Tag Archives: secret courts

Letter to Nick Clegg – Secret courts and bedroom tax

Dear Nick,
Following the vote in Parliament last night the Prime Minister demonstrated how to graciously step back from a position and accept the will of our democratically elected representatives that Britain should not engage in the folly of military intervention in Syria.To step back, accept that you have lost the vote, and so quickly return to the task that parliament has set is not in my view a sign of weakness, it is a clear sign of strength and dignity that will serve the Prime Minister well.

At our Spring conference this year you faced two major votes where you disagreed

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Opinion: Secret courts and the detention of David Miranda

For a number of years where it was felt that taking a case into court may result in information being divulged that could harm national security successive British Governments have settled out of court.
 
This Coalition Government decided that this approach was too costly and so resolved to introduce closed material procedures, or secret courts, for civil cases brought by citizens against the intelligence services.
In these secret courts the citizen will lay their case before a Judge, who will then sit in private with the intelligence services present but the Citizen not, and consider evidence that may never have been seen

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Secret Courts now a reality after Lords amendments fall – how did Liberal Democrats vote?

As the sky fell in on open justice, according to Labour whip Angela Smith, Conservative peers were watching the Bond movie Skyfall. The irony actually hurts.

 

Lady Smith might have been better keeping an eye on her own benches. Between the first Division of the Day, on the Growth and Infrastructure Bill, and the crucial vote on whether secret courts should be invoked only as a …

Posted in News and Parliament | Also tagged and | 52 Comments

Liberal Democrat Lawyers’ Association speak out on secret courts

house of lordsThe Liberal Democrat Lawyers’ Association held a special meeting on Monday to discuss the Justice and Security Bill. They have sent this message to Lib Dem peers:

It was the unanimous view of the meeting that the measures introduced by the Justice and Security Bill amount to an attack on the Rule of Law in the United Kingdom and that those present were opposed to the measures contained in Part II of the Bill. I was felt that arguably the measures are a greater attack on our traditions and

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Time to throw an anvil at secret courts

Next Tuesday, which is both my nephew’s 14th birthday and the 32nd anniversary of the founding of the SDP, the Justice and Security Bill comes back to the House of Lords for consideration. Now, my esteemed colleague Mr Valladares has given a very helpful account of what the Lords can and can’t do. He goes on to suggest that the Upper House will often back down in the face of pressure from the elected Chamber.

If ever, though, there was a time for the peers to kick off, it is now, when the right to a fair trial remedy for …

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My highlights of Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference

I’m a bit bleary eyed today. One conference is exhausting, two on successive weekends is positively foolhardy. Following that up with a trip to London for Federal Executive is craziness.

I spent the weekend in Dundee where Scottish Liberal Democrats held their main Conference. Over three days, there were no fewer than twelve policy debates, some of them incredibly powerful or controversial. Here are my highlights.

The Secret Courts debate

Yes, I’m biased as I proposed the motion rejecting the Government’s proposals, but the debate itself was very high quality. Liberal Youth co-chair Kavya Kaushik won the Russell Johnston award for the best …

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What Lib Dem members say about ‘secret courts’: 66% back repeal, 64% say Clegg has handled issue “very badly”

Lib Dem Voice polled our members-only forum recently to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 650 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

66% say party should commit to repealing ‘secret courts’ legislation

The House of Commons has approved legislation extending the use of Closed Material Procedures – also known as ‘secret courts’ – in any civil proceedings (except, at present, for inquests) in cases where national security is said to be at risk. Do you support or oppose the repeal of this legislation featuring

Posted in LDV Members poll | Also tagged | 5 Comments

My speech in secret courts debate to Scottish Conference

Ok, this might be slightly egotistical, but I thought you might be interested in seeing the speech I made proposing the motion opposing the legislation on secret courts at Scottish Conference this weekend. The motion, calling for a repeal of the legislation to be put into our manifesto in 2015, was passed overwhelmingly. There were in fact only two votes against in a busy hall, and one of them was from Jim Wallace. If you scroll to the bottom, you can see a wee snippet of it.

Here’s what I said:

For over four centuries our legal systems have been based on

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I’m a liberal and I’m against this sort of thing. Leveson-style press regulation, that is (as well as secret courts)

Leveson report front pageI’ve got used to describing myself as “a liberal first, a Lib Dem second”. Most of the time the Venn diagram works out pretty well. But not the last couple of weeks.

First, there was ‘secret courts’ and the decision by Nick Clegg, backed by most Lib Dem MPs (though not by party members), to extend legal proceedings which directly conflict with natural justice and that elevate the state above the individual.

And now there’s Nick Clegg’s decision, again likely to be backed by most Lib Dem …

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Scottish Conference overwhelmingly rejects secret courts

Only two members of the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference voted against a motion opposing the introduction of secret courts. One of them was Jim Wallace, whose name is on the Government’s bill.

The leadership didn’t put up a fight, which in some ways is more frustrating. Why won”t they come forward and engage in the debate? It’s clear they have no intention in taking the slightest bit of notice of the vote, or the previous votes carried by enormous majorities at Federal Conference.

There was only one speech against and that was from someone who opposed secret courts in principle but …

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David Howarth responds on the question of secret courts

Tom McNally has expanded his Brighton speech in favour of the Justice and Security Bill on Liberal Democrat Voice. He makes several assertions and assumptions that simply do not stand up to scrutiny.

  • The main objection to closed material proceedings is not, as Tom (and most of the media) claim, that they are ‘in private’ but that they are one-sided. Not only the public but also the other party is excluded. Even the other party’s lawyer is excluded. The other party is ‘represented’ by a special advocate who is not allowed to reveal the precise facts in issue.

Posted in News and Party policy and internal matters | 42 Comments

Secret Courts Bill… don’t get your hopes up

House of Lords. Photo: Parliamentary copyright images are reproduced with the permission of ParliamentSo, it has come to this. Apparently, the only hope left of stopping the Secret Courts element of the Justice and Security Bill is to persuade the Parliamentary Party in the Lords to either vote down Part II of the Bill, the bit with the Secret Courts elements in it, or to vote down the entire Bill. Easy, really. Or, perhaps, not. You see, this presumes that the Lords gets to vote on Part II or the entire …

Posted in News and Parliament | Also tagged and | 9 Comments

Do Liberty want rid of their Liberal Democrat members?

I have spent the last few months campaigning hard against secret courts. That’s in no small measure down to the energetic and informative campaign against Part II of the Justice and Security Bill run by Jo Shaw and Martin Tod.

On two occasions, Liberal Democrat Conference has overwhelmingly rejected the Government’s plans. Hundreds of us signed a petition and wrote to MPs and Lords. I don’t intend giving up until this measure is consigned to the dustbin. If it passes into law, I will campaign against it until it’s repealed.  Is that a good enough statement of intent?

I am hopping mad …

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Secret courts: another prominent Lib Dem resigns

On Sunday, former Lib Dem parliamentary candidate and Federal Executive member Jo Shaw — the moving force behind LibDemsAgainstSecretCourts — announced her resignation from the party while proposing the motion opposing the extension of Closed Material Procedures (CMPs, aka secret courts) that was overwhelmingly carried by members.

Her resignation followed the announcement by Dinah Rose QC that she was resigning from the party in protest at the party leadership’s decision to back secret courts. That came the same day as Observer columnist Henry Porter, a long-time friend to the Lib Dems, publicly denounced what he termed Nick Clegg’s …

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Losing one of our best….an appreciation of Jo Shaw

I’m sitting in the departure lounge at Gatwick, with a massive infusion of Earl Grey which I hope will keep me awake for a couple more hours. With less than four hours’ sleep after staying longer than I’d planned at the Glee Club, I am close to being wrecked. I’m far too old for this carry on, but I’ll not willingly give it up. Luckily I was relatively abstemious with alcohol, so there was no hangover. Mind you, if there had been Skittles Vodka on offer as a Clegg’s speech drinking game, I’d have happily indulged. A shot …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 91 Comments

“On message. In volume. Over time.” That’s the real text of Nick Clegg’s speech today

Double Clegg 2 - Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsIt took 3,000+ words and Nick Clegg 30 minutes to deliver them — but there was only one message he wanted to be heard in his leader’s speech today:

Only the Liberal Democrats can deliver a stronger economy and a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life.

