Isabel Hardman has written a piece on the Spectator’s Coffee House blog which essentially says that Liberal Democrat MPs and campaigners are on a bit of a collision course over Part II of the Justice and Security Bill. Liberal Democrat conference voted overwhelmingly in favour of this measure being withdrawn because of its provisions on secret courts.
The article suggests that Liberal Democrat MPs are likely to support the measures now that Ken Clarke has accepted an amendment from the House of Lords guaranteeing judges, not ministers would authorise secret courts. Liberal Democrat Voice’s Nick Thornsby explains why this is not acceptable opponents of this measure within the Party.
It is of course welcome that Ken Clarke has recognised some of the flaws contained in the original bill. But even the amendments made in the House of Lords don’t go far enough. The bill, establishing the principle of court cases where one side can’t hear the evidence from the other, is fundamentally illiberal. It is difficult to see how Part II can remain intact and be acceptable to Liberal Democrats.
Hardman suggests that “this could be as big a problem for the party as the Health and Social Care Bill was”. I think she’s under-estimating the situation. The NHS debate did split the party along social and economic liberal lines. That is not the case with this measure. There is nothing like civil liberties being threatened to unite people across the party. It is unlikely, in any debate that may take place in the future, that you’d see the result turn on tens of votes.
You can read the whole article here.
If you wish to take part in the Liberal Democrat campaign against secret courts, you can do so here.
* Caron Lindsay is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings