Posted below are some of the letters Liberal Democrat members have sent to their MP / Nick Clegg over the past days asking for them to oppose Part II of the Justice and Security Bill. We will add more as we get the authors’ permission.
You have often told me that you always listen to the party membership. You have long stated that you are a Liberal Democrat to the core. I also understand the extraordinary strength of resolve you need to do your job. However, if you continue to support either the Justice and Security Bill as it stood or as it has been amended, you will betray everything the Liberal Democrats stand for, demonstrate that you may hear but do not heed what the party says (remember the clear mandate you were given at party conference) and show little resolve other than to turn your back on the people who fought to get you elected and the principles of justice on which this party and, indeed, this nation are built.
Sadly, it seems that the police and secret services lobby gets a better hearing than we do. Have you forgotten the shockingly bad “intelligence” our agencies provided to lead us into the Iraq War – a war you called “illegal”. Can you honestly say you trust them implicitly in the face of so much highly respected opposition? Surely, you remember that there are times when democracy is designed to protect the people from its own government agencies. I hope you will not simply shrug me off when I suggest this is such a moment. I am not someone you can pass off as not understanding the big picture. On the contrary. That is exactly what the government is doing. This is solving the relatively small problem of the cost of compensation to the likes of Binyam Mohammed by squandering centuries of hard-fought British justice. Please stop it and find a better solution. I am not being naive. I am an intelligent member of this party and I am one of many. I hope and pray that you will genuinely hear us and stand with us.
It is not merely a few “wishy washy liberals” who feel that the concept of secret courts is a triumph of security services over justice. It is judges, barristers, the Lords and commons politicians of every colour. It is the charities who fight for justice, such as Liberty, Reprieve, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty. It is policy think tanks. It is the Law Society http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/
Part II of the Bill is blatantly contrary to the principles of the International Convention on Human Rights and our own Human Rights Act, which you said would be a deal-breaker of the coalition if the Tories tried to unravel it. It is therefore shocking to see you willing to support the Bill while a Tory MP outstrips us on civil rights. The article by Andrew Tyrie MP and Tony Peto QC – “Neither Just Nor Secure” http://www.cps.org.uk/
I know that Jo Shaw has written to you to explain why the amendments to Part II are even worse than the original Bill. I urge you with all due respect to consider hard what you are leading our party into and to consider whether, far from winning any war on terror, supporting this Bill is capitulating to it.
I beg you to reconsider and to allow our MPs the freedom to express their conscience. A temporary government is not worth such a permanent surrender to injustice. Show Britain that sense of resolve, that core of Liberal Democracy, that ability to listen, hear and heed and fight this disgraceful Bill.
Dear Bob, Norman, Julian and Simon –
I am writing to ask that you OPPOSE Part II of the Justice and Security Bill which allows evidence to be given in secret in our courts which is not revealed to the defendant and his/her lawyer.
This is a grossly illiberal proposal which was comprehensibly opposed by our Party Conference, yet most of our MPs are unwilling to say if they will vote against it. I understand that you have a meeting on Monday, where I hope you will all decide to do the right thing and resolve to throw out this measure.
It has been said that the voting public doesn’t care about secret courts; maybe so. But many Liberal Democrat members do, and we care a great deal. If our MPs support this measure, the party will lose many more members, and those who remain will be less likely to be active.
As you know, I have been a member of the Party for many years, and I have campaigned for some 50 years to help elect MPs and Councillors from Eastbourne to Glasgow, but particularly in our Region. I was one of many who helped Bob and Norman get elected, and since then have helped in Norwich elections and Cambridge campaign days. I spent this morning knocking on doors in Epping for our County Councillor there, and this afternoon printing leaflets for Saffron Walden Liberal Democrats. I would like to carry on helping elect Liberal Democrats, but if they act illiberally and against Party policy once elected what is the point?
I pledge that if Part II of the Justice and Security Bill is passed with Liberal Democrat support, I shall no longer campaign for any MP who voted for it.
I do not think I am the only one to feel this way.
Please don’t let it come to this. Tell Nick Clegg he must tell Cameron to drop this bill, or see it defeated in the House.
Thank you for your letter about childcare. I am pleased to see your work in this vital area.
I would like to write to you about something which is quite important, and that is secret courts.
You say that you are concerned for new policy regarding in the area civil liberties, and that you are a liberal democrat to the core, and yet you seem to be willing to support the Justice and Security Bill. At the last Autumn Conference in Brighton, a vote was held to see if the party agreed with Bill’s extension of secret courts to any civil courts was overwhelmingly and democratically defeated.If you want to get a feel of how strong people feel about this subject, then please have a look at the following website, www.libdemsagainstsecretcourts
You may have this week, seen the excellent article by Andrew Tyrie MP and Tony Peto QC – “Neither Just Nor Secure” http://www.cps.org.uk/
The Justice and Security Bill could not have more serious implications for civil liberties in the UK. We were quite rightly against identity cards, but we seem to be happy with this. It is essential that it does not become law. Time is running out. My understanding is that the Bill is likely to conclude its process through parliament, in the lead up to the Spring Conference in Brighton.
As you will know, the Bill is now being debated in Committee in the Commons. those who support CMPs say they will mean fairer cases and more trials being held with all the information being available to the judge. I completely disagree with this Bill on principle, and with the basis for those arguments. Jo Shaw has examined the proposed amendments (tabled in response tot he Joint Committee for Human Rights recommendations and Lords amendments) for the Committee stage with them in mind.
1. The Government ‘s proposed amendments to the Bill make the rules different for civilians and the government when applying for a closed hearing . There can be absolutely no justification for this. If CMPs (secret courts) are fair – which I do not believe and dispute, then they can and should be available on the same terms for all. By having different rules for civilians and another set for government, it shows that these courts are not fair or equal. We are all supposed to be all equal before the law, aren’t we?
2. Additionally the government’s amendments removes the test of last resort for CMPs, and removes the balancing test for the judge between the sometimes conflicting public interests in protecting national security absolutely, and fair and open administration of justice. The new test is simply “fair and effective administration of justice in the proceedings”. In other words, the wider public is fair and open justice is not considered in deciding whether or not to order a CMP. This is wrong in principle.
3. The government amendment also mean that confidentiality rings (a means of protecting national security without going to the lengths of secret courts) are unavailable. This makes CMPs more likely in a larger number of cases.
The government amendments were a test of the good faith of those who support this Bill. That test has been failed. The government amendments make this Bill worse, not better.
The proposed bill will make torture, and other things that happen in other countries happen in this country. Do you really want that? Is that the legacy in the field of civil liberties that you want to leave behind?
Please use your role as Deputy Prime Minister and act now to stop Part II of this illiberal and offensive Bill. History will not forgive our party or indeed this parliament if it becomes law.