Author Archives: Julian Huppert

Julian Huppert writes… Ending food-crop-based first-generation biofuels

The issue of food being used for fuel has become increasingly contentious. And decisions are fast approaching – in the European Parliament Liberal Democrat MEP colleagues are currently negotiating capping the use of damaging biofuels. Norman Baker, Liberal Democrat Transport Minister will also be taking up the issue in the Council of Ministers.

While first generation biofuels were lauded as the future it is now clear they cause more problems than they solve. The UK’s Gallagher Review in 2010 in fact concluded that in some cases biofuels can generate a higher carbon footprint than fossil fuels and contribute to deforestation. Subsidies …

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Julian Huppert: Trident – getting off the nuclear ladder

TridentI firmly believe that we do not want Trident. We simply don’t need the ability to blow up large parts of the globe. Frankly, the idea that we have spent decades with nuclear armed missiles cruising the oceans ready to fire on a moment’s notice seems absurd to me. I look forward to a world where we do not have such weapons, and where no one else does either.

Even those who believe that the MAD theory worked during the Cold War surely must accept that  the world has changed – I am always amazed by those who still live in the 60s.

The Tories are still wedded to that position – they seem to display some bizarrely Freudian attachment to having missiles which can explode violently.

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Julian Huppert writes: A local approach to sustainable transport

This is the first of three extracts from the forthcoming collection of essays Green liberalism: a local approach to the low carbon economy. Similar collections will be published under Green Alliance’s ‘Green social democracy’ and ‘Green conservatism’ projects as part of the Green Roots programme, which aims to stimulate green thinking within the three dominant political traditions in the UK. 

A sustainable and low carbon transport system is something which UK governments have historically struggled to achieve, thanks to years of poor forward planning and systems which revolve heavily around cars, a highly inefficient mode of transport. But mobility patterns are …

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Julian Huppert says, “Get Britain Cycling”!

On Wednesday, after a four month inquiry, the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group – of which I’m co-chair – published our plan to “Get Britain Cycling”.

Cycling is fast, safe, healthy, cheap, environmentally sound, and fun. Yet in 2011 less than 2% of journeys made in the UK were by bike.

For a nation in which 30% of our children are overweight or obese, and our roads are increasingly congested, this is a serious problem.

Our report sets out how, with strong leadership from the top, we can increase the proportion of journeys made by bike to 10% by 2025, and …

Posted in News and Parliament | Tagged and | 3 Comments

Julian Huppert MP writes…I agree with Nick. He’s right to kill the Snoopers’ Charter

On 18th March 2010 Nick Clegg gave a speech to Privacy International about Lib Dem plans to roll back the surveillance state.  He said:

 The Conservatives talk a good game on privacy but scratch beneath the surface and it is clear they cannot be trusted to roll back Labour’s surveillance state… Only the Liberal Democrats will bring an end to the endless snooping on innocent people.

We committed ourselves at the last election to ending ID cards, curbing CCTV and stopping the Home Office encroachment into our lives. Enough of citizens as suspects. Enough of “endless snooping” by the Government.

One of our …

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Julian Huppert MP writes… Did it. As promised.

Libel Reform campaign logoI’ve been working on the Defamation Bill for years and now we are near the end phase.

Last week, I wrote here that we’d managed to secure a concession from the Government on something we’d argued for for a while – requiring companies to prove serious financial harm to take any libel action.

There were skeptics – lots of people saying they’d believe it when they saw it.

Well, today the Lords discussed the Government amendment we won, and supported it. The Bill can now proceed to Royal Assent.

We can …

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Julian Huppert writes…Update on the Defamation Bill

libel-reform-campaign-logoThe Defamation Bill has had a troubled passage through Parliament. Hijacked by Labour over Leveson, attacked by Tory backbenchers concerned about companies and undermined by vested interests, I was glad to see it finally reach one of its last Parliamentary stages in the Commons today.

