Lord McNally writes… Justice and Security Bill: our authentic and liberal efforts

I am the last person to argue that you should never resign from a political party. I resigned from the Labour Party just over thirty years ago. I know it to be an intensely personal and often painful decision. So I pass no judgement on those who have decided to leave the Liberal Democrats because of opposition to the Justice and Security Bill. I think I am entitled to ask, however, what kind of Justice and Security Bill we would now be contemplating if either Labour or the Conservatives had been governing alone?

It seems incoherent to me to resign from the Liberal Democrats when we are the ones who have forced through essential safeguards. All three parties have voted in favour of the Bill but only one of those has been responsible for negotiating crucial changes that have allowed for full judicial discretion, the removal of inquests or material not relating to national security from scope – all changes which changed fundamentally the balance, scope and focus of the Bill.

It is very difficult to get the right balance between security and liberty. I understand why Liberal Democrat activists and the Parliamentary Party in both Lords and Commons have agonised long and hard about the issues involved. But in all the impassioned arguments and grand gestures in speeches and editorials I have yet to find a viable way, other than proposed by the Bill, to ensure that serious charges made against our security services can be examined in a court of law.

The situation at the moment is that there are civil cases brought against the Government for compensation due to allegations of mistreatment where, in a minority of cases the Government cannot defend itself. This is because evidence which would do damage to national security, such as names of agents or methods of our intelligence agencies, cannot be heard in open court. In the vast majority of cases we have developed tools to deal with this problem, such as Public Interest Immunity certificates, which excludes sensitive material from the courtroom entirely. This is not a perfect system but is necessary to protect both our intelligence and our intelligence-sharing relationships.

However, where a case is saturated with this type of material, it becomes impossible to keep removing material from the court’s consideration without also removing crucial evidence needed to put a coherent case across. This is damaging not only because it means the Government is forced to settle and pay out taxpayers’ money with no chance to defend itself, but also because if the allegations are true, and the intelligence agencies have acted irresponsibly or worse, then the public have no way of knowing.

So the Government has brought forward, and the Opposition supported, a solution to this problem. Not a perfect solution by any means. But one which means that in this minority of cases (Government estimates that there are around 20 at present) a judge is able to hear both the case both for and against the government. This will happen only with full judicial control of the process. It will be for national security cases only, and only when the evidence is so central or relevant that there is no other possible way of hearing the arguments. And, if at any time during the process the judge believes that justice is not being done, or the proceedings are not fair, he or she will be able to put a stop to them. But with these caveats, and many others including compatibility with the ECHR, we believe that a fair balance has been struck.

All of these safeguards were not originally in the Bill. It has taken hard work to get them there, and campaigning from Liberal Democrat members as well as the reports of the Joint Committee on Human Rights have helped make the case for improving and changing the Bill. But that is all the more reason to ensure the Liberal Democrats use their leverage within government rather than campaigning from the outside.

My old mentor, Jim Callaghan, once advised me, in relation to our security services, “Always listen to what they say; but never suspend your own political judgement”. That is still sound advice. That is why I want to see accusations made against our services tested in a court of law and why I support the sometimes overlooked provisions of the Bill which strengthen parliamentary oversight of those same Security Services.

I want to be crystal clear with party colleagues that this bill and the introduction of CMPs will lead to more evidence being presented in court (albeit in closed circumstances) than currently, it will provide for more potential for justice to be done and more opportunities than is currently available for the security services to be held to account. I can understand why conference has voted as it has, but I would ask in return that those who oppose the government’s position recognise that there is a genuine, real and difficult problem in the current system and that we have made an authentic and liberal attempt to solve that problem – even if it is one they do not feel able to support.

I am in absolutely no doubt that the cause of liberalism and civil liberties has been protected by Liberal Democrats being in Government, but the public can also have confidence that our party does not flinch from taking the tough decisions when the national interest demands it.
Of course it is always disappointing when somebody chooses to leave the party. But I for one am proud to remain in a party that in government has scrapped ID cards, halved the period of detention without trial, ended child detention for immigration purposes, stopped fingerprinting in schools and removed millions of innocent people from the DNA database.

That is why I, and many others, will stay actively involved in our party – fighting for every vote and every seat to help build a fairer economy and a stronger society enabling every one to get on in life.

* Tom McNally is Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords and a Minister of State for Justice

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49 Comments

  • Richard Wingfield 14th Mar '13 - 6:08pm

    While I still disagree with Part 2 of the Justice and Security Bill, I think Tom McNally has provided the most comprehensive and persuasive set of reasoning so far as to why Liberal Democrats should, in his opinion, support the provisions.

    I suspect that had there been a majority Conservative or a majority Labour government in power at the moment, they would have brought this Bill forward and – had we been in opposition – we would have had no opportunity to improve the Bill. To that extent, I agree with Tom that this Bill is better because of Liberal Democrat input.

    However, I am still unsure why Liberal Democrats did not support the amendments put forward by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and supported by the House of Lords. In particular, an amendment which would have required the judge to make a CMP declaration only when “a fair determination of the proceedings is not possible by any other means” was removed by government amendments. So when Tom says CMPs will only apply “only when the evidence is so central or relevant that there is no other possible way of hearing the arguments”, that is not strictly true. Why was this amendment not accepted by the government? Indeed, Labour put forward an amendment which would have made it a condition that “a fair determination of the proceedings is not possible by any other means”. Why was this amendment not accepted?

    Second, a Labour amendment would have toughened the legislation by making it a condition that “the degree of harm to the interests of national security if the material is disclosed would be likely to outweigh the public interest in the fair and open administration of justice” before a CMP could be ordered. Why did the majority of Lib Dem MPs not accept this amendment?

    Did the Liberal Democrats make the Bill better? Yes, we did. I believe that. Did we do absolutely everything we could to make this Bill as least bad as it originally was? No, we didn’t. We opposed Labour amendments that would have helped improve the Bill, and the government rejected amendments from the House of Lords which were recommended by the Joint Committee on Human Rights. Our reasoning has still not been explained and so I am still left with considerable anxiety.

  • Richard Shaw 14th Mar '13 - 6:51pm

    Thank you Tom for your post. It’s just a shame it took so long for our parliamentarians to reach out to the membership over this issue following conference.

    @Richard

    Imagining for a moment that I were an MP, the only way I could justify voting in support of the Bill as it stands were if the safeguards negotiated with our Coalition partners (and any future concessions on future legislation or the Budget) were conditional on us not then ‘showing them up’ by voting with Labour, bearing in mind there’s likely enough likeminded Conservative and Labour MPs who could conspire together to pass the original Bill or nullify and impact our party might have in Parliament.

  • paul barker 14th Mar '13 - 7:53pm

    These arguments would be more convincing if the Government were to launch an independent enquiry into British involvement in “special rendition.” If there is any truth in the allegations then major parts of our security services have adopted the methods of the terrorists. Why are we not pushing for an enquiry ?

  • The process of this bill becoming law has still some distance to go and I know that many of our colleagues in the Lords want to insist on their amendments and will vote against the bill as part 2 is currently constituted. We need to support them and I urge colleagues to write to every peer they know – as I have – to urge them to do all they can to get the bill further amended.

    However, at the end of the day, the rules of parliament say that if the Commons insist they get their way. So encouragement for our MPs and our Ministers to do their best to secure the amendments that came so near in committee when Julian Huppert and Mike Crocker supported the JCHR proposals.

    On a final point. It does no good to slag off our MPs. The Lib Dems in Parliament have tried very hard to improve this bill and we should recognise this. As one of them wrote to me, “All it needs is another 270 Lib Dem MPs to put this and other matters right”. Till then we have to accept that in this parliament half a loaf is often a great deal better than no bread at all.

  • I’m suprised that anyone reasonably familiar with this issue should think there is anything new in Lord McNally’s article, let alone anything “persuasive”.

    Surely most of us already knew what the problem is – that there are some civil cases which currently have to be settled out of court to avoid revealing senstive information – and knew what the objection to the proposed solution is – that deciding a case on the basis of evidence which cannot be seen or challenged by one of the parties is a denial of justice.

