172 Liberal Democrats write to the Times to oppose secret courts

As the Justice and Security Bill is debated in the House of Lords for the second day this week, 172 Liberal Democrats have written to the Times to express opposition to the proposals for secret courts and their letter has been published today (£). Although only five names are given in the paper, the full list of 172 who signed before the letter was sent and more who signed subsequently is published on the Lib Dems against secret courts website.

What’s interesting about the list is that it contains such a broad range of signatories, from people who are normally very loyal to the leadership to those we affectionately call the Awkward Squad, from economic to social liberal, from north, south, east and west of the UK and from members of federal committees, former candidates and MPs and current councillors  to grassroots activists. It appears that the only people in the Party not offended by these provisions are on the Government payroll.

The text of the letter is as follows:

Sir,

Your leader on Monday expressed your paper’s opposition to the Government’s plans for “secret courts”. We, as members of the Liberal Democrats, agree.

On Monday of this week crossbencher Lord Pannick QC described the Bill’s proposals as “unfair, unnecessary and unbalanced”. We are urging Liberal Democrat peers to vote for the amendment supported by Lords Dubs, Lord Strasburger and Baroness Kennedy which deletes clause 6 of the Bill.

The issue at stake – open and equal justice – could hardly be more serious. We believe the proposals are neither liberal not democratic, and go right to the heart of what it means to support liberal democracy and the Liberal Democrat party.

If clause 6 is deleted, secret courts will not blight our civil courts and our international standing for decades to come. It will also mean the reputation of the Liberal Democrats as champions of civil liberties will remain intact and that Liberal Democrats across the country can continue to assert, as our constitution states, that our party “exists to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society”.

Should the Bill pass with secret courts included, the damage to our justice system, our country and our party will be incalculable.

Yours etc.

The amendment signed by Lord Dubs, Baronness Kennedy and Liberal Democrat Paul Strasburger which simply deletes the provision for closed material procedures may be voted on this evening. I would be very surprised if there were no Liberal Democrat rebels.

If you wish to sign the Lib Dems against secret courts petition you can do so here and there’s a Facebook group here.

* Caron Lindsay is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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5 Comments

  • I can’t believe that we aren’t fighting this tooth and nail, in opposition this would have been a major campaign. Our distinctive reasons to support the Lib Dems have been dulled and blurred by coalition Government; this is the perfect example of why people should vote Lib Dem, and how our party is different from the others. I hope it’s not too late for our MPs to listen.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 21st Nov '12 - 11:52am

    It’s the peers who need to listen and fast. The final votes are looming large.

  • TPFKAR, As myself and Martin and many others have been working on this virtually non-stop since Conference I take slight exception to the suggestion we are not fighting it tooth and nail. Because we are, and we won’t stop!

  • “TPFKAR, As myself and Martin and many others have been working on this virtually non-stop since Conference I take slight exception to the suggestion we are not fighting it tooth and nail. Because we are, and we won’t stop!”

    More strength to your elbows.

    But I assume what tpfkar can’t believe is why the party as a whole isn’t fighting it tooth and nail. You’re actually trying desperately to dissuade the party in parliament from supporting it, aren’t you?

  • Martin Pierce 21st Nov '12 - 2:08pm

    Sadly I fear Chris is right. No one should be having to fight this tooth and nail at all – because Nick Clegg should have stopped it dead in its tracks before it even got going. My question – why didn’t he?

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