Our letter in today’s Daily Mail – with more signatures added!

Here is the letter which is printed in today’s Daily Mail. It was originally sent to the Times, but they refused us. The Daily Mail has run a long-standing campaign against the Justice and Security Bill. We may not like much of what they say, but on this issue the Mail is absolutely right.

I’ve added in the signatures we received after the noon deadline. There are now 130 Liberal Democrat members, peers, MEPs, Councillors, local party chairs and officers and campaigners who are calling for all MPs to do the right thing when the Justice and Security Bill is debated this afternoon.

Letter to the Daily Mail 4th March 2013

Dear Sir,

We are writing to urge all MPs to do the right thing by voting against Part II of the Justice and Security Bill when it has its Report stage in the Commons today.

The Justice and Security Bill runs a coach and horses through fair trial guarantees which have been part of our country’s constitution since the Civil War and which were first enshrined in the Magna Carta. The secret court measures contained in the Bill could even apply to habeas corpus proceedings.

The stakes for our country could not be higher. The “War on Terror” led to many mistakes: liberty was sacrificed in the name of security. This led directly to British agents facilitating kidnap and torture such as the cases of Binyam Mohammed and Abdul-Hakim Belhaj. For those who are victims of such crimes to be shut out of the trials of their own claims for damages runs totally contrary to any notion of justice.

As the Special Advocates reiterated last week, the case for this Bill has not been made. The Joint Committee on Human Rights reported on 28th February 2013 that the government has failed to meet its requirements to make “Closed Material Procedures” less unfair.

We call on all MPs now to act before it is too late, and they become complicit in irrevocable damage to our constitution.

This issue goes beyond party politics. However, as Liberal Democrats the protection of civil liberties is of crucial importance. We are looking to Nick Clegg to lead the Liberal Democrat MPs in opposition to the Bill. Opposition to Part II is what liberal democracy demands of us. Secret courts must not form any part of the legacy of a government in which Liberal Democrats have a role.

Yours faithfully,

 

