be out of southern Iraq by next spring and that the Government is ready to talk to the Taliban to end the conflict in Helmand province.

At the British base outside Basra Brown certainly seemed to close another shameful chapter of British military history when he told the troops that all combat operations would end within two weeks. A small contingent will remain to train and assist the “Iraqi authorities” until the spring of 2008 though what Brown didn’t tell the troops is that those “authorities” are the same Shia militia leaders of southern Iraq who drove them out of Basra in the first place.

The attack on Iraq was a criminal and illegal invasion based on lies at the highest level. Thousands of imperialist troops and over a million Iraqis have died over the past five years in this war for oil. In the beginning the Americans roped in their allies and vassals in a “coalition of the willing” to internationalise the occupation. Most of the minnows jumped ship when the partisan war erupted. Today the last contingents from Britain, Australia and Poland are packing their kit-bags for home. Though the American legions are still in Iraq there can be no doubt that they too will eventually be forced out by the heroic resistance of the Iraqi people.

Tony Blair ordered 46,000 troops into Iraq in 2003 to serve as sepoys in American imperialism’s bid to establish the “new world order” in the Middle East. Now British imperialism’s biggest overseas campaign in more than 50 years has ended, like all its other colonial adventures since the Second World War, in failure.

But not from Afghanistan

IN AFGHANISTAN it’s slightly different. The Taliban were largely the creation of Pakistani intelligence and the CIA and their strength lies amongst the southern tribes who have close ties with their cousins across the border in Pakistan. The Taliban never totally defeated the warlords of the Northern Alliance, backed by Russia, Iran and India, who ultimately brought the Taliban regime down with the assistance of imperialist forces which set up the current puppet Hamid Karzai government in Kabul in 2001.

 But Karzai relies on the guns of the Nato forces who call themselves the “International Security Assistance Force” (ISAF) to keep him in office. The Taliban, who clearly enjoy the support of the southern Afghan tribes, have been fighting a guerrilla war against ISAF and the puppet regime in the south for over five years.

Brown’s talk about negotiations with the Taliban is nothing new. British troops, who have borne the brunt of the fighting in Helmand province, have agreed local ceasefires with tribal leaders in the province since 2006. Brown now wants some of them brought into the Afghan government through negotiations and conciliation. Karzai wants an end to the fighting to legitimise his rule. Brown is playing for higher stakes.

Pakistan is at the crossroads. General Musharraf’s dictatorship is on its last legs. The leaders of the two mass parties in Pakistan have returned from exile to challenge Musharraf’s presidency. Benazir Bhutto of the Pakistan People’s Party is backed by US imperialism while British imperialism favours Nawaz Sharif’s Muslim League. Both have led Pakistan in the past and though they cannot agree to share power amongst themselves they are assiduously lobbying the senior officers in the Pakistani armed forces for support. Whoever is ultimately victorious will want to appease the generals who want to restore Pakistani influence in Afghanistan and Kashmir and British imperialism may hope to tilt the balance in favour of the Muslim League by playing the Taliban card.

None of these byzantine manoeuvres are of any benefit to the Afghan people who are entitled to choose their own leaders and their own way of life without any outside interference. That’s why the anti-war movement must maintain the momentum in Britain and continue to demand the total and unconditional withdrawal of all British troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

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