LibLink: Tim Farron – Easing of control orders makes this a proud day for civil liberties

Lib Dem president Tim Farron writes in The Guardian’s Comment is Free about the Coalition’s reforms of control orders, restoring greater freedom for UK citizens. Here’s an excerpt:

With details of reform of counter-terrorism laws unveiled in the House of Commons, today is a proud day for those who cherish the freedoms that we in Britain have enjoyed for centuries and that our ancestors fought and died for. … the proposals detailed mark a decisive move away from the paranoid, authoritarian state presided over by Labour. No longer will people who have had no charge brought against them be locked up for 28 days or placed under de facto house arrest. No longer will police be able to indiscriminately stop and search British citizens on a whim. No longer will councils be able to use anti-terrorism powers to snoop on the contents of your bins. And no longer will trainspotters be treated like terrorists for photographing the 13.32 from York to Darlington. …

These are not the first measures the government has taken to restore our civil liberties and they won’t be the last. I was proud when Nick Clegg announced an end to the disgraceful and cruel practice of locking up innocent children during the immigration removal process. Under Labour, more than 7,000 children were detained – hundreds for weeks and months on end. In far too many cases this inflicted serious physical and psychological damage.

Ending this horrendous practice was a key Lib Dem manifesto commitment and one that no other party was prepared to make. And when the government unveils its freedom bill, the brainchild of Chris Huhne when he was Lib Dem home affairs spokesperson, we will see huge swaths of Labour’s unnecessary and intrusive lawmaking repealed. … When the next general election rolls round in 2015, Britain will be a more liberal country. These measures are a crucial part of how we get there.

You can read Tim’s piece in full here.

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  • Depressed Ex Lib Dem 27th Jan '11 - 4:45pm

    “today is a proud day for those who cherish the freedoms that we in Britain have enjoyed for centuries and that our ancestors fought and died for”

    And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
    From this day to the ending of the world,
    But we in it shall be remember’d;
    We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
    For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
    Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
    This day shall gentle his condition:
    And gentlemen in England now a-bed
    Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
    And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
    That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

    Or maybe not.

  • This is a typical example of how defeat can be grabbed from the jaws of a partial victory (and that is all it is).

    Child detention has been sort of stopped and sort of moved and is definitely an improvement, but is not the whole deal stated here.

    28 day pre charge detention has gone, or has it. The Government will be preparing draft legislation to ensure it can be easily re-implemented. Lib Dems are part of the Government preparing that legislation. Lord Macdonald stated that it was implemented as the result of an overreaction to 9/11 and 7/7. Preparing draft legislation allows future Governments the opportunity to ‘over react’ again. It’s no good relying on the ‘exceptional’ argument. There is no definition of what is exceptional. Looking at the stats for use it would be easy to state it has only ever been used exceptionally and after a major incident / potential incident.

    As to control orders, these have been retained in the form of the new Bontempi (I use that term as a Bontempi is recognisable as an organ only with not quite as many functions). In fact a point that should be worried about is that they will no longer need annual renewal.

    Some items are good and should be applauded, but a better tone to take would be to state that while not perfect the changes are a big step in the right direction. Clegg is portraying them as the destination itself. This does not preclude a bit of Labour bashing, they did trample on some civil liberties and this needs to be highlighted.

  • So, let’s raise a cheer for the “easing” of Control Orders (what happened to abolition I wonder..?)….. but hold on… they are being replaced with what exactly? Don’t TPIMS have the look and feel of Control Orders… just ameliorated somewhat?

    Still enough like Control Orders to satisfy the “hang ’em, flog ’em” tendency on the Tory right, but prettified-up enough for Fallon, Clegg et al to claim this is a proud day for civil liberties and sell to the LD faithful.

    Who do they think they are kidding? Control Orders Lite more like! Still amongst the longest detention periods in the Western world, TRIMS to become a permanent fixture unlike Control Orders.

    The best that can be said is that this represents some hope, but little progress. So after the tuition fees train wreck, we have the Control Orders car crash….. how many more accidents are in store I wonder?