That’s the core message, one that’s been tested in polling and was tested in real polling in Eastleigh. And it’s the message the party leadership wants the party to get sick of repeating ad infinitum …

Posted in Conference, News and Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 19 Comments

It’s not just the Lib Dem leadership trying to ignore the ‘secret courts’ row: the news media is too

I had an odd experience on Friday. I was doing a round of media interviews – 3 for TV, 3 for radio – previewing the Lib Dem conference. I’d been called by researchers in advance to ‘get my take’ on the key issues. Each time, I said there was a big issue on which the party leadership could expect to be defeated and which would see activists from across the broad spectrum of the Lib Dems united: opposition to secret courts. This received an “Uh-hum” response which I took for baffled boredom. And as expected, each interview in turn dwelt …

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++ Lib Dem conference overwhelmingly votes to oppose ‘secret courts’. Again.

You may be forgiven a sense of déjà vu: the Liberal Democrats have voted overwhelmingly to oppose secret courts legislation. Just as we did last September.

Here’s the text of the motion which was just passed:

Conference believes:

1. That the measures in Part II of the Justice and Security Bill will mean the courts system of the United Kingdom will provide neither justice nor security in cases involving

Posted in Conference and News | Also tagged , and | 5 Comments

Jo Shaw quits Lib Dems in protest at leadership’s pro-secret courts position

Lib Dem parliamentary candidate Jo Shaw dramatically announced her resignation from the party as she moved this morning’s emergency motion calling on our MPs to stick by the party’s policy of opposing ‘secret courts’. You can read Jo’s full statement at the foot of this post.

It was Jo’s speech at the party’s autumn conference that captured everyone’s attention, including her line ‘Kafka was a warning not a manual’. Together with another parliamentary candidate, Martin Tod, Jo set up LibDemsAgainstSecretCourts.org.uk and has waged a determined campaign to persuade the parliamentary party to back the party’s line.

And it’s not …

Posted in Conference and News | Also tagged , and | 27 Comments

Secret Courts..what does the party do now?

Its’s not been the easiest 24 hours to be a Liberal Democrat. It was very hard to watch the majority of our MPs vote to remove the right to a fair trial in civil cases where national security is deemed to be a factor.  Just seven MPs voted in favour of amendments advised by the Joint Committee on Human Rights. The fact that the JCHR had a different view from the Government should surely have raised a huge red flag. An even bigger signal that our MPs were on the wrong course was the fact that Labour were voting in …

Posted in News and Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 100 Comments

7 ‘rebel’ Lib Dem MPs back party policy as rest vote for secret courts

After the excitement of Friday’s Eastleigh by-election result, it’s back to earth with a bump for Lib Dems, after most of our MPs last night ignored the party conference’s overwhelming opposition to ‘secret courts’ and voted into law a measure that flies in the face of natural justice.

Here’s the BBC report:

MPs have voted to back plans to allow more civil courts to examine secret intelligence in private, despite calls for more safeguards. MPs from all sides had tried to press for so-called secret courts to be used only as a last resort. But the government successfully saw off the

Posted in News and Parliament | Also tagged | 60 Comments

116 Liberal Democrats write to the Daily Mail opposing secret courts

Today’s Daily Mail contains a letter from 116 Liberal Democrats asking MPs to vote down Part 2 of the Justice and Security Bill. The signatories include a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords, an MEP, 5 members of the Federal Executive, 2 members of the Federal Policy Committee, 6 past and present members of the Liberal Democrat Voice editorial team and a number of parliamentary candidates. The letter says:

We are writing to urge all MPs to do the right thing by voting against Part II of the Justice and Security Bill when it has its Report stage in

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A response to Julian Huppert’s analysis on the Justice and Security Bill

A response to Julian Huppert’s analysis of the Justice and Security Bill

We learned on Wednesday this week that the Justice and Security Bill is being rushed into Report Stage in the Commons. The government has now published its latest proposed amendments to the Justice and Security Bill. Astonishingly I have been told that Conservatives are saying the Bill has been moved forward to conclude in the Commons on 7th March to avoid a further motion at our Spring Conference.

