Tag Archives: civil liberties

The Home Office is as out of touch as ever…

This week the Psychoactive Substances Act became law. Over at Politics.co.uk, editor Ian Dunt wrote a scathing review of the official Home Office guidance to retailers.

As he says, the guidance seems to be a melting pot of every prejudice you could imagine against young people:

The Home Office clearly envisions a youthful sub-class of drug fiends, unable to stay off the stuff even immediately ahead of purchasing it. Laughing gas has a mild effect which lasts for about a minute, so it’s unlikely the user would be intoxicated on it literally while purchasing more. Perhaps the Home Office doesn’t know this. Or perhaps they assume they are eating all sorts of drugs and are still high off them while going for a laughing gas chaser to finish off the evening. Or maybe they wrote this guidance in the same spirit in which they wrote the law: without due consideration for logic, legal validity or objective reality.

The drug fiend stereotypes go on and on. “Do they have physical symptoms of intoxication such as bad skin, weeping eyes, rash around the nose?” God help you if you’ve got spots or hay fever: the Home Office knows you’re a wrong ‘un.

This reminded me of how, under the previous Labour administration, carrying two mobile phones or ordering a vegetarian meal on a plane would be enough to raise suspicions of you being a terrorist. Helen Duffett wrote about that at the time.:

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Rennie: Only a strong team of Lib Dems can champion our civil liberties

Speaking at the party’s North East Scotland Regional Conference this morning Willie Rennie told members that over the last five years it has been the Liberal Democrats that have been the powerful guarantor of civil liberties in the face of the illiberal SNP, and that will continue in the next Parliament.

This is the latest in a series of strong messages that Willie has been laying out in the last couple of weeks. The party has put a massive emphasis on civil liberties and education (what a surprise for a liberal party) in this Parliament and has an admirable record of persuading the SNP to change policy whether it’s on stop and search, armed police, nursery education or college places. So, Willie is saying we’ll actually use the tax powers the Parliament has to put a penny on income tax to pay for education and that we’ll continue to defend our freedoms. I also liked the quick summary of our values that he did the other day:

I want liberal-minded Yes voters to know they can vote for the Liberal Democrats because Scotland needs strong liberal voices in parliament to stand up for investment in opportunity through education and good health, to guarantee our civil liberties and to protect our environment. We need a strong outward-looking, internationalist, altruistic, tolerant, reformist, pro civil liberties, pro-Europe, pro-environment, pro-business party in Scotland. You don’t get that with anyone else and Yes voters as well as No voters should back us if they want that platform.

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Oates and Scriven show why Britain needs the Liberal Democrats

Jonny Oates on ID cards
The Palace of Westminster is quite disorientating. There’s an escalator that goes from the bright modern Portcullis House into Westminster that I always call the Time Machine because it really feels like you go back 300 years in 30 feet. This afternoon, if you’d wandered into the House of Lords, you might be forgiven for thinking you’d gone to sleep and woken up in 2005, because here were Labour and Tory peers trying to bring back ID cards. And just like 2005 (who remembers Police, not Plastic), it was Liberal Democrat peers cutting their way throughout the authoritarian smog like Mr Muscle on a greasy kitchen worktop.

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Brian Paddick writes… Chairman Mao might have backed Labour’s ID card plans, but Lib Dems won’t

In the House of Lords today, Labour tried to resurrect the National Identity Card scheme with some support from the Conservative benches. The Government Home Office minister countered that it was too expensive and ineffective in that those we would most want to carry an ID card are the least likely to carry them.

Liberal Democrats object to the compulsory carrying of identity cards on principle, as an infringement of the liberty and the right to privacy of those lawfully going about their business but there are other reasons why a national identity scheme should remain dead and buried.

Not one of the tragic deaths or horrific injuries inflicted by terrorists in recent times in the UK could have been prevented had a national identity card scheme been in place.  The identities of the bombers and would-be bombers of the London transport system in 2005 were quickly established. The identities of the murderers of Lee Rigby were never an issue.

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Paddy Ashdown on snoopers’ charter: Politicians in a democracy must guard our freedoms

Paddy Ashdown took part in a Guardian Live event the other night, talking to Andrew Rawnsley in Bristol. The subject of the new Investigatory Powers Bill, son of Snoopers’ Charter, came up. Paddy knows about this kind of stuff. He said:

We charge the intelligence services with keeping us safe, so of course they want the maximum amount of power. But the job of a politician in a democracy is to be jealous about giving away those freedoms, and to do so only when it’s necessary. You have to make judgments as to how much infringement of the liberty of

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Farron: Lib Dems will resist Snoopers’ Charter

GCHQ Bude by Paul WalterIt looks like the Tories’ Snoopers’ Charter to be unveiled this week will be the blinged-up version, with even more sweeping powers than they tried to introduce before. Tim Farron told the Independent that the Liberal Democrats would oppose it just like we did in Government:

Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, signalled that he would be prepared to muster his 112-strong bloc of peers to oppose measures which undermined individual liberty. “We would use all parliamentary tools available to us to ensure any proposed legislation is properly scrutinised,” he told The Independent.

“Liberal Democrats will always support proportionate measures to increase our security, but we must not allow cornerstone civil liberties to be swept away. We will wait with interest to see the detail of the draft Bill, as the Tories have long argued for powers that are not targeted and not proportionate. We blocked the ‘snooper’s charter’ in government and would strongly resist any attempt to bring it back.

“It would be a dramatic shift in the relationship between the state and the individual and fundamentally strikes the wrong balance between liberty and security.”

Back in 2012, Nick Clegg almost agreed to this but after interventions, one by angry bloggers who understood the technicalities in a Conference call with a special adviser, he pulled back. Instead, a draft bill was tabled and subjected to scrutiny by a committee made-up of representatives from both Houses of Parliament, including our Julian Huppert. They rejected the plan and you can read their report here. They determined:

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Wilson Doctrine: Carmichael says Lib Dems will demand protection for journalists, lawyers & parliamentarians from state snooping

Liberal Democrat politicians have reacted with alarm to yesterday’s ruling on the Wilson Doctrine The Investigatory Powers Tribunal basically shrugged off Harold Wilson’s declaration in 1966 that MPs’ phones would not be intercepted without him knowing, saying that it had no basis in law.

This comes on top of two Police forces abusing their powers to try to find journalists’ sources. If an MP, or a lawyer, or a journalist is investigating the Government for doing something it shouldn’t, the idea that the Government could snoop on that investigation is alarming.

This is why Liberal Democrats from across the UK have been quick to demand appropriate protections. Home affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

This ruling could have a chilling effect on democracy in the UK. MPs, MSPs and other elected representatives must have the ability to talk to their constituents without fear that their private communications are being routinely monitored by intelligence agencies.

It was reported earlier this year that changes in guidelines meant the Wilson Doctrine no longer applied to MSPs. Now it has been confirmed the doctrine never offered democratically-elected representatives at Holyrood any protection at all. The response of the Prime Minister to this risk to freedoms is just plain weak. We need urgent answers from the UK government.

The Liberal Democrats will be demanding journalists’ sources, legal professional privilege and protection of the communications of democratically-elected representatives are all given a strong legal basis and protection in the new Investigatory Powers Bill.

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