Friday, May 04, 2007

A chip in every fish

Today's House Points column from Liberal Democrat News. See here for more on Bradshaw's fish-tracking ambitions.

Fishy news

Last week I wrote about fish and David Maclean's bill to exempt MPs from the Freedom of Information Act. In the event the bill was not debated on the Friday but held back until 18 May. This was a tactical move to give it a better chance of progressing, but Norman Baker and the rest of the awkward squad are pledged to see that it does not do so.

So maybe I should have written more about fish. Certainly, Ben Bradshaw - the Minister for Fish - is busy building his empire. According to the BBC, he is advocating a "Europe-wide system for tracking fish" which will allow them to be traced "from the moment they are caught to when they are served on a customer's plate".

When I mentioned this scheme in the Lib Dem News office I was asked if Bradshaw was going to put a chip in every fish. So if people aren't going to take this important subject seriously, I shall look at Monday's Home Office questions instead.

It was one of those days when what was on the order paper was not what was on people's minds. On Friday the Special Immigration Appeals Commission ruled that two Libyan terrorist suspects could not be deported because of the risk they would be tortured. On Monday, at the conclusion of another court case, it was revealed that MI5 had two of the 7 July bombers under surveillance a year before the attacks. But neither of these subjects was reflected on the order paper.

For once Mr Speaker did allow members some leeway, but the most important questions remained unanswered. In particular, why were we told after the July bombings that those responsible were "clean skins" with no previous record of terrorist associations?

Remembering the build up to the Iraq war, it is hard to avoid the suspicion that this was another example of a highly selective account of intelligence findings being fed to the public to gain the government political advantage.

Often, the Blair administration has given the impression that it is more interested in news management than in governing. Is this its peculiar failing or a depressing truth about modern politics in general? We shall soon find out.

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