  • toryboysnevergrowup 27th Jan '11 - 5:45pm

    And what will the real effect of this – probably near to nothing apart from those on control orders being allowed some supervised playtime on the internet?

    Could I suggest that Mr Farron ease up on the hyperbole and Coalition newspeak – new may improve his short term prospects but in the long term they will do him no favours.

  • Russ J Graham 27th Jan '11 - 6:33pm

    So senior Liberal Democrats are celebrating finally getting a tiny element of core policy accepted by the government… when all it amounts to, and we all know it, is that “Control Orders” have been renamed “T-PIMS”.

    Wow! That’s something to celebrate! Well done!

    At least it has precedent: we renamed Windscale to Sellafield to make that better and more safe and look how that worked out.

  • The LibDems have achieved some things that I applaud but this over-egging the pudding doesn’t fool anyone let alone LibDem members and activists.

    I was watching Clegg positively glowing on telly as he explained how the most dangerous terror subjects in the UK would now have internet and phone access as well as be able to stay away from home at night – I know what the public would be sitting thinking and it wasn’t – oh that’s a victory for civil liberties.

    It’s possible Guardian readers might swallow this nonsense but I doubt if anyone else will – and it’s a long way until January 2012 so we’ll see what the Control Orders actually end up being.

    I noticed we had some growth in the scrap industry today when we cut-up £4 billion worth of Nimrods – what is going on with this government. The service chiefs (retired) are hopping up and down about it and pointing out the madness of the decision.

    But this government which keeps claiming it listens to people seems to ignore everyone with a contrary point of view.

  • The spin on this issue is going to silence the positive steps, really, just talk straight to people instead of spinning it as some famous victory, it’s a small step forward, control orders lite are not an abolition of control orders, renaming something doesn’t make it vastly different, there are positives but they certainly don’t warrant this sort of celebratory waffle.

  • I can only imagine the fluffy dog in the picture really doesn’t like Tim Farron.

    The excessive spin placed on the changes to the law (draconian temporary laws replaced by slightly less draconian permanent law) is out done by the 6th form prose.

    Sincere apologies to 6th formers. Putting cliche-tactic paragraphs like the opening one won’t get you good marks.

    Embarrassing on every level.

  • The Lib Dem thinking at the moment makes me cringe. I guess it’s the same ones who shouted about trebling tuition fees as being a positive thing. The control orders story isn’t a story, it’s not a lot to shout about.

  • Control orders were a temporary measure. They are now permanent. If this is victory what does defeat look like?

  • This from the Guardian – “Eight people suspected of terrorist links have been banned from returning to Britain under deprivation of citizenship orders which have been described as far more draconian than control orders.”

  • TheContinentalOp 27th Jan '11 - 9:28pm

    Pretending a tiny step in the right direction is a giant leap foward is hugely counter-productive for the Lib Dems and insulting to those who have stood beside the party for years and protested against many of the measures that remain in place..

    Arguments about compromise simply don’t wash when time after time prominant Lib Dems act as enthusiastic cheerleaders for policies they once fiercely opposed and rallied against .

    To act in such a manner suggests principals have been sold for the vain trappings of Government. Either that or Clegg and co have been comprehensively out-thought and manouvered by Cameron. If it’s the latter then the party is so far out of it’s depth it’s scary.

  • Right I’ve finally figured out what a masterstroke the LibDems have pulled – weaken the control orders and let them travel and have a wee holiday abroad and bob’s your uncle.

  • Interesting piece in the DT which starts:

    Who has won the great battle of reforming control orders? Nick Clegg has made it a defining feature of the Liberal Democrat influence on the Coalition. It certainly puts those negotiations with David Cameron into perspective.

    DC: So, benefit cuts, NHS marketisation, a third out of council budgets, an end to the Future Jobs Fund, £9,000 tuition fees and no help for Sheffield Forgemasters. What can I give you?

    NC: Just more rights for terrorists, if you don’t mind.

