Simon Hughes and Alex Carlile debate Snoopers’ Charter on Murnaghan

It’s been like Snoopers’ Charter Central this morning.

It didn’t take very long after the brutal murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich for politicians of a more authoritarian outlook to be falling over themselves to condemn Nick Clegg for vetoing sweeping measures on Communications data and call for their immediate introduction. LDV’s Stephen Tall dealt with two of them, John Reid and Alex Carlile, by making them his Liberal Villains of the Week, saying:

And then comes the next inevitability: politicians striking a pose as authoritarian strongmen by cravenly giving the jihadists the glory they seek. Two of the usual suspects this week displayed to the full their instinctive wish to do the terrorists’ job for them and concede defeat on our behalf: step forward Lords John Reid and Alex Carlile.

Those two might have been a coincidence, but the emergence wherever you look on the media suggests a concerted effort, a conspiracy, even to revive the Snoopers’ Charter and paint Nick Clegg as somehow soft on terrorism. There is, in fact, no evidence that any of the measures contained within the Communications Data Bill would have prevented Wednesday’s brutal attack.

It took until 11am for a news outlet to examine the other side of the story. Simon Hughes went on Murnaghan saying that he started from the position that we are a country that wants to maximise freedom, that the public were not in favour of the measures in the Communications Data Bill, that the measures proposed within it were further than other countries, including the US had been prepared to take.

He added that we must be careful not to have a party political debate ahead of the police/intelligence reports being received and that there was no evidence to suggest that the measures in the Bill could have prevented the attack.

Simon HughesHe did make a comment that appeared to give some wiggle room, though, by saying that we are a responsible party who would be prepared to take measures if there was evidence for them.

Alex Carlile was also interviewed on the programme. He made the extraordinary accusation that Nick Clegg had vetoed the Bill for political reasons. If that was the case, why did a joint parliamentary committee decisively reject the measure after seeking detailed, wide-ranging evidence?  Julian Huppert, who was on that committee, wrote about that back in December. He said:

The Committee also heard of how broadly the powers would be used. While the Home Secretary claimed in the Sun that ‘Only suspected terrorists, paedophiles or serious criminals will be investigated’, the truth is as that it could also be used for speeding offences, flytipping and things as vague as being in ‘the interests of the economic well-being of the United Kingdom’. We are all suspects under this bill.

The measures wanted by the Home Secretary and the others who can be relied upon to tread the authoritarian path are illiberal and disproportionate. They have been recently scrutinised and rejected. Any attempt by  the powerful to latch on to people’s fear and shock in the wake of a brutal attack in an attempt to persuade us that  they need to grab more power for themselves must be viewed with the greatest of suspicion.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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21 Comments

  • Eddie Sammon 26th May '13 - 12:56pm

    I take it I must have a different mindset, because I would not be playing politics over this – unlike the authors of this article and the quotes within.

    This isn’t about striking a strongman pose, trying to paint Nick as soft on terrorism, a conspiracy to latch onto people’s fear to get more power – this is about reducing the chances of terrorist attacks in the UK and we should respect our opposition’s noble intentions, even if we disagree with their approach.

    We need to stop this self righteous civil liberty drum beating.

  • Eddie Sammon 26th May '13 - 1:06pm

    I also do not think people whose preferred response to the attack is to moan at the media for reporting the events in full should sound so self righteous.

  • So another assault on civil liberties. How does this sit with not letting the fanatics win? This will cost billions and may be rendered useless by technology . How objective really are those with a financial interest in its introduction?

  • Kevin White 26th May '13 - 1:29pm

    I hope Cleggy stands firm on this one. The likes of Carlile and Reid clearly want a big brother surveillance state. What is Carlile doing sitting as a LibDem peer ?. To me, he seems indistinguishable from many Tories and Labourites on civil liberties.

  • Andrew Suffield 26th May '13 - 1:43pm

    we should respect our opposition’s noble intentions, even if we disagree with their approach

    What makes you think they have noble intentions, rather than just seizing on a news story as an excuse to grab power?

  • Brenda Lana Smith 26th May '13 - 1:53pm

    As a former registered (UK 1969-12-10 exequatur’d) agent of a foreign government… I believe it is in the UK’s best interest that the UK’s intelligence services’ electronic surveillance and intelligence gathering ability go unfettered…

  • David Wilkinson 26th May '13 - 2:47pm

    Just listen to Lord Carlile on the radio, his claim the CDB would have stopped this attack and by default trying to blame Nick Clegg for stopping the “Snooper Charter” is the lowest.
    The control freeks in this country like Carlile and in the Labour party like Reid and Johnston will do what the murderders of Fusiler Rigby wanted for us to live in fear.,with likes of Carlile and the spooks watching our every move all in the name of the public safety committee.

  • This is exactly what those who cause terrorism want, for us for give up our values and live in a world atoned to their own. Furthermore, there is no foreseeable way that had Nick’s actions in relation to the snooper’s charter been different, this event would have been averted.

    I know I should not be shocked that those who believe in such things as the snooper’s charter would be just as happy as the enactors of terrorism to use results of terrorism to further their own aims, but I am still sickened by it.

  • The political opportunism of Theresa May and some others in light of the terrible murder of Lee Rigby is truly shocking. I have great sympathy for Lee Rigby’s wife and family. The pictures of the grief his family shown was truly moving. I am very sorry for their loss. Trying to use his death for political ends to bring back a poor bill which was rightly rejected appears to me very opportunistic and deeply wrong.

    I also think that Ed Milliband’s displays an utter lack of backbone . He is more concerned about how he may appears in the right wing press to have any principles that he appears to standby. At least on this Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats are actually being true to their manifesto and principles.

