Monday, June 02, 2008

Ceci n'est pas un complot - absolument

Late last month we noted how the major votes in the Commons on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill were scheduled for the same day that the Lords were voting on whether there should be a referendum on the treaty. It thus drowned out any media coverage on the Lords debate – not that our idle media would necessarily have covered it.

Come the 12th of this month, we have a re-match, with the final opportunity in the Lords to vote on a referendum. We also have Stewart Wheeler's case in the High Court, to determine whether the government's refusal to give us a referendum was lawful and, of course, we have the Irish referendum. By all accounts, therefore, the constitutional Lisbon treaty should be fairly high profile.

In our earlier piece, however, we did ponder on what tactics would be used to bury the discussion – and now we have the answer. It appears that the "great debate" on the 42-day detention issue, a central part of the anti-terror Bill, will be held on … 12 June.

Although timing of the debates in the House is arranged through "normal channels" and is not (totally) controlled by the government, the chief whips of the respective parties are heavily involved. And the Labour man is arch Europhiliac Geoff Hoon, while the Tory chief whip, Patrick McLoughlin, is one of those who voted against a referendum on the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, alongside Kenneth Clarke and John Gummer.

But the decision to hold the 42-day debate at such a key time is a total coincidence. Ceci n'est pas un complot – absolument!


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