Lib Dem peers help inflict defeats on Government in Lords over secret courts plans

On Sunday we reported that Lib Dem members were none-too-impressed with the Government’s plans for secret courts. This morning we reported that 172 Lib Dems had written to The Times to protest. This evening the Lib Dem battle found its voice in the House of Lords, as the Guardian reports:

Government proposals to expand secret courts suffered a series of damaging defeats in the House of Lords on Wednesday, significantly narrowing the scope of the justice and security bill. By margins of more than a hundred votes, peers opposed to the bill significantly limited the government’s power to control the deployment of secret intelligence in civil courts and gave judges’ greater independence. … The defeats will send a powerful message to both the House of Commons and the government. In a sign of tension within the coalition, the Liberal Democrat leader and deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, has already indicated he believes the bill requires improvement. …

There were signs of cooperation between Labour and Liberal Democrats to rewrite central sections of the controversial legislation. During the debate, Lord Beecham, the peer leading for Labour in the upper chamber, praised the stance adopted by Clegg, who supports changes to the bill.

On Wednesday, Clegg backed criticisms of the bill made by parliament’s joint committee on human rights (JCHR), which suggested giving judges greater discretion and narrowing the scope of the bill. The Liberal Democrat leader said: “I am very sympathetic to a lot of what the committee says, and the government are considering its amendments with an open and, in many respects, sympathetic mind. I hope that we will be able to amend the bill to allay those concerns in line with many of the recommendations made by the joint committee on human rights.”

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

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9 Comments

  • We’re presumably heading for a rerun of the Lansley NHS “reforms”, in which the Lib Dems agreed something that was not in the coalition agreement, and in fact was contrary to what the agreement said, and Clegg subsequently had second thoughts, and ultimately claimed credit for ameliorating an undesirable Tory measure – conveniently ignoring the fact that he could have ameliorated it out of existence by refusing to agree to it in the first place.

    So I suppose in this case we are going to end up with a somewhat ameliorated version of secret courts, with Clegg claiming the credit for toning down a threat to civil liberties, despite the fact that it couldn’t have happened at all if he hadn’t given it the go-ahead.

  • Lets hope the MPs show a bit of backbone as Lords have done. For some reason I am not too confident.

  • Here’s the list of the peers who voted to delete clause 6. I am so proud to see so many Liberal Democrats on this list, as well as Helena Kennedy (who sits on JCHR) and Lord Pannick. They deserve our thanks, respect and support.

    Bath and Wells, Bp.
    Brinton, B.
    Clement-Jones, L.
    Doocey, B.
    Dubs, L. [Teller]
    Greaves, L.
    Hamwee, B.
    Hussain, L.
    Judd, L.
    Kennedy of The Shaws, B.
    Kidron, B.
    Linklater of Butterstone, B.
    Macdonald of River Glaven, L.
    Maclennan of Rogart, L.
    Pannick, L.
    Roberts of Llandudno, L.
    Scott of Needham Market, B.
    Shipley, L.
    Stern, B.
    Strasburger, L.
    Thomas of Gresford, L. [Teller]
    Tonge, B.
    Tope, L.
    Walmsley, B.
    Wigley, L.

  • “Here’s the list of the peers who voted to delete clause 6. I am so proud to see so many Liberal Democrats on this list, as well as Helena Kennedy (who sits on JCHR) and Lord Pannick. They deserve our thanks, respect and support.”

    And here is how Lib Dem peers in general voted on that amendment (errors and omissions excepted).

    In favour of deleting clause 6 (16):
    Brinton, B.
    Clement-Jones, L.
    Doocey, B.
    Greaves, L.
    Hamwee, B.
    Hussain, L.
    Linklater of Butterstone, B.
    Macdonald of River Glaven, L.
    Maclennan of Rogart, L.
    Roberts of Llandudno, L.
    Scott of Needham Market, B.
    Strasburger, L.
    Thomas of Gresford, L. [Teller]
    Tonge, B.
    Tope, L.
    Walmsley, B.

    Against deleting clause 6 (38):
    Addington, L.
    Alderdice, L.
    Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, L.
    Barker, B.
    Burnett, L.
    Cotter, L.
    Dholakia, L.
    Falkner of Margravine, B.
    Garden of Frognal, B.
    Jolly, B.
    Kirkwood of Kirkhope, L.
    Kramer, B.
    Lee of Trafford, L.
    Lester of Herne Hill, L.
    McNally, L.
    Maddock, B.
    Mar and Kellie, E.
    Marks of Henley-on-Thames, L.
    Newby, L. [Teller]
    Nicholson of Winterbourne, B.
    Northover, B.
    Parminter, B.
    Phillips of Sudbury, L.
    Randerson, B.
    Rennard, L.
    Roper, L.
    Sharkey, L.
    Shutt of Greetland, L.
    Steel of Aikwood, L.
    Stoneham of Droxford, L.
    Taverne, L.
    Thomas of Winchester, B.
    Tordoff, L.
    Tyler, L.
    Tyler of Enfield, B.
    Wallace of Saltaire, L.
    Wallace of Tankerness, L.
    Williams of Crosby, B.

  • That is a pretty impressive list.

  • As far as I can see, there are 90 liberal democrat lords (http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/lords/). Yet I don’t see 90 votes against clause 6 in the list earlier. I see 13. Funnily enough the conference specifically voted against amending clause 6, and instead opted to delete it entirely. So the Liberal Democrat lords are ignoring the conference, just like I expect the MPs will too.

    I also see a defeat being described as a victory. Just like the article earlier complained about:

    Similarly, a considerable number of those I interviewed felt that the leadership was, “pretending that small triumphs or even failures are indeed big successes.” Clegg’s positive email following the failure of Lords reform was commonly cited. Members felt that it suggested that he was out of touch.

    This bill is only going through because Liberal Democrat MPs and Lords support it. Shame on you.

  • “As far as I can see, there are 90 liberal democrat lords (http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/lords/). Yet I don’t see 90 votes against clause 6 in the list earlier. I see 13. Funnily enough the conference specifically voted against amending clause 6, and instead opted to delete it entirely. So the Liberal Democrat lords are ignoring the conference, just like I expect the MPs will too.”

    I reckon 15 Lib Dem peers (plus Jenny Tonge) voted to drop the clause, while 38 voted against dropping it. I went to the trouble of extracting their names from Hansard earlier and posted them here. I don’t know whether that information has been deleted or whether it is “awaiting moderation”.

  • @Chris: The comment wasn’t there when I wrote mine, but even so the list Jo posted was prefixed with “as well as Helena Kennedy (who sits on JCHR) and Lord Pannick” so 15 sounds right.

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