  1. Jo Shaw, Member of Liberal Democrat Federal Executive, London
  2. Martin Tod, Member of Liberal Democrat Federal Executive, Winchester
  3. Sarah Ludford MEP
  4. David Howarth, Cambridge
  5. Lord Strasburger
  6. Professor Philippe Sands QC, Camden
  7. Sandra Gidley, Romsey
  8. Robin Meltzer, Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, Richmond
  9. Elaine Bagshaw, Federal Executive member, London
  10. Daisy Cooper, Federal Executive member
  11. Mark Pack, Federal Policy Committee member
  12. Gareth Epps, Federal Policy Committee, Social Liberal Forum co-chair
  13. Benjamin Mathis, Hackney
  14. Sally Hooker, Greenwich
  15. Tracy Connell, Newcastle, Regional Officer
  16. Christina Shaw, Leeds NW
  17. David Shaw, Leeds NW
  18. Matt Whayman, Runnymede and Weybridge
  19. Chris Richards, Camden
  20. John L Oakes, London N6
  21. Paula Keaveney, Liverpool, Police and Crime Commissioner candidate, Merseyside
  22. Alix Mortimer, Haringey
  23. Tom Polak – Campaigns Secretary Nottingham Liberal Youth
  24. Rob Knight, Haringey
  25. Caron Lindsay, Member of Liberal Democrat Federal Executive, Livingston
  26. Charlotte Henry, Liberal Reform, Barnet
  27. Gemma Roulston, membership secretary, LDDA
  28. Lady Ellen Dahrendorf, London NW3
  29. Ruth Edmonds, Oxford
  30. Nick Thornsby, Liberal Reform, Rochdale
  31. Geoff Hinchliffe, Shipdham
  32. Peter Lloyd, Birmingham
  33. Councillor Jonathan Bloch
  34. Mark Platt, Westminster & City of London party
  35. Tom Barney
  36. Roger Crouch, Twickenham
  37. Jennifer Liddle, Cambridgeshire
  38. Kirsten de Keyser, Camden
  39. Andrew Brown, Bristol
  40. Simon McGrath, Chair, Merton Liberal Democrats, Liberal Reform
  41. Scott Walker, Nottingham
  42. John Faulkner, Guildford
  43. Kat Dadswell, Liverpool
  44. Cllr James Baker, Calderdale Liberal Democrats.
  45. Emily Fieran-Reed, Islington
  46. Cllr Alaric Rose, Cherwell District Council
  47. David Wright, Harlow
  48. Nick Barlow, Colchester
  49. Tony Miller, President, Ealing Liberal Democrats
  50. Phil Stevens Chair Liberal Democrat Disability Association
  51. Mrs Janet King, Chair, Bromsgrove Liberal Democrats
  52. Corry Cashman, Leighton Buzzard
  53. Prof. Denis Mollison, Musselburgh
  54. Cllr Richard Cheney, Lib Dem Group Leader, Stratford DC
  55. Robert Leslie, Treasurer, Banffshire & Buchan Coast Liberal Democrats
  56. Hannah Bettsworth, Edinburgh South
  57. Simon P. Hughes, Epping Forest, Social Liberal Forum
  58. Richard Broadbent, Sutton
  59. Jonathan Price, London SE24
  60. Chris Smart, Chester
  61. Fionn O’Donovan, Oxford
  62. Richard Lowe
  63. Prateek Buch
  64. Charles Scanlan, London NW8
  65. Chris Nelson, Kettering & Wellingborough
  66. Rev Simon Wilson, Broadland
  67. Peter Brooks
  68. Neville Farmer
  69. Cllr Janet Battye, Liberal Democrat  Leader, Calderdale MBC
  70. Anthony Fairclough, London Region Exec & Merton Borough
  71. Jonathan Calder
  72. David Abrahams, Camden
  73. Richard Morris, Richmond and Twickenham
  74. Alex Marsh, Bristol
  75. Geoff Payne, Hertfordshire
  76. Peter Reisdorf, West Kirby
  77. Bridget Fox, Islington
  78. Paul Wild, Walsall
  79. Lisa Smart, Hazel Grove
  80. Ros Gordon, Hampshire
  81. Patrick Hadfield, Edinburgh
  82. Lancelot Casely-Hayford, Liberal Youth Campaigns Officer
  83. Reece Edmends – Liberal Youth Non-Portfolio Officer
  84. Timothy Oliver, Hull
  85. Ellis R Palmer, Secretary of the Univeristy of Birmingham Liberal Democrats
  86. Robert Pitt, Secretary, Leeds Liberal Youth
  87. Kavya Kaushik, Liberal Youth co-Chair
  88. Joe Donnelly, Chair of Durham University Liberal Democrats
  89. Kevin McNamara, President of University of Kent Liberal Democrats
  90. Sam Fisk, Liberal Youth co-Chair
  91. Jezz Palmer, Youth and Student Rep, Winchester
  92. Conor McKenzie, Harrogate, Liberal Youth International Officer
  93. Ashley Wilkes – President of Lancaster University Liberal Democrats
  94. Jonathan Lancaster, York Outer
  95. Alexander J. Harding Last, Ipswich
  96. Will Fielding, Hull and Hessle Liberal Youth Officer
  97. Harry Matthews, Sheffield
  98. Alex Barry, Norwich
  99. Stuart Wheatcroft, Chair, West Midlands Liberal Youth
  100. James Higgin, Aberdeen
  101. Emma Sandrey, Cardiff Central
  102. Samuel Barratt
  103. Cllr Mathew Hulbert, Barwell, Leicestershire
  104. Dr Maria Pretzler, Swansea & Gower
  105. Katrin McClure, East Yorks
  106. Cllr Keith Moffitt, Leader, Liberal Democrats, Camden
  107. Conor McGovern-Paul, Kingston-upon-Thames
  108. Marek Lipinski, Ealing
  109. Jacquie Bell, Dunbar, Scotland
  110. Brian James Woodcraft,Eltham, London
  111. Jean Evans, Chester
  112. Jason Lower, Tonbridge and Malling
  113. Cllr Terry Stacy, Leader, Islington Liberal Democrats
  114. Adam Bernard, Cambridge
  115. Chris Caswill, Wiltshire
  116. Ed Fordham, Camden
  117. Mike Falchikov, Edinburgh South Lib Dems Exec
  118. Councillor Henry Vann
  119. Dr Clive R Sneddon, St Andrews
  120. Sue Baring, Westminster
  121. Greg Judge, Coventry
  122. Gareth Jones, Maidenhead
  123. Nigel Quinton, Welwyn Hatfield LibDems
  124. Alisdair Calder McGregor, Nottingham
  125. George Potter, Secretary of Guildford Liberal Democrats
  126. Cllr Lyn Barton, Colchester
  127. Maureen de Beer, Harrow
  128. Linda Chung, Lib Dem councillor, Hampstead ward
  129. Tom Simon, Lib Dem councillor Belsize ward
  130. Govert Klaasen, Camden
  131. Angharad Bethan Jones
  132. Lee Dargue
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A chance to listen again to Jo’s excellent interview on the BBC Westminster Hour