I was on the Joint Committee that considered this bill when it was a draft – those discussions are already beginning to feel like a distant memory! But we will deliver a huge reform of the UK libel laws.

All the while, Lib Dems have been vociferous in …

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Julian Huppert writes … We all need to do our bit to Back Britain’s Charities

back_britains_charities_v5

Since becoming an MP three years ago I’ve developed a greater understanding of the work that charities do, and a true recognition of the important role they play in creating and strengthening communities. In Cambridge, for example, charities such as the Citizens Advice Bureau and the Samaritans are there to offer support when people have nowhere else to turn, and many provide niche services to people who would otherwise slip through the net.

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Julian Huppert MP writes… Improving on the UK Border Agency

On Monday the Home Affairs Select Committee published yet another damning report of the UK Border Agency. We found that, in addition to the half million undetermined immigration and asylum cases, UKBA were failing to deal with new immigration cases.

It is no wonder that immigration is consistently identified as one of the biggest issues facing the UK if the Agency established by Labour cannot tell us who is in the country, who should be here and who should not.

The backlog started in the 90s, but in response Labour put the whole border control operation at arm’s length. …

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Julian Huppert MP writes…A credible alternative to prison has always been a Liberal Democrat priority

For decades British Governments have been locking up criminals for 12 months or less, to watch them reoffend straight after they leave prison. Worse than that, the policy is costly, and holds little public confidence.

But when you look at how we treat women offenders, the situation is even worse.

Almost half of women serving 12 months or less will reoffend within the next year. And of all women in prison, 6 in 10 are there for six months or less; the vast majority of whom have committed non-violent offences. The last Government’s response was to increase the female prison …

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Julian Huppert MP writes…..The Preamble, 25 years on

25 years ago, our party agreed its new constitution – and the preamble to that constitution, setting out our core values and vision.

Many of us will know some of it – ‘The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, … in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance, or conformity’.

This extract – the bit that appears on membership cards – is in my view truly poetic, and captures brilliantly what we are trying to do. We are concerned about people, and empowering them to do what they can and want to do. …

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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… Have your say – Coalition plans to regulate CCTV

The Home Office yesterday announced plans for the regulation of CCTV as part of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.

This is fantastic news. The regulation of CCTV and the protection of civil liberties were key to our manifesto and prominent in the coalition agreement.

Britain is home to as many as 4.2 million CCTV cameras – up to 20% of cameras globally – yet under Labour there was virtually no control over who has access to state surveillance. Our reforms mean we can control who has access to cameras, and how the footage is used.

Regulation will be crucial …

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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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Holocaust Memorial Day, and a response to David Ward

I find Holocaust Memorial Day personally incredibly difficult. It reminds us of an astonishing period in human history, when a developed European country exterminated millions of fellow humans – six million Jews, and many Roma, Slavs, Communists, Socialists, homosexuals and the disabled.

But for me it always reminds me of my own family tree, and the many relatives who appear there with a small asterisk – ‘died as a result of Nazism’. I find it hard to speak about, to think through the horrors of what happened. But I do find myself absolutely adamant that we must stop anything like …

Posted in News | Tagged | 32 Comments

Julian Huppert MP writes… Help shape party policy on immigration and identity

The Liberal Democrat Federal Policy Committee has announced the formation of a new policy working group “Immigration and Identity” and would like to invite members to apply for membership.

Obviously this is a sensitive and important area of policy so we are keen to get as many applications as possible. We hope that you will consider applying and helping us develop new policies in this area as we head towards 2015.

If you are interested please contact [email protected] for an application form.

Update: The deadline has now passed; thanks to all those who applied.

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Julian Huppert MP writes … Communications Data Bill cannot proceed

Last week the Home Secretary claimed that anyone who opposes the Draft Communications Data Bill, dubbed the Snoopers Charter, was supporting paedophiles and terrorists.

