Page 4, 10th September 1976

10th September 1976
Page 4
Page 4, 10th September 1976 — The House of Commons is to most people a symbol

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The House of Commons is to most people a symbol

of democracy and a bastion of Britain's own special brand of freedom. But in between legislating for our "economic recovery" and campaigning on party lines. how well do our MPs defend our civil liberties?

Their record is a mixed one according to a survey by the National Council for Civil Liberties. which gives a warning that most MPs are sho%■ ing "a depressing lack of regard for civil liberties". Mr Kilroy Silk. Labour MP for Ormskirk, comes top of the poll because of his energetic work for the rights of prisoners, and on the detention of children in prison. The wooden spoon is awarded to Mr Michael Alison, Conservative MP for Barkston. Ash, because of what the NCCI,. calls "his all-round opposition to civil liberties and human rights". Catholic MPs do not rate highly in the survey, which is based on an analysis of voting. sponsorship of motions and MPs' performance at question time. , Mr Denis Canavan, Labour member for Stirlingshire West. is the top Catholic MP with a rating of +5 compared with Mr Silk's + 10.

At the other end of die scale Mr Michael Brotherton t( onservativc, Louth) scores

-1. Only eight Catholic MPs achieved positive scores.

The scores were arrived at by awarding one points (plus or minus) for MPs' votes on nine civil rights issues on which NCCL has a clearly defined policy. a vote against NCCL policy counting as a vote against civil rights.

The issues included an amendment to the Police Bill to strengthen the power of the Police Complaints Board; an amendment to the Sexual Offences Bill to allow a

woman's previous sexual history to he admissible evidence in a rape trial, and the Second Reading of the Race Relations Bill.

Points were also awarded for sponsorship of civil rights 'notions and supplementary questions.

The survey dues not present an entirely accurate picture of

atholic MPs performances as some of their scores were reduced because they voted in favour of the reappointment of the Select Committee on the Abortion Amendment Bill. a measure opposed by NCCL.

Members of the Government. nine of whom are Catholics. were also excluded from the survey.

The survey reveals "wide divergences of commitment" to civil liberties in all three major parties. These divergences are widest in the Labour Party. On the whole, however. Labour MPs have. a better record than their Conservative colleagues. NCCL hopes that the survey will aid greater public scrutiny of Parliament and help to counteract the overwhelming lack of public knowledge about civil liberty issues, in particular immigration. the powers of the police. and discrimination against minorities. Full details of the survey are published in "Rights", the new bi monthly journal of the NCCL.

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