I was not initially planning to get particularly involved on the David Miranda Schedule 7 issue except as a concerned, nay horrified, spectator. After all, I’m an MEP not an MP nor (at present) able to be active as a peer, and I have plenty on my plate in Brussels.
But from early Monday morning, as I read the admirably vigorous response from the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation David Anderson QC – and the immediate if deeply hypocritical reaction from Yvette Cooper – I did start to wonder who from the party was going to be vocal. So I tweeted cautiously:
Applaud @terrorwatchdog vigilance on Miranda case. Gdn/Rusbridger commentary justified. Westminster – hopefully led by LibDems – must act.
— Sarah Ludford (@SarahLudfordMEP) August 20, 2013
I realised Julian Huppert must be away and indeed as soon as he was in signal range he was, as you would expect, on the case, so I tweeted onTuesday morning:
Others such as Jonathan Calder, Mark Pack, Richard Davis and Simon Titley on Liberator’s blog have commented on the absence of a Liberal Democrat response. Thus when the Guardian reported a Liberal Democrat statement, I searched eagerly but in vain for it on the party website but it was not there and despite requests is still not. I am now reliably informed however that it read:
The Coalition government inherited a number of over-broad and draconian terrorism powers from Labour. Liberal Democrats have long stood up for the civil liberties of British citizens, especially in the face of Labour’s authoritarianism. In Government we led a review of these powers. Some have already been changed and the Coalition is currently pressing Parliament to tighten up these laws further to avoid abuses. The Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation has already asked for more information on this incident and we will wait to hear his conclusions.
As I was worriedly thinking that ‘someone’ needed to prepare a conference emergency motion, I read the Home Office statement which – especially the appalling last sentence – goaded me into action:
The Government and the police have a duty to protect the public and our national security. If the police believe that an individual is in possession of highly sensitive stolen information that would help terrorism, then they should act and the law provides them with a framework to do that. Those who oppose this sort of action need to think about what they are condoning.
This compounds the familiar but scorned warnings ‘no innocent person has anything to fear’ used shamefully by William Hague in July and ‘if you knew what we knew’, and does so in an outrageous way. For me it was the last straw. As I write this, the BBC’s home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw has tweeted that
Dep PM Nick Clegg backed decision to destroy Guardian Snowden files. >>>>
— Danny Shaw (@DannyShawBBC) August 21, 2013
My intention is to circulate a first draft of the motion next Tuesday Aug 27th to all voting reps who have by then emailed me with expressions of interest, invite rapid comments, and then circulate the version for signature by Thursday for submission by Saturday to HQ. I don’t see any room for doubt as to satisfaction of the criterion of ”a proposal which relates to a specific recent development which occurred after the deadline for submission of motions.’
It is tempting to stray widely into the whole matter of NSA/PRISM/GCHQ, especially in the light of the astonishingly complacent ‘all is fine and dandy’ clean bill of health issued by the Westminster Intelligence and Security committee. But I think it best that the motion stick pretty much to the question of the proper ambit and application of counter-terrorism powers and in particular Schedule 7, and the need for reform and safeguards going beyond that contained in the current Antisocial Behaviour Crime and Policing Bill and broadly as recommended by David Anderson, most recently in his latest report.
So email me at officeATsarahludfordmepDOTorgDOTuk if you are an interested voting rep and I will get back to you next week. I will need name, email address, membership number and local party, so be prepared to supply those.
* Sarah Ludford is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords and was MEP for London from 1999-2014.