She argued, “Criminals, terrorists and paedophiles will want MPs to vote against this bill. Victims of crime, police and the public will want them to vote for it. It’s a question of whose side you’re on.”

We’ve heard that argument before. Tony Blair used similar arguments to

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Julian Huppert MP writes… Drugs: We will be judged by what we achieve

Last year, the Lib Dems passed a near-unanimous Conference motion calling for a complete review of the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act. It included a call to “consider reform of the law, based on the Portuguese model”.

Today, the cross-Party Home Affairs Select Committee, of which I am a Member, has endorsed that position, and told the Government that they must focus on reducing the damage caused by drugs, rather than hard-line posturing.

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Julian Huppert MP writes… Liberal solutions for policing and justice

Another Lib Dem Conference, another set of exceptional debates on policing and justice. We agreed on greater accountability through an empowered IPCC; minimum standards for private contractors; and community sentences and restorative justice in place of ineffective, short-term prison sentences.

Our party has the most distinct strategy for crime reduction of any major party. It’s based on clear, liberal principles and, crucially, it’s based on the evidence staring us right in the face. At every Conference I’ve been to we raise the level of debate, and provide liberal solutions for policing and justice.

Rarely do these debates, and these policies, make it …

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Julian Huppert MP writes… Protecting basic rights for every single child

Tuesday saw the publication of HMIP’s first report into the Cedars ‘pre-departure accommodation’.

For those of you who aren’t versed in UKBA jargon (few are), ‘pre-departure accommodation’ was established in December 2010 as part of our strategy to end Labour’s abhorrent policy of routinely detaining children for immigration purposes.

Under Labour, from 2005-2010, 7000 children who had committed no crime were detained.

Children were imprisoned in appalling conditions, including the now infamous Yarl’s Wood centre.

Detention was often for weeks and months. In one case, for 190 days. The policy was one of locking children up indefinitely – an atrocious course of …

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Julian Huppert MP writes… Community sentencing and restorative justice

Our country’s relentless focus on punishment for punishment’s sake, rather than as a tool for crime reduction and rehabilitation, has consigned thousands of individuals to a hopeless life with no way out. A staggering 90% of those sentenced in England and Wales in 2011 had committed a previous offence.

Even in the best of circumstances – where criminals are caught, trials are fair and judges pass sentence – prisoners aren’t rehabilitated; victims remain unfulfilled and citizens are rightly angered.

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Julian Huppert MP writes… Developing a future: Policies for science and research

Back in 2010, a survey by the Programme for International Student Assessment found that UK schoolchildren ranked 16th in Science and 28th in Maths among 65 OECD countries. Since then, little has changed.

For a country which has led the world in scientific discovery, and profited from those developments, this is deeply worrying.

We in the Lib Dems have a proud record of arguing in favour of science and research, and promoting it from the classroom to the lab. People such as Dr Evan Harris and now-Lord Phil Willis have made sure that we are seen as a pro-science party;

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Julian Huppert MP writes… Liberal Democrats need a clear policy on the future of aviation

Over the last few months, speculation over the Government’s aviation policy has filled countless column inches. The majority of it has been based on very little evidence.

Perhaps the lack of evidence isn’t surprising, given the way aviation policy has been formed during recent years. When Labour decided to build a third runway at Heathrow, they did so by completely ignoring the fact that, already, a quarter of all those in Europe who are affected by aviation noise live under the Heathrow flight path.

Not only that, but Labour decided to figure out if we could meet our carbon reduction targets after …

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Julian Huppert MP writes… Britain deserves an affordable railway

Our rail fares are among the most expensive in Europe, and they keep going up. Between 1997 and 2010 rail fares went up by an astonishing 66% – well above inflation.

If next year’s planned rail fare rises go ahead, some passengers will hand over up to 15% of their wages for the pleasure of travelling to work.

Since the Labour party introduced above inflation fare rises in 2003, these increases have become a yearly occurrence. Indeed, Labour Party policy is still to have above-inflation rail fare increases every year.

