Monday, December 01, 2008

The Speaker for The Constitution

The arrest and detention of Damian Green MP marks a point where executive power has been deployed against the very legislature to which it is supposed to be accountable.

Rightly, figures amongst all parties have expressed profound concern. The badly drafted and anti-liberal terrorism legislation that MPs agreed, despite widespread public misgivings and the deep opposition of Liberal Democrats, has actually been deployed against one of their own members.

In fact it appears that the Parliamentary authorities actually agreed to permit the Police to search Mr. Green's Office.

There are two responses.

Firstly it is now quite clear that supposedly "anti-terrorist" legislation is being used as a catch-all. The seizure of the assets of Iceland: a friendly power and fellow NATO member, and the arrest of Mr. Green demonstrates that much of this legislation has far too broad an application. The measures should at the very least be redrafted to permit only a specific scope, or -better still- abolished altogether.

Secondly the role of the Speaker in the granting of permission for the search must be questioned. I hold no brief for Mr. Speaker Martin: his election broke party conventions that the office should alternate between parties, and he has proven partisan and incompetent in office. In my view he is much the weakest holder of the office that I have seen in my lifetime.

However if it is the case that the Speaker, together with the Serjeant at Arms, did indeed permit police entry into Mr. Green's office, then his position is simply untenable. The arresting officers, by harassing a member of Parliament in the course of his duties seem, prima facie, to be guilty of contempt of Parliament: a dramatically more serious crime than contempt of court.

If Mr. Speaker turns out to have sanctioned the Police raid, then as a bare minimum he owes the House of Commons a deep apology. Personally, in my view, the House would be within its rights to launch impeachment proceedings against the Speaker. The Liberties of the House are by implication the basis of the constitutional liberty of the whole Kingdom, and his failure to protect those liberties is not a minor offence: indeed, if proven then he can not remain in office.

As for the executive in whose name this investigation has been prosecuted- with or without the personal knowledge of the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister- they have rightly earned the withering contempt of the House. The partisan anti-liberalism on constitutional matters of this woeful government should be punished with extinction. This Rump government deserves no less than the Rump Parliament at the hands of Cromwell.:

"You have been sat to long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!.”

6 comments:

Withering Vine said...

You said:

"The badly drafted and anti-liberal terrorism legislation that MPs agreed, despite widespread public misgivings and the deep opposition of Liberal Democrats, has actually been deployed against one of their own members."

"Firstly it is now quite clear that supposedly "anti-terrorist" legislation is being used as a catch-all."

You are wrong (and a bit pompous). Anti-terrorist legislation does not cover leaking of official information and has no bearing on Mr Green. The legislation that does cover it, the Official Secrets Act 1989, replacing the notorious section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911, does not appear to have been breached by the Home Office leaks which it appears the police suspect may concern Mr Green (it appears to fall outside the classes of protected information and does not in any event form part of the grounds on which Mr Green was arrested).

Mr Green has been arrested and bailed "on suspicion of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office". Committing misconduct in a public office is a common law offence, not a statutory offence. For an offence of misconduct in a public office to arise, a person holding a public office such as a civil servant or police officer must, without reasonable excuse, wilfully do (or fail to do) an act in the execution of the office which is of such a serious kind as to amount to a breach of the trust imposed in the office holder.

A leak by a civil servant in a serious enough case may give rise to the commission of this offence, even if it is not an offence under the 1989 Act because it does not concern information protected under that Act. Those who conspire in advance with such a civil servant might also be guilty of an offence at common law.

For the police to have arrested Mr Green without significant evidence of a serious conspiracy would be a huge misjudgement. My guess is that they have indeed made a huge misjudgement and are engaged on a fishing expedition. If the Serjeant at Arms and Speaker did not make inquiries about what this significant evidence comprises and allowed them so to do, then they would equally have made a serious misjudgement.

However I would not be inclined to blame the Government as it would show gross political naivety. Let us await the facts. However, I strongly suspect Mr Green will emerge vindicated.

Newmania said...

Withering Vine is an expert on pomposity obviously , heart in the right place though CS.

Anonymous said...

Withering Vine said: "My guess is that they have indeed made a huge misjudgement and are engaged on a fishing expedition."

My guess is that Green was put in the frame by Galley. The police had the choice of discounting Galley's allegations and looking incompentent if Green turned out to be dirty, or seeking to substantiate the allegations and looking overzealous if Green turned out to be innocent. They chose the latter.

Cicero said...

Well Newmania, I can't disagree with you there. Yeh, re-reading my speil, it is indeed a bit pompous- I was livid when I wrote it! I think the use of the OSA as ammended still counts as using legislation for ends other than that intended by the statute- and as for the Speaker, his position of support for the executive is totally incompatible with his role as the appointed defender of the rights of the House of Commons- surely he MUST go.

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kiki said...
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