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If this is the ‘official line’, then Lib Dem MPs and Ministers are being seriously misled

Many fellow no-to-secret-courts campaigners have emailed their MPs, Liberal Democrat or from other parties, to express opposition to the Justice and Security Bill. We have seen some of the responses. This one came in earlier this week from a Liberal Democrat MP and Minister who shall remain nameless. I was so shocked by the misinformation in the email that I felt it would be useful to respond line by line.

The worst offence against the truth is the suggestion that there is any risk of compensation money finding its way to terrorist organisations (paragraphs 4-6 below). You may have seen Lord Ken Macdonald’s statement on this subject yesterday. Lord Macdonald, the Liberal Democrat peer and former Director of Public Prosecutions completely demolishes this argument which is unworthy of any politician.

The original email (produced in full save for the name at the end) is in black, my comments are in numbered paragraphs and in blue.

RE:  Justice and Security Bill

Thank you for your email regarding the Justice and Security Bill. I can certainly appreciate your concerns about this and as Lib Dems, we have had our own concerns over this Bill. As such we have worked hard to secure major changes to this Bill.

(1)  The government amendments passed in Committee undo those of the Lords which introduced four sensible and clear safeguards. These were passed with overwhelming majorities, by the Lords:

  • That Judges should refuse CMP’s where the public interest in the fair and public administration of justice outweighed the likely damage to national security.
  • A provision that CMPs should be a measure of last resort.
  • That the judge must first consider PII before ordering a CMP.
  • That the citizen must have the same right to apply for a CMP as the State.

These amendments were recommended by the Joint Committee on Human Rights. On 28.02.13 the JCHR reported again on this Bill. The view of the Committee is that the Bill does not meet the standards it requires. In other words, the JCHR does not support the Bill in its current form. It was on the understanding that the JCHR recommendations would be delivered that our peers were persuaded not to vote down clause 6 (which introduces secret courts). The government has failed to stick to its assurances. It now appears equality of arms is included in this Bill which is welcome, but does not make it anything other than a bad Bill.

I completely agree with you that the universal right to a fair trial is one of the central principles of our justice system. It is also clear to me however that the former Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, who has explained that in fact the safeguards we use at the moment to protect sensitive information have “the very unfortunate effect that [neither the claimant nor the defendant can] rely on the material that is in issue”, made a very valid point.

(2)  The letter cites Lord Woolf as if he supports the government’s position on PII. This is wrong.  Lord Woolf voted against the Government in the Lords and in favour of the amendments which the Government is now seeking to scrap.

(3)  The scenario described by Lord Woolf where “both the Claimant and the government want to rely on [the same security sensitive material]”, could probably be dealt with by the use of a confidentiality ring and without a CMP. The CIA and American courts have regularly used confidentiality rings in terrorist cases.

I hope you will agree that this is deeply damaging. It means that some of the actions of our security and intelligence agencies are not being scrutinised in the courts. Former detainees who bring cases against the Government alleging mistreatment are simply not able to access justice properly. And because the Government cannot bring evidence in its defence it is forced to settle claims with individuals whose cases may be spurious. Given that some of those involved in these cases are suspected terrorists there is a high risk that the potentially millions of pounds of pay-outs made could make its way back into funding terrorist activities. This is a quite appalling prospect.

(4)  This is quite wrong. Firstly our security services are being scrutinised by the courts. That is precisely their objection and the reason the security services have been lobbying for years for this Bill to be passed. The cases of Binyam Mohammed and Abdul-Hakim Belhaj are deeply worrying for those who are trying to protect agents who have been complicit in the most serious crimes – kidnap and torture – supposedly to “protect” us.