We say that rail fares are already too high. We would cap rail …

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Julian Huppert MP writes… Draft Communications Data Bill: send me your evidence

Today is the first meeting of the Joint Committee on the Draft Communications Data Bill. Over the next few months, we’ll be taking evidence from key witnesses, and making recommendations to the Government about how the Bill should change.

As I’m sure you all know, the Bill as it stands is simply unacceptable. It’s vital, therefore, that we’re asking the right questions and posing the right, technical solutions from the off.

The Committee will run a formal, public call for evidence starting very shortly. The more evidence we get, the better, so my first request is that every single Member with an …

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Julian Huppert MP writes… Libel reform is an admirable prize for Liberal Democrats

In my experience, Second Reading debates are often lengthy affairs. Everyone wants to say their piece; few have something new to contribute.

The second reading of the Defamation Bill last week was no exception. We even heard the odd diatribe against threatening behaviour and internet trolls; some of which belied a complete misunderstanding of what we were actually debating.

But, for once, there was some clear consensus. In the words of John Kampfner, the chief executive of Index on Censorship:

When we launched the Libel Reform Campaign in 2009, only the Liberal Democrats backed change. Now the cause has cross party support.

Campaigned …

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Julian Huppert MP writes… Communications data: we have to get this right

Many years ago my father gave me some advice: ‘don’t get it right, get it written’. If you want to do something properly you need to have a draft. That way you can go back and improve it.

Today sees the publication of the Draft Communications Data Bill. It is a first version, not a final text, and one which will be given the time and proper processes to change. It’s hard to overemphasise how different that is to the usual Parliamentary process.

A special Select Committee will go through the issues raised in the Bill, and make suggestions on how to improve it. I’ll be on that Committee, and between now and November we will be asking experts and members of the public to comment on it, and suggest where it needs to be changed.

It’s thanks to Lib Dem pressure that we now have a vital opportunity to get this right. If left to itself, the Home Office would simply have announced this Bill – or something worse – as a fait accompli, and whipped people to support it. Nick Clegg intervened to stop that from happening.

And already the Draft Bill is better than the one the Home Office proposed, as revealed a few months ago. Already there are more safeguards than there were going to be – but we are not there yet.

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Julian Huppert MP writes: What does the Queen’s Speech mean for civil liberties?

So – how does the Queen’s Speech rate for those of us who care about civil liberties? Well, there’s some excellent news, and some areas where we need to keep working to get the right result.

First, we have fantastic news about libel reform. I am delighted that the Defamation Bill will finally come into being. As Liberal Democrats we have long made the case that our libel laws are out-dated and in desperate need of improvement.  Our current system unfairly favours the rich because the cost of lawsuits means ordinary people find it very difficult to defend themselves against false …

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Julian Huppert MP writes… Safeguards to control state surveillance

Stories came out yesterday, leaked as ever from some unknown source, which have led to justifiable outrage about proposals to capture all our online communications. We all know that one shouldn’t entirely trust what is in newspapers, especially when the security services are involved and there is a palpable lack of detailed announcements, but liberals everywhere are rightly anxious.

I’m extremely concerned about the extension of state surveillance, and have fought hard to stop it. Since I first got wind of the proposals in 2010, I’ve had a series of meetings with industry experts and others about it. I asked the Prime Minister about it in October 2010 and, while the details remain cloaked, I have some idea of what might be proposed.

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Julian Huppert MP writes… A new Lib Dem science and research policy

Britain has an excellent track record in science and research, with many great figures in natural sciences, humanities, computing, computing, engineering and mathematics over the years. We continue to outperform other countries in our achievements in these fields, in terms of outputs per person and per pound. We publish 13.8% of the world’s most cited papers, and massively outperform other countries on papers and citations per pound spent or per researcher.

However, we should not just assume that this will just continue automatically, and the UK needs both a thorough vision and policies that support science and research. It is in …

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Tagged , and | 11 Comments
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