“Minor teething problems” !

“Minor teething problems” !

Michael White and Vikram Dodd, The Guardian, 14/03/2005

The government yesterday dismissed as « minor teething problems » difficulties with implementing the new Prevention of Terrorism Act as the reverberations from Thursday’s 32-hour showdown continued.

Ministers are bracing themselves for a second showdown with the House of Lords – this week over the role of the lord chancellor – although they discouraged speculation that the row over details and principles of the new act will push the next stage of Lords reform further up the Labour agenda.

Meanwhile they faced claims that the new control order system was in chaos, after several glitches emerged.
A special phone number the 10 men need to ring to seek permission to meet people did not work, the Home Office conceded, but added there was a back-up number the terror suspects could call.

One detainee who had been held in Broadmoor suffered a breakdown after being moved to a new flat. Police had to kick down the door after he became ill and last night the man was in a psychiatric hospital.

Another suspect, P, who has no hands, was provided with a phone he could not use because it had not been specially adapted. Gareth Peirce, lawyer for most of the detainees, said: « It is a shambles, it is an absolute mess. »

Another man, an Algerian known as Q, had no money and thus no ability to buy food for over 17 hours.

His lawyer, Natalie Garcia, said he had now been given £35 a week to live on: « Life for him is pretty grim. He is cut off from all normal social contact. »

A Home Office spokesman said: « This all happened at very short notice, it’s a very big operational procedure. Some minor teething problems were always a possibility. We have taken measures to ensure they have not hampered the effectiveness of the control orders being implemented. »

The Home Office declined to comment on a report that the security services had not asked for the new law which brought in control orders. Meanwhile Ken Livingstone yesterday suggested that Britons are more at risk from bird flu than from terrorism – and less from al-Qaida than they once were from the IRA.

Lord Tebbit, whose wife was crippled by an IRA bomb, also weighed in angrily to reject Tony Blair’s suggestion that the Tories have been irresponsible about security – this from a prime minister who had released « whole battalions of murderers » under the Good Friday agreement, he said.

Tomorrow the Commons is expected to reject the Lords insistence that after the full separation of the judicial system from both the executive and the legislature – contained in the constitutional reform bill – the lord chancellor should, in future, remain both a lawyer and a peer.

Mr Blair and his own lord chancellor, Lord Falconer, also known as constitutional affairs secretary, are insistent that as the new system, complete with separate supreme court, evolves, it is possible that the holder of the 1,400-year-old office could be a non-lawyer and a mere MP.

But ministers are braced for more « ping pong » between the two houses: the likelihood that when the Commons overturns the Lords on the need for the lord chancellor to be a lawyer – as at present – the peers will defeat them. As for the need for him to be a peer, as at present, they are less certain. Parliamentary « ping pong » points to a 1-1 compromise. Since Lord Falconer has got the main reform, unbundling the overlapping judicial, political and legislative roles of the law lords and the lord chancellor, he will be content.

SOURCE: The Guardian