(5)  It is entirely misleading to suggest that compensation has gone to terrorist activity, or that there is even a risk of this. There is absolutely no evidence that any of the recipients of compensation in the Al Rawi, Binyam Mohammed and Al-Saadi litigation have been charged or convicted of terrorist offences before our courts or are subject to anti-terrorist restrictions.  Mr. Al-Saadi’s wife and young children were rendered to Gaddafi’s Libya. No-one is suggesting that they are terrorists.

(6)  If the Government really thought there was a risk of funding terrorist activities, it could and certainly should have frozen the compensation monies. The UK has some of the broadest asset seizing powers in the world. They did not do so. On 1st March 2013 Liberal Democrat peer and former Director of Prosecutions said Lord Ken Macdonald said:

 “Ken Clarke is being thoroughly misleading. If someone is financing terrorism, the police can arrest them and the CPS can prosecute them, because it’s a crime. This happened all the time when I was DPP. Ministers also possess far-reaching asset-freezing powers that allow the courts to freeze the funds of anyone simply on the basis that they’re suspected of being involved in terrorism.

“The sad truth is that Mr Clarke’s comments look like a smokescreen for plans which are aimed not at keeping the British people safe, but at sparing the embarrassment of the security services when they get mixed up in wrongdoing.

“Instead of promoting this thoroughly un-British legislation, which is designed to make our courts secret as though we were living in Europe in the 1930s, Mr Clarke and his colleagues in government should concentrate on holding the security agencies to account when they break the law.”

So it is clear to me that something must be done to reform the system. The Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson, has confirmed that in this very small number of civil (not criminal) cases “it is preferable that the option of a Closed Material Procedure (CMP) should exist.” I agree with this assessment.

(7)  The claim that the government is forced to settle cases because under PII it cannot defend without damaging national security.  The government initially claimed that there were over 20 such current cases. David Anderson QC, the security-cleared Independent Reviewer of Terrorist Legislation, asked to see them. Permission was refused.  After persistent pressure he was permitted  to see only three examples of damages cases which, as he somewhat drily observed, were “chosen” to “illustrate the government’s point of view”.

(8)  It is therefore incorrect to suggest that David Anderson QC has “confirmed” that there are 20 cases in which CMPs are necessary.  He hasn’t been allowed to see them. This very mistake was made by the Prime Minister in his recent evidence before a Parliamentary Committee.  As the specialist group of security cleared Special Advocates reported: “There is as yet no example of a civil claim involving national security that has proved untriable using PII and the flexible and imaginative use of ancillary procedure”.

(9)  The letter states that without CMP’s we “cannot get to the bottom of… shocking allegations”.  In fact, PII will lead to the disclosure of more material than CMPs. PII revealed MI5’s involvement with CIA rendition in Al Rawi; and PII revealed evidence that our Afghan allies were flogging prisoner transferees with electric cables and steel rods in Serdar Mohamed.  None of this material would have been revealed in a CMP.

I accept that CMPs are not an ideal form of hearing, but in many ways they are less secret than the current safeguards which were so criticised by the former Lord Chief Justice. CMPs ensure that a judge will be able to look at all the facts and provide a judgment on whether the Government is in the wrong or not. It is for that reason that in the past claimants like Maya Evans have consented to having a CMP – she realised that it was the only way of getting her case resolved. There have also been occasions where the Government has lost in Closed Material Proceedings.

(10)                       Maya Evans was not the victim of torture. She is a peace activist who was trying to stop the handover of Afghan detainees to the military officials there. So she had nothing to lose by agreeing to a CMP. That is not the same situation as a person seeking to bring a claim who is the victim of torture or kidnap. The Supreme Court held in Al-Rawi that secret hearings were: “a procedure which would deprive a litigant of his fundamental common law rights”.

However, we must ensure that when CMPs are used it is only if absolutely necessary and that proper safeguards are in place to make sure that this is the case. That is why Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats have secured important changes to this Bill, ensuring full judicial discretion, removing inquests from scope entirely, and restricting the scope of CMPs to national security cases only. Further, we have given judges the power to stop a CMP even after it has started if there is any concern that material of genuine importance to the public interest is being hidden.

