Vote first, think later: vetting (and Iraq)
I am of course pleased that there have been changes to the vetting arrangements for school visits etc. I would much prefer that we didn't live in a world in which everyone was assumed to be a danger to children unless "proven" otherwise. But even so, if there must be legislation, then it is better that some of the rough edges are knocked off sooner rather than later.
But the bigger question is: what on earth were the MPs doing when they passed this vetting bill, in its full form, in the first place? Why did it take a group of authors, among other interest groups, to see what the implications were going to be for school visits by poets and novelists, or for language exchange arrangements, or for sports clubs? In their enthusiasm for flushing paedophiles out of the woodwork, did no MP spot these issues? Did they not have their brains in gear, or listen to those that did?
To offer a comparison with something much more trivial (though important to those involved): when we are changing regulations for our exams in Cambridge, we make sure to think through all the implications, however remote, very carefully. How might this change impact on someone who was reading Latin and French, and was currently on a year's placement in France? Might they possibly be unfairly disadvantaged by a change that is brought in for the benefit of the majority of students. Taking account of all the possible consequences is what making rules is all about.
So what has gone wrong to make our legislature so conspicuously sloppy?
It reminds me of a meeting we had in Cambridge in the run-up to the Iraq war.
It was held in what was then the Faculty of Oriental Studies, just at the moment when Blair and the Americans were at their most sanctimonious about the deadly danger posed by Saddam, the mobile labs, the 45 minute capability and so on. The meeting was attended by quite a lot of Cambridge scientists (not as a breed -- there are exceptions-- renowned for their steaming radicalism). They repeatedly said that the claims about Saddam's labs and military capabilities could not possibly be true, for simple scientific reasons: mobile desert labs, for example, would depend on a reliable 24 hour supply of electricity, which would be impossible in the Iraqi desert . . . and so on.
No doubt this was playing to my existing prejudices, but these contributions were powerfully backed up and absolutely 100% convincing.
Among those present was the then MP for Cambridge, Anne Campbell (who had just resigned as a PPS, or was about to, over the decision to go to war, or its procedures). She seemed as convinced as the rest of us.
What I could never understand was how such arguments as these never seemed to dent the parliamentary process, or even -- so far as I could see --be even heard there.
Am I missing something? Or is there a big knowledge gap between Westminster and real knowledge and expertise.