    What is there in Lord McNally’s article to persuade anyone that the use of secret evidence can ever be fair or just?

  • “The Lib Dems in Parliament have tried very hard to improve this bill and we should recognise this. As one of them wrote to me, “All it needs is another 270 Lib Dem MPs to put this and other matters right”. Till then we have to accept that in this parliament half a loaf is often a great deal better than no bread at all.”

    Sorry, but that’s absolute rubbish. This is not in the coalition agreement. It could never have become government policy if the Liberal Democrats had not agreed to it in the first place. It could not have become law without being government policy.

  • Lord McNally claims to be the last person to argue about people resigning from a political party. I remember his resignation from the Labour Party. He goes on to say “It seems incoherent to me to resign from the Liberal Democrats when…………..”. So his resignation was for reasons of substance, whereas recent LinDem ‘secret courts’ resignations do not meet his “resignation” criteria. Very odd. I would also state that if the LibDems were currently in opposition, with a Labour or Tory government trying to get the ‘secret courts’ Bill into law, it’s a racing certainty that LibDem MPs – unanimously – would be voting against the Bill. So what is different now that the LibDems are in government?. Answer: Just about everything!

  • I perhaps misquoted slightly. What was said was

    “It isn’t all black and white, and there are plenty of things wrong with what we are doing – most of which would get much better if we had another 270 or so MPs.”

    If the MP in question wants to join the discussion that’s fine.

  • Cllr Nick Cotter 14th Mar '13 - 9:27pm

    I am really NOT convinced by what I have read here from Lord McNally. Like Anthony Hook I work daily (in my case as a Defence Advocate) in Crown Courts defending those “alleged” to have committed serious offences. T

  • Cllr Nick Cotter 14th Mar '13 - 9:33pm

    The “chickens are already coming home to roost” on the disasterous LASPO changes – many have which do not come fully in to force until April. I for one am Ashamed of how our party has corroborated with the Tories in dismantling the Legal Aid and Justice system in this great country of our’s.

  • Cllr Nick Cotter 14th Mar '13 - 9:35pm

    PS – that should read “collaborated” !! It is a particularly good french wine I am trying after a taxing day in court !!!

  • Tom – will you be insisting on restoring the Lords amendments removed by the Commons?

  • So many times I have heard Lib Dems say that things might seem bad, but it would be worse if the Tories had a majority. Funny thing is, I always thought that if a person or group had a principle they should stand on it. Lib Dem MPs compromising on their principles to gain the least worst option is not the best option. The only option for them was to stand against such illiberal legislation.

    Lib Dems are leaving because of this compromising of principle.

  • I think that Tom’s article shows well that ‘Size is not everything’..

    These ‘improvements in committee’ that he talks about were not considered sufficient by the Lib Dem members of that committee, were they?

  • Alex Meredith 14th Mar '13 - 11:35pm

    Tom McNally sets out the difficulties of the parliamentary party’s position on this issue well. It seems to me that those that are angry with the outcome are suggesting a failure of negotiation, either with the security services in refuting their proposition that there is a problem or with other political parties on the forms of the solution. Either way, rather than resignation, a better response would have been for the aggrieved lawyers to stand for selection. The only way we can ensure these issues come to a more liberal outcome is by having more and better liberal advocates in parliament winning the debates. But how can that happen if our best liberal lawyers quit when they don’t get their way with the parliamentary party? The courageous response would have been to stand for a seat to seek to take up the challenge directly.

  • “On a final point. It does no good to slag off our MPs. The Lib Dems in Parliament have tried very hard to improve this bill and we should recognise this.”

    I think our MPs (as opposed to Peers) have done very little to improve this so I’m not sure what we are regnocising.

    Certainly the two who would have done most would have been Julian Huppert and Mick Crockart who sat on the committee. As they both voted against the leadership in the key votes at report stage and against the bill as a whole at third reading they were clearly not satisfied with the outcome of their work.

  • jenny barnes 15th Mar '13 - 8:40am

    Conference almost unanimously voted against it. Remind me again what party “LibDem” MPs think they belong to?

  • Would anyone like to guess what our position on secret courts would be if we were in opposition? Similarly the bedroom tax, free schools etc? Party members resign because they feel betrayed. It take monumental arrogance to justify an action overwhelmingly opposed by the Party conference which included eminent lawyers in it’s number. I fear for the outcome of the Leveson report recommendations and hope I am wrong.

  • David Evans 15th Mar '13 - 9:23am

    Tom says “All three parties have voted in favour of the Bill but only one of those has been responsible for negotiating crucial changes that have allowed for full judicial discretion, the removal of inquests or material not relating to national security from scope – all changes which changed fundamentally the balance, scope and focus of the Bill.”

    But does anyone (other than political geeks) notice? No.

    Now if we had done all this and then voted against the bill, because it still wasn’t good enough, that would have:
    a) publicized what we have done to improve it; and
    b) made it clear we still stood up for liberty.
    Oh yes and
    c) actually showed some clear differences between us and the conservatives.

    Why didn’t our leaders do this? Well I see two likely scenarios
    1) At a time when our electoral position remains poor (despite all the sterling work at Eastleigh), our leaders didn’t think of the benefits of doing that, or didn’t have the courage to do it.
    2) Our leaders actually agree with the bill and support it.

    Neither fills me with hope for 2015, even if we do eventually get a great slogan.

  • Hywel
    The point I was making was that slagging people off does not encourage them to listen to you. If we can’t conduct civilised debate in our own party without resorting to personal abuse and character assasination then it’s a poor do.

    Accusing people in our own party of betraying their principles – as opponents of this measure do all the time – is hardly the way to get a constructive dialogue. If I was one of our MPs at the moment, I might well be tempted to get my head down and say nothing, because of the vitriol that was likely to be poured on me if I dared argue the case for changing the law relating to PIIs and the treatment of accusations against the security services, however good a case I thought I might put up.

    I know of one peer at least who will probably end up abstaining because of the conflict between loyalty to the party and the party’s position in government.

  • Mickft: but opponents of this tried being civilised and gentle and weren’t listened to them either. Tone arguments are the last refuge of those who know that they are defending the indefensible.

  • Richard Wingfield 15th Mar '13 - 10:43am

    @ Chris

    I don’t agree with the conclusion reached by Tom McNally, and I still oppose secret courts and Part 2 of the Bill, but I recognise that arguments can be put forward supporting the Bill. I just don’t agree with them. I think his analysis is more persuasive than those Tory MPs who simply say “we shouldn’t give terrorists public money” and leave it at that. I’m not persuaded by the arguments, but I accept that he has put forward the strongest arguments in favour of the Bill that can be made. As others have sad, it’s very unfortunate that not a single MP – save Ming Campbell – has even attempted to justify their decisions to vote against party policy.

  • “but opponents of this tried being civilised and gentle and weren’t listened to them either.”

    Absolutely. Sadly, I think the only way of making the parliamentarians listen would be to go beyond criticism and do something to threaten their political careers. They seem oblivious to reasoned argument, whether it’s expressed politely or bluntly.

  • @David Evans
    Do you really think that the way politics works is that you extract important concessions as the price for your vote and then turn round and say “Sorry, not good enough, I’m voting against” and expect the said concessions to remain in the bill? Do bear in mind that this one goes through anyway on Conservative and Labour votes.

    Even if we do not agree with everything Tom Mc Nally says, he must be thanked for explaining that this subject is not a simple no-brainer. As for resignations from the party, I for one find it depressing that someone like Philippe Sands for whom I have enormous respect should find it necessary to resign on this one issue from a party which is streets ahead of any other on human rights issues. The first section of Philippe’s Guardian article is an impressive list of Lib Dem achievements and campaigns on such issues. What other party are he and the other resignees going to support now – or are they in effect distancing themselves from the party political system which, whether they like it or not, sets the legislative agenda ?

  • Peter Watson 15th Mar '13 - 11:23am

    @Denis ” a party which is streets ahead of any other on human rights issues”
    We were “streets ahead of any other on human rights issues” when we were a party of opposition.
    As a party of government we appear to be just like any other.

  • James Sandbach 15th Mar '13 - 11:29am

    @ Nick Cotter – touche!!, secret courts quite rightly have become a totemic issue for liberal campaigners, but there are other equally concerning developments taking place in the Justice system – see my post link below. We have to be watchful about all this stuff – even when our people are in Government – because as liberal democrats if we’re not about justice then what are we about?

    http://www.libdemvoice.org/tribunal-justice-do-our-parliamentary-parties-get-it-33697.html

  • “Do you really think that the way politics works is that you extract important concessions as the price for your vote and then turn round and say “Sorry, not good enough, I’m voting against” and expect the said concessions to remain in the bill? Do bear in mind that this one goes through anyway on Conservative and Labour votes.”

    OK, I’ll try just saying this over and over again until it sinks in.

    The coalition doesn’t work by Cameron putting forward policies and then Clegg trying to extract concessions. Apart from the policies that are in the coalition agreement, new policies have to be agreed by both parties.

    This was not in the coalition agreement. It could not have been adopted as government policy in the first place without Lib Dem agreement. If it had not been adopted as government policy there would have been no question of it becoming law, regardless of the attitude of the Labour party – in precisely the same way that a mansion tax is not going to be introduced even though there may be a majority of MPs in favour of it.

    If the Lib Dem leadership had viewed this as a ‘red line’ then they could simply have vetoed it. The problem is that the Lib Dem leadership actually supports the policy, and agreed to it wholesale even before it had been ameliorated at all by amendments.

  • Richard Dean 15th Mar '13 - 12:46pm

    Liberal means leave it alone unless it’s bad, and democrat means everyone participates in deciding political things. Justice isn’t in there as fundamental, but is there only if everyone agrees – everyone being the electorate.

    So what does the electorate think? Does it care? Do people with national pride and some xenophobic apprehension like their security services to be defenceless? Do taxpayers mind when their money is given away without a fight?

  • James Sandbach 15th Mar '13 - 1:13pm

    Richard – is it really the case that “liberal” should now be stripped back to a 150 year out of date doctrine of laisser fair? Surely liberal is about human freedom – and protecting that core of human freedom that enables individuals, communities and society the space to develop, thrive, express themselves and live cohesively – justice delivers that protection which is why its generally considered a fundamental liberal value. In this respect my liberalism has been deeply influenced by the likes of Ronnie Dworkin (who tutored me) and John Rawls who have written extensively on this. But even if you do strip back your “leave alone” mantra, this Government hardly does that, as it has been passing and processing more radical change legislation than Tony Blair in a good year…!

  • Richard Dean 15th Mar '13 - 1:50pm

    Ah! And what do the security services do? They protect us! So, let’s protect them in return. That would be fair, wouldn’t it?

  • James Sandbach 15th Mar '13 - 2:15pm

    Well yes fair enough, the security services do protect us, but they do also overstep the mark sometimes and need to be held to account (especially as we have seen from the “war on terror” years). I’m not unsympathetic some of the pro Justice and Security Bill arguments that have been used about “protecting the security services”, but I haven’t yet seen a convincing argument/case made yet as to why existing Public Interest Immunity safeguards don’t work in these type of cases – do we really have to fetter the principle of a fair trial in order to protect the security services?

  • The people don’t need to be protected by torture; they need to be protected from torture.

  • Richard Dean 15th Mar '13 - 2:32pm

    I think one of Lord McNally’s points is that the Justice and Security Bill does exactly that – allows people in the security services to be held to account. Without it, they can get away by claiming that they cannot explain themselves because of national security. With it, they will necessarily need to explain themselves to someone, even if not publically.

  • At last, someone raises the PII process and argues that it’s satisfactory. I suggest that this goes to the nub of the argument and it seems that very few people who have taken part in this debate understand it. You should look at the following link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public-interest_immunity

    The PII process is one where a minister decides that evidence to be heard in court is a national security risk, the minister issues a Public Interest Immunity Certificate, which in effect asks the judge not to hear evidence in open court but in secret and the defendent or complainant or their solicitor cannot be present or hear the evidence. Now courts are not bound to accept the PII, but have more often than not done so. So the existing system is in many respects a ‘Secret Court’ with the difference that the Minister initiates the PII, whereas under the Justice and Security Bill Ministers will play no role in so doing.

    Now because there can be a risk that hearing the evidence in open court could put lives at risk, especially with terrorism cases, the cases are often settled out of court. Hence the attempt to change the law to make sure MORE cases and MORE evidence actually goes to court.

    No I share the concern about secret evidence and secret judgements as much as anyone else, but no-one has yet come forward with an alternative that solves the problem of the existing unsatisfactory PII system

  • Richard Dean 15th Mar '13 - 3:08pm

    It would certainly be nice if some of the opponents of this Bill were to suggest an alternative way of holding the security services to account for damaging errors, without compromising national security. Something that hasn’t already been well discussed and rejected – the parliamentary committee is not composed of stupid individuals, and it had a hard look at how this could be done.

    The PII system seems open to error or abuse by a Minister, whereas the CMP system isn’t. It would be nice if the opponents of the Bill would explain why they believe a Minister should be privileged in this way.

  • “The PII process is one where a minister decides that evidence to be heard in court is a national security risk, the minister issues a Public Interest Immunity Certificate, which in effect asks the judge not to hear evidence in open court but in secret and the defendent or complainant or their solicitor cannot be present or hear the evidence.”

    Surely if PII applies the material is not admissible as evidence at all? When you refer to the judge “hearing evidence” in secret without one of the parties present, that would be purely to decide whether the material is admissible. If it is admissible, then all the parties can see it and challenge it. If not, then it will not affect the judgment.

    Obviously that is very different from the system being proposed now, in which material could be admitted as evidence and could affect the judgment, but without one party being allowed to see it or challenge it. That is the fundamental injustice involved in these proposals.

  • James Sandbach 15th Mar '13 - 3:51pm

    I agree the PII system isn’t great either – it allows Ministers to pick off bits of sensitive evidence, but with a CMP the whole civil procedure is made fundamentally unfair with the court deciding the case by relying on evidence of which one side is ignorant with no opportunity to challenge and this changes the whole balance of legal risk all because Government may want to hide some dirty laundry..the justice system does not offer that sort of protection in commercial cases for the sake of commercial confidentiality

    Frankly this whole piece of legislation, lobbied for by the security services, has been politically malhandled from the begining with Ken Clarke’s usual bull-in-china-shop tactics..,Lords and Commons amendments have cancelled each other out and labour and lib dems parliamentarians have been trying their usual tactics of trying to triangulate each other on the human rights and civil liberties aspects..

    Government should go back to the beginning (ie abandon the Bill which has become toxic) and establish a specialist commission of experts to look into how to handle civil procedings in which sensitive security issues arise

  • Richard Wingfield 15th Mar '13 - 4:25pm

    @ Richard Dean

    “It would certainly be nice if some of the opponents of this Bill were to suggest an alternative way of holding the security services to account for damaging errors, without compromising national security.”

    I think we need to be careful not to exaggerate the extent to which this is a problem at the moment. I had another read of the Joint Committee on Human Rights’ first report on the Bill. I found this passage:

    “We accepted that under the current law it is theoretically possible for there to be some cases in which a fair trial of a civil claim cannot proceed because of the amount of material which cannot be disclosed on Public Interest Immunity grounds. However, the critical question for us was whether the Government had produced evidence which shows that this is not merely a hypothetical problem, but a real, practical problem that exists on the scale suggested in the Green Paper, or on a scale sufficiently significant to warrant legislation.”

    Their conclusion was: “we remain unpersuaded that the Government has demonstrated by reference to evidence that there exist a significant and growing number of civil cases in which a CMP is “essential”, in the sense that the issues in the case cannot be determined at all without a CMP. In our view this test of necessity is the appropriate test to apply to the evidence, not the lower standard of whether there are cases in which it would be “preferable” to have CMP as a procedural option.”

    The first alternative, of course, is PII, but even if there are cases where PII is not appropriate or not possible (and the number of these cases will be countable on the fingers of one hand), then I would prefer the government to pay out for these small number of cases. The government’s own Impact Assessment concluded that the cost of secret courts would be £8 million over the next 10 years. It may therefore be cheaper to pay out than introduce CMPs and we wouldn’t have to depart from such a fundamental principle of justice.

  • Richard Dean 15th Mar '13 - 4:38pm

    @Richard Wingfield
    I think you are saying that it’s not a big problem, so we may as well give in and allow the security services to pay their way out of trouble. But if it’s not a big problem, then why the fuss? Objections on the basis of holding the security services to account would not be relevant, and we may as well see how the new measures pan out in practice. That would be the job for the parliamentary oversight committee that the bill sets up.

  • Richard Wingfield 15th Mar '13 - 5:23pm

    @Richard Dean

    You misunderstand me. I was not saying that it was not a big problem, I was saying that the size of problem is not so big that it justifies such a radical departure from our system of fair and open justice. We could, for example, execute every person who commits a crime that would otherwise have meant a prison sentence, or never let any prisoner out of prison. Both options would dramatically reduce crime and the re-offending rate would be zero. Instead, we let people out after a prison sentence, even if we know (or strongly suspect) that they will offend again, as, indeed, most of them do. We accept that the price we pay for a fair and just society is that we have more crime than if we had a draconian justice system. Here, I would accept that the occasional (and it would be very occasional) payment to unpleasant people is a price worth paying for a fair and open justice system.

  • Richard Dean 15th Mar '13 - 5:34pm

    @Richard Wingfield
    So you are saying, in a nutshell, that allowing the security services to pay their way out of trouble is “a price worth paying for a fair and open justice system”?

  • @Richard Dean
    I would agree that those that sit on Parliamentary Committees are not stupid. Didn’t both of the Lib Dems who sat on the HOC Committee that examined this Bill vote against it ???

  • Richard Dean 15th Mar '13 - 10:51pm

    @Steve Way
    Are LibDem MPs to be congratulated for failing to find a solution?

  • @ Dennis

    “Do you really think that the way politics works is that you extract important concessions as the price for your vote and then turn round and say “Sorry, not good enough, I’m voting against” and expect the said concessions to remain in the bill? Do bear in mind that this one goes through anyway on Conservative and Labour votes.”

    Well let me see. How did David Cameron behave on the AV Vote? He extracted enormous concessions from us in the coalition negotiations and then stuffed us by campaigning against on the vote. So yes. This is exactly the way politics works, and the fact that our leaders still choose to believe that we can’t behave that way, shows how naive they are.

    Your so called concessions were not concessions, but in fact key amendments won by our MPs on the committee by the clear force of their arguments. The fact that the Tories are still voting some down shows they were not concessions that need to be repaid by loyalty, except in the mind of people who are prepared to give in on Liberal Democracy as soon as the going gets even a little bit tough.

    As for the excuse ‘Do bear in mind that this one goes through anyway on Conservative and Labour votes.’ That is just a standard excuse saying “We’re not admitting we failed to stick to our principles, but we did, but don’t blame us because the big boys ganged up on us anyway.”

  • Helen Dudden 18th Mar '13 - 10:11am

    Somethings are not purely political, there is a measure of moral justice too.

    I think some of us have left the party because of various issues, I feel there is more than one way to look at an issue. Not, only the political stance.

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    I think that the best outcome from the referendum would be that the UK remained intact, but adopted a federal structure. Scotland / Wales /...
  • User AvatarJUF 15th Sep - 9:46am
    @TJ Also, there is still the small matter that 59 million people out of 65 million haven't been able to express their wishes, not have...
  • User AvatarDenis Mollison 15th Sep - 8:58am
    In early 2012 we had the opportunity to set out what we mean by a federal UK and have it on the ballot paper. But...