A momentous day in the Lords

Trevor Smith
14 October 2008
Trevor Smith (York, House of Lords): Yesterday's Lords' debate on the Counter-Terrorism Bill was a traditional set-piece parliamentary occasion. The House was packed to capacity. In the last decade or so only the debates on Clause 28, the abolition of fox hunting and the Lisbon Treaty had the same flavour.
It was particularly interesting to observe the fissures in the various sectors of the Chamber. The biggest split was among the Labour Lords. Ranged on one side were the securicrats in the form of Foulkes Of Cumnock, Harris of Haringey and Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale, with the liberal wing being represented by Baroness Malllieu and Lords Falconer and Morris of Aberavon. Former police chiefs were also divided between Lords Dear and Condon voting against 42 days and Lord Imbert who supported the proposal, though the former security service heads voted against it. Ex judges and former Lord Chancellors and Attorneys General voted against and only two Labour QCs ( Lord Archer of Sandwell and Lord Wedderburn) voted with the government. Lord Tebbit was the lone Tory dissident who voted for 42 days. Apart from the minister, Admiral Lord West of Spithead, the military top brass who turned out voted against the government. The one bishop in attendance, Southwark, voted against.
The quality of the speeches was varied, ranging from the dreadful to a half dozen or so first-rate contributions. In fairness, it has to be conceded, that Lord West in replying for the Government and fighting a hopeless case, did better than previously.
All in all, the dramatic defeat of the Government's attempt to extend the period of detention by so large a majority added to a momentous day that saw the return of wholesale nationalisation schemes and the reincarnation of Lord Mandleson as a parliamentarian.
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