Liberal Democrat responses to anti-terrorism legislation review

Here’s a round-up of responses from Liberal Democrat figures and blogs:

Tom Brake MP (Co-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Committee on Home Affairs and Justice)

Sanity and justice have been restored to British life.

Today is a victory for those who have campaigned to restore the historic freedoms that Labour spent 13 years destroying.

Control orders are gone, 28 days detention without charge is gone, indiscriminate stop and search is gone and the abuse of anti-terror powers by councils to pursue petty offences is over.

There will always be a balance to be struck between freedom and security and these proposals protect British citizens while upholding their centuries-old values.

First thoughts on the terrorism and control orders changesZoe O’Connell
The headline-grabber is control orders. It’s more liberal than the current system and as such should be recognised as a step in the right direction. But I don’t welcome it enthusiastically as it still mean there exists a system of punishing someone without even letting them know what they’ve done wrong, which I’m firmly against.

The recommendations seem like a reasonably light touch, sounding like a tough version of an ASBO – curfew, restrictions on going to some specified places, ban on overseas travel and restrictions on the use of the internet.

But it’s what isn’t in there that worries me. The restrictions on use of the internet effectively ban ownership of many electronic devices such as XBoxes, PS3s, iPhones etc and there are other “limited restrictions” on communication which could be anything. There’s also a maximum restriction of 2 years, unless someone does something again that indicates a possible terrorist connection which torpedos the whole point of putting a limit on it. Given that someone under a control order hasn’t been told what action they took made them subject to the order in the first case, how can they avoid doing it again?

News on control orders is good … but not that goodRichard Baum

Today’s news on Control Orders is good news. They have been watered down in many areas, and the conditions in which those held without trial are kept will be improved in many areas. The time during which the new orders apply has been fixed, and the amount of time people can be held without trial has also been reduced.

Other progressive measures on Civil Liberties were also announced by the government today. Stop and Search powers are reduced, and the responsibilities placed on government to detail the reasons for exercising their powers are greater. Powers that public authorities like Councils have to spy on residents are also greatly reduced.
It’s a good day for civil libertarians, and the direction of travel is good. The coalition is undoing some of what Labour did in this area which set the cause of liberty back.

But I would have loved to have seen the proposals go further. We will still see punishment without trial, which is bad for the innocent and the guilty, and makes Britain look disrespectful towards natural justice.

I worry about Nick Clegg’s reaction though. He has trumpeted the reforms as a great victory, claiming that we have delivered on a manifesto commitment to end Control Orders. I think his tone is wrong. We may have ended them in their current form, but what replaces them is more of a watered-down version of what existed before than something wholly new and different.

We’ve punched above our weight on this, that’s for sure. It’s a victory, but I think what we should be doing is acknowledging necessary compromises rather than pretending to have achieved more than we have.

Lib Dem peer Ken Macdonald’s (the independent overseer of the review)

I conclude that there is no doubt that the Review’s recommendations, if implemented, would achieve the government’s primary aim of rolling back State power, where to do so would not present a disproportionate risk to public safety.

The reduction in pre‐charge detention to 14 days, the repeal of section 44, the greater regulation of local authority surveillance and the outright removal of those aspects of control orders that most resemble house arrest, are all to be regarded as reforms of real significance. They point to an unmistakable re‐balancing of public policy in favour of liberty.

Liberal Democrats win some arguments on Counter Terrorism, but fight must go onCaron Lindsay
There are times when I really wish we were in Government on our own. Then we could simply reduce the pre charge detention time to the matter of hours, or certainly less than a week, that it is across Europe. Then we could completely get rid of measures which restrict people’s liberty when they haven’t been found guilty of anything.

Today’s announcement by Conservative Home Secretary Theresa May on the review of counter terrorism legislation has some welcome steps in the right direction … There’s some bad stuff, too, though…

I would like to see Nick Clegg say that we Liberal Democrats do still believe that these measures should be abolished, but in coalition we have to make compromises – as I assume that’s still the case and on our own we’d get rid of them.

Labour’s Authoritarian state being rolled backPaul Crossley
The last Labour Government took away a lot of the rights and freedoms of the individual under the guise of anti-terror legislation. The need or not for this was in part due to the widely perceived illegal, immoral and unustified invasion of Iraq on a trumpt up allegation. A war that cost the lives of 100s of thousands of innocent lives in Iraq, destroyed the futures of many British families and cost billions of pounds.

Now bit by bit Labours authoritarian straightjacket is being dismantled. Good News for us all.

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10 Comments

  • Depressed Ex Lib Dem 27th Jan '11 - 9:44am

    For balance, here’s the reaction of Shami Chakrabarti, the Director of Liberty:

    “We welcome movement on stop and search, 28-day detention and council snooping, but when it comes to ending punishment without trial; the Government appears to have bottled it. Spin and semantics aside, control orders are retained and rebranded, if in a slightly lower fat form. As before, the innocent may be punished without a fair hearing and the guilty will escape the full force of criminal law. This leaves a familiar bitter taste. Parliament must now decide whether the final flavour will be of progress, disappointment or downright betrayal.”

    http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/media/press/2011/progress-on-stop-and-search-but-control-orders-by-any-ot.php

  • It’s rebranding, nothing more, nothing less. Epic failure.

    Another huge fudge from a party who should care more about delivery than they so obviously do about hubris.

  • Do Tom Brake and Tim Farron really expect us to believe that it is a proud day for British civil liberties or that sanity and justice have been restored. Another broken Manifesto promise and betrayal by the Liberal Democrats. The future’s bright, the future’s orange (book).

  • So will we see LibDem MPs voting to renew the current control orders when the come before Parliament next month? That will be fun to watch. What will also be amusing is watching them vote for control orders lite, especially when knowing it will mean that in doing so this will be part of British legislation until it is repealed. Once it’s passed it will be law, it will not need annual parliamentary approval.

  • I note the quote from Lord Macdonald regarding tagging was not included…

  • Interesting that while indiscriminate stop and search has gone for the police, Gove has chosen today to launch his bill to give teachers power to indiscriminately stop and search pupils!

  • @Ian Sanderson (RM3)

    I would point out that all of those on Control Orders may be strangers to the notion of civil liberty but they are not strangers within as they hold UK passports.

    On expiry dates – the Control Order powers had to be passed annually in the HoC – the new orders are now part of statute and won’t come up for annual review – so I don’t know how you have managed to blame Labour for lingering powers – it might do you better to look at the details in future but, as usual, there is no detail from the Coalition.

    Yesterday the Mirror were stating that the minimum overnight residence order would be for 10 hours – so if that is correct what is the maximum and will it be more or less than the current 16 hours curfew power.

    Clegg and May are at total odds on whether overnight residence is compulsory or whether it will only be loosely applied.

    It would be laughable except for the damgers this whole mess outs UK citizens in from a bunch of terrorists whose only aim in life is to destroy our civil liberties.

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