On 18th March 2010 Nick Clegg gave a speech to Privacy International about Lib Dem plans to roll back the surveillance state. He said:
The Conservatives talk a good game on privacy but scratch beneath the surface and it is clear they cannot be trusted to roll back Labour’s surveillance state… Only the Liberal Democrats will bring an end to the endless snooping on innocent people.
We committed ourselves at the last election to ending ID cards, curbing CCTV and stopping the Home Office encroachment into our lives. Enough of citizens as suspects. Enough of “endless snooping” by the Government.
One of our first acts in Coalition with the Conservatives was to end ID cards and regulate CCTV. But when the Home Secretary came forward with plans – similar to Labour – to monitor our internet activity, we saw that Nick was right. Tory commitment to civil liberties is skin deep.
Nick refused to allow the Bill to go ahead, and forced the Home Office to publish the Bill as a draft, allowing us all to see what the Home Office were planning. Nick appointed Paul Strasburger and I onto a Committee to scrutinise it in detail. We went through the evidence, heard from many experts and published a cross-party report. This was damming of the Home Office proposals – it unanimously describe some of the Home Office information as ‘fanciful and misleading’.
Following Nick’s intervention and our report, the Home Office was given the chance to rethink. To build a proper case and look for proposals which were proportionate to the problem.
They have failed to do so; they have failed to meet Lib Dem demands. They have failed to meet what the British public deserve.
As a result, Nick has just this morning announced that he has killed off the Data Communications Bill, dubbed the “snooper’s charter”.
These Labour and Conservative efforts to have all of our web records stored and monitored by the Government was an affront to basic liberty. The plans were based on patchy evidence, ignorance of modern technology and a complete disregard for our basic rights.
Put simply, they were anathema to our Party: the only British political party which is dedicated to protecting the rights of every citizen.
This is truly an immense moment for any liberal, and every Liberal Democrat.
We’re not shouting from the sideline. We’re doing what we promised to do in Government, in the face of an onslaught of baseless claims from Labour, Conservative and the right wing press.
Next time you’re on the doorstep remember what Nick has done today; how we’ve protected and defended people in a way which Labour and Tory simply cannot.
These plans were based on scant evidence, scaremongering and a disregard for our personal lives; treating everyone as a suspect and our online activity as ‘fair game’.
Lib Dems know what it means to defend liberty in Government, and today Nick’s done just that.
* Julian Huppert is Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge.