Sarah Ludford MEP writes… Emergency Motion 6 will promote Schedule 7 reform and protect civil liberties

The last time I wrote a piece for Lib Dem Voice I asked for the assistance of conference voting reps to ensure that party conference debates the detention of David Miranda and the reform of Schedule 7 of the Terrorism 2000 – Labour legislation – under which he was detained.

A very big thank you to those who responded with support for Emergency Motion 6: Schedule 7 of Terrorism Act 2000 to be in the ballot for debate in Glasgow next Wednesday (Sep 18th from 9:00 to 10.30, item F38). I’m sure the handsome volume of signatures – due to the wonderful Caron Lindsay going the extra mile to upload my article promptly on LDV – helped persuade Conference Committee to select it!

This emergency motion calls for the reform of Schedule 7 to ensure it is used solely in cases of terrorism and to strengthen legal safeguards in relation to its use. You will recall that last month Schedule 7 was used to detain David Miranda, the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, for questioning in circumstances which raise at least the strongest of doubts about the proper application of this most draconian of police powers.

Whatever intelligence interests may have been affected by the Edward Snowden whistleblowing and Guardian publication of NSA documents – and they might have some validity – surely this was a matter for the Official Secrets Act, not for a measure meant to ascertain ‘involvement in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism’. I’m glad to say that @terrorwatchdog David Anderson QC – Alex Carlile’s successor as Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation  – is preparing a short report on whether Schedule 7 was ‘lawfully, appropriately and humanely used’.

The motion does not have space to cover the media freedom and state surveillance issues which form the context for this possible abuse of counter-terrorism measures. But in any case, Sch 7 bears examination entirely in its own right because of the concerns of discriminatory impact it has raised over many years.

There are already some reform proposals on Schedule 7 in draft legislation going through Westminster, but further safeguards are justified. Given the obdurate stance of the Conservative Home Secretary, Liberal Democrat Ministers need the full backing of party conference to strengthen their hand going into coalition negotiations on junking the worst of Labour’s illiberal legacy.

Please stand up for civil liberties and vote for Emergency Motion 6: Schedule 7 of Terrorism Act 2000 in the emergency motions ballot.

Ballot papers will be published in Sunday’s Conference Daily, and should be returned to the ballot box in the auditorium between 09.00 and 13.00 on Sunday 15th September

* Sarah Ludford is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords and was MEP for London from 1999-2014.

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