Today’s first day of the Committee Stage of the Counter-Terrorism Bill has already produced a spate of woolly thinking from both the Conservatives and the LibDems.
Less than twenty lines into the Bill, Baroness Hanham, the Tory spokeswoman, proposed that the decision on whether to remove a document for further examination from the premises of a suspected terrorist during a search would have to be taken by a police officer of at least the rank of Inspector. The idea presumably was that in the height of a counter-terrorist operation with possibly many properties being searched police officers would have to be queuing up to wait an Inspector’s decision on what could be taken away. Anyway, the Tories saw this as putting themselves at the vanguard of the civil liberties movement. The effect was rather weakened by another amendment they moved slightly later that would have removed the requirement to return documents removed that turn out not to be relevant within 48 hours. I rather think that anyone whose house is raided and searched would rather have a legal guarantee that any papers removed will be returned within 48 hours than the knowledge that someone with two pips on their shoulder had authorised the removal.
Shortly afterwards, Baroness Miller for the LibDems offered their version of insightful thinking: an amendment to provide every suspected terrorist with a document setting out how any papers seized might fit into the investigation against them. Hardly practical policing!
Still today was just the warm-up – Monday will bring the debate on 42 days and all that.