Julian Huppert and Mike Crockart worked very hard during the Committee stage of the debate, and voted (supported by Labour) to defeat secret …

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Julian Huppert MP writes…An update on the Justice and Security Bill

The Government has today published their amendments to the Justice and Security Bill for Report Stage, following the strenuous efforts Mike Crockart and I put in during the Committee. And they have clearly made significant concessions to us as a result of the things we demanded.

First, there is a provision to make sure that Public Interest Immunity is looked at before a judge is allowed to consider a Closed Material Procedure. This was taken out by the Government during Bill Committee. Mike and I tried to put it back in, and it looks like the Government has accepted our …

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Julian Huppert MP writes: Quick update on secret courts

Mike Crockart and I just called a vote to remove secret courts from the Justice and Security Bill, in line with Conference’s motion.

Despite highlighting in the debate that they supported closed proceedings in principle, Labour saw an opportunity to make mischief and eventually backed us. But due to DUP support for the Tories, we lost 10-9.

I’ll give a fuller update to everyone concerned soon. Suffice to say there will be more crucial votes to come on the Committee, and the Government has to move or the Bill will not pass as is.

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Jo Shaw asks… Is there a way out of the Secret Courts mess?

It’s a strange and rare thing for a Liberal Democrat to be pinning her hopes for a civil liberties victory on a combination of government bad faith, Conservatives of principle voting the right way and Labour sticking to their guns. Yet that combination, combined with the votes of Lib Dem MPs, could offer a lifeline for those campaigning to defeat secret courts contained in the Justice and Security Bill.

The Bill is now in Committee in the Commons. At the last possible moment the government published its proposed amendments to the Bill. The government line is that these amendments clarify the …

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The Independent View: National security is paramount but ‘secret courts’ are an illiberal attack on British justice

Supreme Court - Some rights reserved by cphoffman42In September 2012, the Liberal Democrat Conference voted overwhelmingly against the most contentious aspect of the government’s Justice and Security Bill – the extension of ‘secret courts’, otherwise known as Closed Material Procedures (CMPs), into civil courts.

This would allow ministers to submit a CMP application to a judge that material relating to national security be withheld from the defendant/claimant and their legal team despite being used as evidence. As Andrew Tyrie MP and Anthony Peto QC explain in “Neither Just nor Secure”, published today by the Centre for Policy Studies, this is worrying because “in an adversarial system such as the English one, the right to know and challenge the opposing case is not merely a feature of the system, it is the system”.

Posted in The Independent View | Also tagged , and | 3 Comments

Secret Courts: Nick Clegg’s refusal to meet campaigners is not helping

Way back in March, I wrote a few words of advice to Nick Clegg in the wake of the NHS debate at Spring Conference. They seem relevant today as activists and leaders are at loggerheads over Part II of the Justice and Security Bill. That’s the part that introduces Closed Material Procedures, or secret courts. This would mean that if national security, Government vetted Special Advocates would represent the non-Government side, but would not be allowed to share any details with them. You can see how difficult it would be to prepare a case if you aren’t even allowed …

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Jo Shaw: Secret Courts update – please support our new motion to the Lib Dems’ Spring Conference

Supreme Court - Some rights reserved by cphoffman42The Justice and Security Bill, which introduces secret courts into almost all civil cases, was rushed into its second reading in the House of Commons on Tuesday this week.

The Minister in charge of secret courts in the Commons, Ken Clarke, made an opening statement in the debate which made it clear that the Coalition Government does not accept the amendments proposed by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, some of which were passed by the Lords. It is still …

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Clarke’s concessions on secret courts will not satisfy Liberal Democrat campaigners

Ken ClarkeIsabel Hardman has written a piece on the Spectator’s Coffee House blog which essentially says that Liberal Democrat MPs and campaigners are on a bit of a collision course over Part II of the Justice and Security Bill. Liberal Democrat conference voted overwhelmingly in favour of this measure being withdrawn because of its provisions on secret courts.

The article suggests that Liberal Democrat MPs are likely to support the measures now that Ken Clarke has accepted an

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