We have been working hard this week and over this weekend continue to make the case to scrap Part II of the Bill.
Depressingly, not only has the UK been criticised in the Russian media for our “hidden justice” this week but today in the Mail (I know), the Conservative MP David Davis has asked “What is the point of the Liberal Democrats if they don’t oppose secret courts?”
Notwithstanding the glee of our opponents, the campaign continues. We have met with very senior party figures this week and explained to them how serious our opposition to the Bill is.
On Monday the Report Stage of the Justice and Security Bill starts. It is likely to go over into Wednesday. Also tomorrow the peers have a meeting to discuss this Bill alone. So this weekend we are making sure peers know, in advance of their meeting, that the membership of the party is opposed to these illiberal unnecessary and unfair proposals.
The Liberal Democrat hero of the week is Lord Paul Strasburger. As you may recall, Lord Strasburger spoke very powerfully in the Conference debate in opposing the Bill. He has now signed an amendment which removes clause 6 (which introduces secret courts in civil proceedings). I understand this amendment has also been signed by Baroness Helena Kennedy who sits on the Joint Committee of Human Rights. This shows the level of disagreement within the committee on the Bill. Lord Strasburger has also put in an amendment which would have the effect of delaying the commencement of the Bill until 2015 and only then when the case has been made and debated by both Houses of Parliament that the measures are necessary.
The JCHR report came out, very late, on Tuesday. The JCHR has proposed amendments (currently rejected by the government) which are disappointing. They appear to be an attempt to water down the Bill, but they do not go as far as our campaign. The amendments still permit secret courts in UK proceedings.
We are intent on seeing off these proposals. It would be a tragedy for our party if Liberal Democrat peers were this week whipped to vote in favour of secret courts. This must not happen.