  • The really sad thing about all this is it’s going to create a backlash against Islam and muslims – against ordinary people who would no more support a terrorist than you or I.

    But they are the ones who will suffer by this LibDem short-sightedness and the terrorists will be laughing their head off because attacks on ordinary muslim plays right into their hands and they will have fertle ground to politicise and grow the terror network.

    I know that Johnson needed his Economics 101 primer but the LibDems need a Dot to Dot book in understanding basic politics and they then might manage to move up to Political Negotiations 101.

  • I see The Mirror is reporting that the overnight residence order aka curfew is for a minimum of 10 hours – so what’s the maximum the? Wonder if it’s more than the 16 hours under Control Orders?

  • @George Kendall
    There was me thinking the ‘New Politics’ was going to be about facts not spin!

  • I take it all back. Just seen Katie Hopkins on QT. There is a good case to be made for control orders after all.

  • Depressed Ex Lib Dem 28th Jan '11 - 12:30am

    “Interesting piece in the DT which starts: …”

    Why does it not surprise me that a former Political Secretary to Tony Blair is a supporter of control orders?

    I thought that the most telling part of the article was this:
    “Mehdi Hasan places the liberty of some against the security of all. It’s a perfectly honourable position, just not one that I think has much public support.”

  • I suppose I shall have to be the contrarian as usual. I think they have got the balance pretty much right on this. Er… Well done Nick.

  • LabourLiberal 28th Jan '11 - 3:19am


    Your comments here betray a prejudice and reflect badly on the party you and I both voted for. You decry the victims of control orders as “terrorists” and query why we’re giving them any rights at all. But the whole point is they’re not terrorists. Well, they might be, but it hasn’t been proven and in this country you’re supposed to be innocent until proven otherwise. Terrorism is a criminal offence, just like any other, so if these people really are terrorists, let them be tried for it in a court of law, just as they would for any other offence. At the moment, control orders are a flagrant abuse of the idea of the supremacy of justice, and anyone who supports that idea is very dangerous indeed.

    @Depressed Ex Lib Dem

    Interesting quote, as it shows up the (probably intentional) misunderstanding so many supporters of this policy have. It’s not “the liberty of some” at all. Control orders could be applied to any one of us, so it’s about everyone’s liberty; and anyway, the continuation of the argument is a society where some are more free than others, and that’s not a free society at all. If we went by his argument, then it’s not “the security of all” either, since none of us caught up in terrorist incidents are having our security lost in the slightest.

    But the most damning part of that article by far, is the quote from Theresa May:

    “The government has concluded that, for the foreseeable future, there is likely to be a small number of people who pose a real threat to our security, but who cannot currently be successfully prosecuted or deported.”

    That raises so many more question than it answers. Why can’t they be prosecuted or deported? Presumably because some of them are British, for a start, which makes deportation irrelevant, but presumably also because there’s no evidence admissable to a court of law which shows them doing anything illegal. In which case, how do we know they’re a threat to our security? Either intelligence has been gathered using inadmissable techniques – which should be a scandal in itself, as Andy Coulson could tell us – or they don’t actually know they’re a threat at all, and it’s just an excuse to introduce these policies. Either way, what’s happening is that the Government is convicting and punishing its own citizens, while bypassing the judicial system which is meant to protect the people from such a seizure of power. At the risk of sounding like a tedious letter-writer to the tabloid papers, we really are sleepwalking into a police state.

  • Depressed Ex Lib Dem 28th Jan '11 - 10:53am

    “I know it must have stuck in your throat to say that, so well done for saying it.”

    You don’t think that comes across as just a wee smidgen patronising?

  • Depressed Ex Lib Dem 28th Jan '11 - 10:58am

    Interesting quote, as it shows up the (probably intentional) misunderstanding so many supporters of this policy have. It’s not “the liberty of some” at all. Control orders could be applied to any one of us, so it’s about everyone’s liberty; and anyway, the continuation of the argument is a society where some are more free than others, and that’s not a free society at all. If we went by his argument, then it’s not “the security of all” either, since none of us caught up in terrorist incidents are having our security lost in the slightest.

