Saturday, December 06, 2008

This week

Tuesday was the Queen's Speech opening the new Session of Parliament. In the 46 years since I entered the Commons in 1962 I have never attended this event, because it portrays Westminster as a theatre of charade and pageant, when in fact its a working environment. Of course the state opening makes better TV than the everyday grind of standing committees, but which is actually of more importance to people's lives?

Yesterday, the media reported the finding of the European Court of Justice that it was unlawful for the Government to retain DNA samples and fingerprints of suspects later found not guilty indefinitely. The Govenment will have to ensure that fingerprints or biometric samples taken from a suspected person are destroyed if he isn't charged, or is found not guilty. There are said to be 800,000 records in these categories already on the national DNA database, which must be removed. Did Parliament realise, when it passed Section 82 of the Criminal Justice and Police Act seven years ago,that it was "moving on to the slope that leads to a complete national DNA database; namely, that every child born will have his or her DNA profile registered"? Yes, because Lord McNally, now Leader of the LibDems in the Lords, told them so in those words (Hansard May 8, 2001, col 206). Isn't that more important than the trumpets and tiaras of the State Opening?

Wednesday was the foreign affairs day of the debate following the Queen's Speech, and I spoke about the fallacy that al-Qa'eda and similar terrorist groups all over the world can be dealt with by military and political means only, while ignoring the Wahabist doctrines that motivate them, and their funding by oil money. I referred to the particular threat in Somalia, with Ethiopian troops withdrawing by the end of the month, followed closely by the 2,700 AMISOM troops helping to protect the capital, Mogadishu, and the seat of the transitional government (TFG), Baidoa. With no foreign protection, the TFG is not likely to survive, and Somalia will be ruled by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, who is on the UN list of terrorist associates. The UN isn't lifting a finger to prevent this failed state being handed over to this person and his "Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia".

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