    The Communications and Data Bill gathers a massive amount of unnecessary information on the whole population. It is a sledgehammer to crack a nut. There is no evidence that it would have stopped the attack. The resources diverted with regard to the Communications Bill will take away resources from legitimate intelligence work. Legislation passed to counter terrorism is invariably and will inevitably used in situations, not intended for that original use. This will mean disruption and intrusion of legitimate and lawful political activities alongside unnecessary invasion of privacy.

    Responses to terrible events in Woolwich, must be carefully considered. Knee jerk reactions must be avoided.

    My very deep condolences to Rebecca Rigby, their children and their family. Let them grieve in peace.

  • Andrew Suffield 26th May '13 - 6:39pm

    I believe it is in the UK’s best interest that the UK’s intelligence services’ electronic surveillance and intelligence gathering ability go unfettered

    Why exactly is spending a lot of money on generating large targets for identity theft beneficial? The security implications are horrific – the “snoopers charter” will put us all at risk at considerable expense to both government and industry, and flush privacy down the toilet at the same time.

    The government has proved time and again that it can’t keep our data safe – if we let this database come into existence, it will be lost and stolen in record time and then everything you have ever said or done online will be public information.

    Meanwhile it won’t do anything useful because intercept information cannot be used in the UK courts. The security services will just build up an even larger pile of expensive, dangerous information which has no use in the process of justice.

  • @ Eddie Sammon

    Have you read Alex Carlile’s piece in the daily mail?

    I can describe that man as an honerable opponent. He wants a survelence state and will claim anything to try and get it.

  • Brenda Lana Smith 26th May '13 - 11:29pm

    @Andrew Suffield 26th May ’13 – 6:39pm

    “Meanwhile it won’t do anything useful because intercept information cannot be used in the UK courts…”

    Precisely… The UK intelligence services need this legislation for covertly garnering otherwise inadmissible evidence in court….

  • We need to get terrorism in perspective, we should take reasonable steps to prevent it but not unreasonable ones. Fewer people have died from terrorism in the last 10 years in the UK than have died on UK roads in the last 2 weeks. Is this really reason enough to sacrifice essential liberty?

  • Helen Dudden 27th May '13 - 7:46am

    Firstly, I respect Alex Carlile he has done much in the past on the subject of trafficking and is most certainly a highly intelligent person, he should know the law. He is well regarded in legal circles. I think to not listen to anyone would be foolish, it should be a listen and learn time.

    What happened last week will remain in those lives who were touched by the terrible events. It will not simply be something that is forgotten for many years to come.

    I think to give more power to those who need it, is important, but of course it must respect human rights. I would ask that more is done to prevent this type of situation in the future. We have to know what some are doing, this is a fact of life.

  • “The measures wanted by the Home Secretary and the others who can be relied upon to tread the authoritarian path are illiberal and disproportionate. They have been recently scrutinised and rejected. Any attempt by the powerful to latch on to people’s fear and shock in the wake of a brutal attack in an attempt to persuade us that they need to grab more power for themselves must be viewed with the greatest of suspicion.”

    Brilliant summary, and beautifully put. Spot on.

  • Eddie Sammon 27th May '13 - 8:27am

    Andrew, you ask me how do I know our opponents have noble intentions and aren’t using this as an excuse to seize power. That is because I know that I wouldn’t have those motives why should I assume that others have ulterior motives? All humans I come across seem nice, I think people are often vilified when they are misunderstood.

    Also, wanting to seize surveillance powers without the aim of wanting to protect us is frankly just weird, so I don’t believe this is the motive.

    Psi, I haven’t read that piece in the Mail but I still don’t think it is an excuse for ourselves to sink to political point scoring over this.

  • I respect Helen’s view but Lord Carlisle also gave the green light to introducing control orders, a measure considered so disproportionate and costly that it was later repealed. It was also a stance Nick Clegg was slammed for.

    Its hard not to feel that politicians who lost the argument about eroding on the civil liberties of all of us are being a tad opportunistic. You can take a good guess which section of society will find their emails are being tapped.

    A sensible point would be to go back and say if you want these things in, can you bring it in a way which is sensible and proportionate to the risk. To that, there simply has never been a reply, just a redoubling of efforts for the same set of discredited proposals.

  • Helen Dudden 28th May '13 - 2:42pm

    All I said was there are those who need to be watched. The subject of watching those we fear, has been for many years one of those things that happens.

    Again, I state it is of little use after the event.

  • This is clearly an issue where principles are important and I have no doubt that principled liberals should stand against this draft legislation. However there are also powerful practical reasons against. Jack Timms above has the key point –
    “The Communications and Data Bill gathers a massive amount of unnecessary information on the whole population. It is a sledgehammer to crack a nut. There is no evidence that it would have stopped the attack. The resources diverted with regard to the Communications Bill will take away resources from legitimate intelligence work.”

    It is becoming ever clearer as information on the main Woolwich suspects unfolds that once again the authorities have failed to join the dots about at least one of the two – perhaps understandably when one considers the thousands of people on their books whose behaviour is causing concern. . Unquestionably this would become immensely more difficult (perhaps impossible) if suddenly the records of every person in the UK had to be trawled through.

  • Why has Alex Carlile formed a company called SC Strategy with the ex head of the security services John Scarlett?

  • In reply to Mike Lewis:- Would that be the same John Scarlett who was appointed to the board of Times Newspaper Holdings on 28/1/11 by Rupert Murdoch, along with Rebecca Brooks and a couple of Tory peers? Or could it be the Sir John Scarlett who was described to the Iraq enquiry as a mate of Alastair Campbells?

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