Monday, July 03, 2006

When Is A Select Committee Worth Hearing?

Today's Select Committee report into the detention of terror suspects without trial reached the conclusion that the 28-day limit was 'inadequate'. Leaving aside the civil liberties issues for the moment, and the fact that as yet, no suspect has been held for the maximum period without charge, I am more worried by the reaction of the government.

Unsurprisingly, they are already trying to spin this as a vindication for their argument for a 90-day period - even though the committee also argued that they had failed to make the case for such an extension in the Commons debate. You'd think, then, that a Select Committee report would be good enough for the Government to pay attention to. After all, if they can cite it as evidence when they are in agreement, they must be effective counter-evidence if they disagree?

Not for this government, of course. The Education Select Committee published a report showing that there was absolutely no evidence to support the continued claim that increased funding leads to an improvement in GCSE results. Yet every week at PMQs, Tony Blair proclaims the wonderful goodness of increased education funding, and rails against the Tories for opposing it. Despite the fact the Select Committee believes this case is groundless. If the Government starts rethinking education policy in the light of this, then I will be more inclined to listen to their Ministers proclaim the need for a 90-day limit. It won't happen, of course - the Labour Party is still endemically filled with the political class; those who spend their time getting told what they want to hear.