Yesterday afternoon should have seen an important debate on an amendment tabled by Patricia Hewitt regarding the criminalisation of partners in the case of assisted suicide. It didn't.
The amendment was to the Justice and Coroners Bill, aptly described by Edward Garnier as:
"the size of the mid-Suffolk telephone book, [...]yet another plum duff of a Bill—plenty of duff and very few plums".
Two days had been set aside for MPs to debate the important provisions in this bill - Dr Harris said:
It is amazing that the elected House will not get to debate murder law reform, and that we will probably not get to debate free speech, which has not been debated in this House for centuries—not since the days of the Star Chamber—in the terms on the Order Paper.
Let Mr Garnier explain the problem to you:
It is outrageous that, in the two days set aside for Report, the Government have already spoiled the afternoon by making not only one statement, but two. We accept that it is entirely proper for the Prime Minister to make a statement at the first available opportunity following the spring European Council, even though it took an hour or so out of the parliamentary day. However, it is wholly unacceptable for the Secretary of State for Justice, whose business the Bill is, voluntarily to insert his statement on rights and responsibilities into an already overcrowded first day of the Report stage. [...] it is a wholly improper constriction of the time of this House for the Secretary of State to make a statement today that he could have made on any day last week, any day the week before or any day in the remainder of this week. It was not time-precious—that is to say, time-urgent—for him to make the statement today.
Phillip Davies was even more forthright:
[...] It is either incompetence on the Government’s part, or a deliberate attempt to prevent a debate from taking place. The Government can choose which it is. I am quite relaxed about allowing them to choose whether it is incompetence or a deliberate attempt to stifle debate, but it is one of those two things.
Incompetence or a deliberate attempt to stifle debate? But the arrival of the Prime Minister and the Justice Secretary to give lengthy speeches and curtail debating time on this bill was not to be allowed to stifle all debate.
On the day when young Michael Causer's parents emerged blinking into the sunshine outside Liverpool Crown Court to announce that they were 'disappointed' that justice had not been done - disappointed? I thought his murderers had just been jailed for life? Ahh, Jailed for life, but not emotively labeled 'homophobic killers'.....Jack Straw has ring fenced an entire hour of the debate today to discuss 'homophobic hatred'.
Parliament is still allowed to discuss the really important matters like homophobia, just not not trifling matters of life or death, or even free speech.