    I thought the most revealing bit of all was that his overriding criterion was whether Hasan’s view had “much public support”.

    If there was public support for torturing terrorists (or suspected terrorists) in order to uphold the “security of all,” would that be OK? Would it be more defensible if we only tortured a few?

  • George Kendall, “I know it must have stuck in your throat to say that”

    Well, yes it did, so, I will hereby resume normal service!

    We have invested a tremendous amount of time, energy and political capital into negotiating concessions on control orders which affect a very small number of terrorist suspects. And yes, we have emerged with a much better balance between the preservation of civil liberties and the urgent need to minimise future loss of life. But…

    Meanwhile, we have a senior police officer calling in public for “extreme” policing methods to be used when large numbers of non-terrorists invoke their rights to peaceful demonstration. And not a peep out of our leadership! Why aren’t they calling Hugh Orde to account on this? How can we tolerate policemen who blatantly threaten to break the law? Isn’t this a much bigger issue than control orders?

  • toryboysnevergrowup 28th Jan '11 - 1:14pm


    Does this make you really proud to be a LibDem:

    A new survey of close to 1,000 Sure Start Children’s Centre Managers across England – carried out by 4Children and Daycare Trust – reveals that:

    • 250 (7%) will close or are expected to close, affecting an estimated 60,000 families

    • 2,000 (56%) will provide a reduced service

    • 3,100 (86%) will have a decreased budget

    • Staff at 1,000 centres (28%) have been issued with ‘at risk of redundancy’ notices

    Especially since the leaders of the Coalition said the following in the last Party Leaders debate:

    Cameron: Yes, we back Sure Start. It’s a disgrace that Gordon Brown has been trying to frighten people about this. He’s the Prime Minister of this country but he’s been scaring people about something that really matters. Not only do we back Sure Start, but we will improve it, because at the moment the people who need Sure Start the most – disadvantaged families – are not getting enough of the benefit. So we’ll contract independent organisations that have a proven track record in helping families, such as Lifeline and Homestart, to run children’s centres and reach out to those families who need that extra support. What’s more, our plan for 4,200 new Sure Start health visitors will give families expert reinforcements at the time when they need them most.

    Clegg: Yes. Sure Start is a really important programme that has made a real difference to millions of parents. Difficult decisions are going to have to be made in public spending, but Sure Start is one of the best things the last government has done and I want all these centres to stay open.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 28th Jan '11 - 1:23pm

    The minister responsible for Sure Start is Sarah Teather who used to be a Liberal Democrat.

  • @George Kendall
    “For me, realistically, “new politics” should mean something else: More cooperation across the parties. Less treating the other side as the devil incarnate. A recognition that today’s political opponents might be tomorrow’s coalition partners.”

    I would wholeheartedly agree. Unfortunately, not many Lib Dem MP’s and Peers seem to be working on that basis at the moment. I know the usual response is that Labour are being aggressively tribal at the moment but I would like to see a bit if rising above this, answering cynical questions with reasoned facts etc etc.

    It is this that will convince the British Public that there should be more coalitions.

  • @LabourLiberal

    The reason that a case can’t be brought to court is not so much that there is no evidence – it’s that publicly revealing the evidence would be injurious to our national security or dangerous for informants or undercover operatives.

    If you can’t understand this then there really is nothing further I can add.

    But you are correct – I am totally prejudiced against anyone who has the wish to destroy our society and blow-up UK citizens and I would remove all civil liberties from them if it meant that their murderous activities could be prevented or curtailed.

  • David Allen 28th Jan '11 - 6:49pm

    “The reason that a case can’t be brought to court is not so much that there is no evidence – it’s that publicly revealing the evidence would be injurious to our national security or dangerous for informants or undercover operatives.

    If you can’t understand this then there really is nothing further I can add.”

    Hmm. Trial by judge in camera would be better than imposing a control order with no trial at all.

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