Year 2000 No. 4, January 13, 2000

Why Does the Government Need a "Terrorism Bill"?

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index : Discuss

Why Does the Government Need a "Terrorism Bill"?

Letter to the Editor
There Is Still No Recompense for the AMEC Tragedy

News:
Investigation into Oil Rig Deaths Postponed

Newspaper of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist)
170, Wandsworth Road, London, SW8 2LA. Phone 0207 627 0599
Web Site: http://www.rcpbml.org.uk
e-mail:office@rcpbml.org.uk
Subscription Rates (Cheques made payable to Workers' Publication Centre):
Workers' Weekly Printed Edition: 70p per issue, £2.70 for 4 issues, £17 for 26 issues, £32 for 52 issues (including postage)

Workers' Daily Internet Edition sent by e-mail daily (Text e-mail ): 1 issue free, 6 months £5, Yearly £10



Why Does the Government Need a "Terrorism Bill"?

The raft of "law and order" legislation outlined by the government for this parliament includes a "Terrorism Bill". It was introduced into the House of Commons on December 2 and received its Second Reading on December 14.

The question arises, why does the government need to enact a Terrorism Bill? What is its objective?

The Acts which the Terrorism Bill is intended to replace were of a temporary nature. The Prevention of Terrorism Act was rushed through the House of Commons in November 1974 after the Birmingham bombing, and had to be renewed annually. In 1989 it was re-enacted, again to be annually reviewed, but casting its net wider. The Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1996 was due to lapse in August this year. The previous "Terrorism" Act, the Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Act of 1998, was another Act rushed through parliament, this time in response to the Omagh bombing, and this again had to be renewed annually.

All of these Acts had been widely condemned as fundamental assaults on people’s rights to justice. The 1998 Act in particular had been described as the most draconian piece of legislation passed by a British government since the second world war. For example, it gave the courts powers to convict those who are deemed to be members of an organisation which is defined to be proscribed by decree of a government minister, allowing for the seizure of finances and property, and giving the courts powers to convict persons for what was termed "conspiracy" to commit offences outside the United Kingdom. In fact, this last section of this Act will remain unrepealed.

However, what is presently notable is that now the Northern Ireland Assembly and its Executive are operating, when the Peace Process has advanced so far, the government is not only not consigning the provisions of the previous Acts to history, but is making them permanent and extending them. The new Terrorism Act is to specifically cover "domestic terrorism" as well as "international terrorism".

It is not for nothing that the government is introducing such a Bill. Could it be that the government is intending to create such a climate of anarchy and chaos where such legislation is waiting to label "terrorist" and criminalise political activity? Is it intending to provoke acts of terrorism and then use the legislation to outlaw legitimate political organisations? In any event, once the legislation is passed, the police and courts will possess extraordinary powers against anyone that they declare is even "suspected" of being connected with "terrorism" or with the proscribed organisations. Jack Straw may say, also, when accused of wanting to outlaw political protests, that the laws would only be used in situations where "demonstrations turned ugly", but if the state itself is intent on turning them ugly, it will be the people who are opposing the anti-social offensive who will pay the price. Furthermore, if the government was engaged in the solving the problems of society, the people would support the government. But the crises in society are intensifying and far from solving the problems the government is engaged in making political issues into law-and-order issues.

As society retrogresses, as everyone is supposed to pull together behind their employers, the government wishes to make any opposition the target of repressive legislation. Historical experience also shows that communist parties and organisations themselves become a prime target of the state as the capitalist crisis intensifies and social democracy is unable to keep the struggles of the working people in check.

The enactment of the Terrorism Bill, in common with the government’s related law-and-order legislation, would be a very dangerous development for the working class and people.

Article Index


Letter to the Editor

 

There Is Still No Recompense for the AMEC Tragedy

On Tyneside, one of the most shocking accidents in the history of the river took place on December 22, 1995, when a massive pressure explosion killed Ian Hamilton, Sean McAlindon and Steve Welford at AMEC Construction, Wallsend, which makes oil rigs. The three pipe fitters were sent onto the rig to work when the part of the rig they were sent to was still pressurised under a pressure test. The following is a letter from a relative of one of the three pipe fitters. The letter follows an interview with the relative which appeared in Workers’ Weekly, Vol. 29, No. 14, last year. In spite of an apology from a government minister and a promise for a "review" of the disaster, the letter further underlines how workers are not listened to and how the truth behind such tragedies is covered up by the state institutions. It shows how the state represents the interests of the monopolies like AMEC and not the workers or the relatives of the victims, and how few people get to know about these and many other accidents and that such accidents are happening again and again. Most importantly, it underlines the necessity for workers to consider getting organised to be the decision-makers in society, against the background that they are marginalised by this society from taking control even of their own health and safety to stop such accidents taking place.

