The House of Commons has many strange procedures, and one of them is the selection of amendments for voting on Bills.
Monday saw a classic case concerning a major piece of government legislation, the Justice and Security Bill, which introduces the concept of secret courts through "closed material proceedings" (CMPs).
We only voted on an opposition amendment requiring an annual review of the process, rather than on a much stronger amendment put forward by Green MP Caroline Lucas and supported by a number of us which would have removed the whole process of secret courts from the Bill.
At the heart of this issue is the control of the security services.
There has always been a legal process, known as public interest immunity, by which court proceedings can be held in camera or particular evidence withheld - but the general direction now embarked on is eminently much more dangerous than that.
Britain has been drifting away from open justice for a long time.
Many of us opposed the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) introduced in 1974 after the Birmingham pub bombings, by which suspects could be held incommunicado and eventually brought to court.
This was also accompanied by the use of confessional evidence (where a witness states that the accused has told them of his or her guilt) and huge miscarriages of justice resulted.
The most famous case was of the Guildford Four - the first people to be arrested under the PTA.
In 2000 the PTA was incorporated into the Terrorism Act 2000 and after the attacks on New York's twin towers the next year further pieces of anti-terrorist law came in.
The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) was originally introduced in 1996 after the government lost a case at the European Court of Human Rights.
Siac allows a court to sit in private and for the defendant not to know the case against them. The defendant's representative is barred from communicating the details of the case against their client to them.
It was rarely used until after September 11 2001, when its use became more commonplace and resulted in secret courts taking place in Britain and the enactment of immigration powers which amounted effectively to the unlimited detention of "suspects" in British jails.
The previous Labour government was quite correctly attacked for its executive detention orders and it later introduced control orders by which the Home Secretary could prevent the free movement of a particular individual and impose virtual house arrest conditions.
In opposition the Conservatives voted against much of this on the grounds that it damaged the separation of powers between government and courts. But since taking power they have introduced the Justice and Security Bill, which allows secret prosecutions to take place.
The issue is accountability. The security services argue that if they have to answer questions in an open court they cannot operate effectively.
The sources of evidence against individual suspects cannot be identified, they claim.
But their case is questionable. The parliamentary joint committee on human rights said in November 2012: "We remain unpersuaded that the government has demonstrated by reference to evidence that there exists a significant and growing number of civil cases for which a CMP is essential, in the sense that the issues in the case cannot be determined at all without a CMP."
Even the special advocates the government has appointed - security-cleared lawyers - have expressed concerns about undermining traditional common law, and the Scottish government has refused to introduce it into devolved areas.
And in an excellent briefing before the parliamentary debate Liberty pointed out that the CMP case did not appear in any election manifesto and, as a consequence, there is no mandate to introduce this Bill. The government claims public support, but many are unconvinced.
The Liberal Democrat conference last September called for scrapping part two of the Bill, which includes the secret courts.
Chairman of the all-parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition Andrew Tyrie concluded that "it would not give Britain a more just or open system" and "risks damaging Britain's system of open justice and the reputation and effectiveness of the security agencies in the struggle against terrorism."
A whole range of newspapers - including surprisingly both the Times and the Daily Mail - have expressed concerns, as indeed have the Law Society, Bar Council and Lord MacDonald, the former director of public prosecutions. The TUC completely opposed it at last year's Congress.
During Monday's debate Kenneth Clarke did his best to defend an indefensible proposal and accused those of us who were planning to vote against it as being "ultra-liberals."
Lucas, putting forward her amendment to remove the whole of part two of the Bill - which would be the Lib Dem position if they followed the policies decided at their own conference - said: "The question this evening is whether we really want to allow the government to assure that everything, from state involvement in torture to the neglect of British soldiers, could be hidden from public view.
"After a decade that has seen our intelligence services become involved in unprecedented complicity in wrongdoing we should ask how we could prevent that from ever happening again."
Lucas rightly drew attention to the case of Binyam Mohamed. Mohamed spent over four years in Guantanamo Bay, where, our Court of Appeal ruled, he suffered "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" in which the British intelligence service were complicit before he was released without charge.
Others drew attention to the Sami al-Saadi case, where Britain contrived to return Saadi - an opponent of former ruler Muammar Gadaffi - to the country. After threatening a case against the British government in the courts Saadi's family has been paid off with many millions of pounds in order to protect the security services.
My Labour colleague John McDonnell compared the procedures to those depicted in Franz Kafka's The Trial.
"I fear that within five years we'll be back here debating certain areas of the criminal law unless we draw a line in the sand tonight and say that enough is enough. I think we're undermining the basis of British law," he told the house.
Britain and the US responded to the twin towers attacks with the invasion of Afghanistan. The prisons at Bagram air base and Guantanamo Bay were set up.
But the attack also led to the curtailment of civil liberities on both sides of the Atlantic. The power of the executive has massively increased along with that of the security services, regardless of the consequences.
We've seen torture carried out in the name of the state, innocent men suffering years in Guantanamo Bay and the murky process of extraordinary rendition.
The secrets courts Bill is just another part of this process and it is essential to oppose it.
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