 

Dear Workers’ Weekly,

Since my interview with a correspondent of Workers’ Weekly, I would like to update for your readers our struggle as one family who suffered such a tragic loss in the AMEC disaster of 1995. It is especially important this week as all the families have been asked by the judge to take all the children to court in their fight for compensation against the company which is still not sorted out five years after the deaths, and the support of you and your readers is important to us.

After the interview in which I said that we wanted an apology and were calling for a public enquiry I wrote a protracted statement to the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Mr Alan Meale. Many of these points and issues in the briefing were contained in the interview that I did.

On June 28, 1999, we finally after two and a half years secured a meeting with the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Alan Meale, and Mr Wilby, Director of HSE North East, in Westminster. I duly attended accompanied by my MP, Mr Stephen Hepburn MP, my wife, my son and my daughter who had lost her husband in the tragedy.

I found the Minister very attentive about everything I had to say – one of the things being that I said that the HSE was not held in a very high esteem in heavy industry in the North of England. I also told him that the present way they are structured and the way they operate could leave them as a law unto themselves and in the case of AMEC disaster how the HSE are open to compromise. Also, I pointed out to him that although I have letter upon letter from the HSE telling me that all the families had been informed as to the progress and prosecution of AMEC in this case, I I could prove beyond a shadow of doubt that this was not the case. After producing my evidence, we received an apology from both the Minister and the Director of the HSE. This apology had taken two and a half years to secure.

However, I put questions to them and quoted facts to them which they did not answer in spite of having received my briefing paper some four weeks before the meeting.

The Minister said that he had been thinking of reviewing the HSE nation-wide and that the review would now take place. He also added that he was disappointed that the HSE was not popular in the North East of England and was disappointed by the fact that we still had no answers at all after nearly four years since the tragedy. He granted us a review into the AMEC disaster and promised us a written report at the end of the review.

I thought that this was great, that we had achieved what we had set out to achieve. But two weeks after the meeting, the Minister, Mr Alan Meale, was sacked, the only Minister to go in the government and Cabinet reshuffle. I thought at the time that as long as we had had the review granted in front of so many witnesses that the new Under-Secretary of State would honour the promises of the previous Minister, but three weeks later I received a third-hand answer from a civil servant, the implications of which were that we were not going to get the review which had been promised into the AMEC disaster.

After further representations, we have now got an answer that the matter has been passed on to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Meacher, but we are still waiting for an answer.

I think the outcome is that however much power the HSE wields, instead of prosecution as to the law, even as it exists now, they pick out and choose the punishment of any big firm as long as this leaves the impression that people will think they are doing their job properly. The question seems to be not to prosecute big firms too harshly as long as they do not kill too many people. This must be a government directive not to interfere with big business and this is certainly the message from government. If this is the case, we do not have an HSE that is unbiased but one that is politically motivated. Although these are only my thoughts on a very serious situation, I think I have the right to think this way. In a day and age when Tony Blair cries out for fairness and the easy availability of government to the ordinary man I would like to blow a hole right through that myth. It took us three and a half years to have our questions asked in the corridors of power. Six months later we still await the execution of these promises.

Article Index


 

News:

Investigation into Oil Rig Deaths Postponed

It is reported that a fatal accident inquiry should have opened this month in a bid to discover the course of events which killed welder Richard King, 56, from Tyneside, and plater Roland Duffell, 40, from Northumberland. The enquiry has been delayed till later this year by the Procurator Fiscal's Office in what is reported as a "wrangle about who can deliberate in Scottish courts" and to give time for the appointment of new permanent sheriffs.

The men died when gas from a leaking propane hose exploded on the rig Glomar Arctic in Dundee Harbour in July 1998. Rig owner Global Marine UK Ltd and MacGregor Energy Services, sub-contractors which employed the men, were each fined £50,000 for their part in the tragedy at Dundee Sheriff Court.

Article Index


RCPB(ML) Home Page

Workers' Daily Internet Edition Index Page