(11)                Again, this is incorrect. The Bill as amended, and with the amendments proposed by Ken Clarke on 28.02.13 does not include a “last resort” provision. It does not require the judge to balance the public interest in open and fair justice with the public interest in protecting national security sensitive information.

Liberal Democrats will never sanction any changes which would put the Government above the law. We have already unravelled some of the hugely authoritarian measures enacted by the last Government, from ID Cards to control orders, and we will continue to stand up for human rights in Government.

(12)                Most sadly of all, this is incorrect. This Bill, supported currently by Liberal Democrats, does put the government above the law. That is its specific purpose. This Bill does not stand up for human rights. It provides a mechanism for the state to subvert and ignore our human rights. This Bill runs a coach and horses through the Magna Carta, and fair trial guarantees which have existed since the Civil War. 702 lawyers wrote to oppose the Justice and Security Bill. They said this:

the changes set out in the Justice and Security Bill are contrary to the Rule of Law and should not be brought into force. The plans for secret courts erode core principles of our civil justice system including the right to a fair trial, equality of arms and open justice. They will fatally undermine the court room as an independent and objective forum in which allegations of wrongdoing can be fairly tested and where the Government can be transparently held to account.”

 They are correct. Those who support this Bill are wrong.

While we understand the clear view expressed at Lib Dem Conference to drop Part 2 of the Bill, we have to work with what is possible – there is no Parliamentary majority in either the Lords or Commons to drop Part 2.

(13)                This Bill did not form part of the Coalition Agreement. It was no part of any party’s manifesto for the 2010 General Election. The Bill in its current form fails to deliver the JCHR recommendations. It fails to deliver the amendments sought by our backbenchers in the House of Commons Committee. It fails even to deliver the promises of the (rejected) amendment to the September motion. It fails, of course, to live up to what our party overwhelmingly voted for in September. When our party voted against the Iraq war, or against 42 days detention, or against ID cards, we were not always on the winning side. However we knew we were doing the right thing because we were being true to our core values and our purpose: “to build and safeguard and fair, free and open society”. Our party in parliament is currently failing to live up to what we stand for and is betraying our party and its membership and supporters.

(14)                If Liberal Democrats vote with Labour (as they did in Committee), along with sympathetic Conservatives and nationalists this Bill can be defeated. It is no excuse for our MPs to point the finger at other parties. We are entitled to expect that they will do the right thing and vote in accordance with party policy and our core values to defeat this bad Bill.

Thank you for writing to me about this important issue and please do not hesitate to get in touch again if you would like to discuss this matter or if you think there is anything further I can do as your Parliamentary representative.

Kind regards,

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Congratulations to Mike Thornton MP – but now please vote against secret courts

Yesterday I received a very nice thank you email from Mike Thornton, the newest Liberal Democrat MP, after his victory in Eastleigh on Thursday.

One of Mike’s first jobs as MP is likely to be voting on the Justice and Security Bill Report stage which has been rushed into the Commons to start on Monday (4th March) and finish on Thursday 7th. Astonishingly I’ve been told the rush is to avoid a potentially difficult Lib Dem Conference motion getting in the way of the government’s plans!

This is my reply to Mike Thornton’s thank you email:

Dear Mike,

Congratulations on your well-deserved victory. I know you will make an excellent MP for the people of Eastleigh. I was delighted to be able to campaign for you. I hope to see you at Conference.

Before Conference the Justice and Security Bill enters Report stage in the Commons on Monday 4th March (this week) which I presume will be your first day in your new job! You may know that at our Conference in September the party overwhelmingly voted to reject Part II of this Bill which introduces secret courts into ordinary civil claims. It undermines centuries of fair trial protections. It is unnecessary, unfair and unbalanced. It is neither liberal nor democratic. It is a toolkit for coverups. It means that rotten apples in our security services will be able to break the law and not be found out by the courts.

Mike, please let one of your first acts as MP for Eastleigh to stand up for our party’s values and vote against this Bill. It will be a disaster for our country if this becomes law.

On Monday please vote against Part II of the Justice and Security Bill, in line with the many hundreds of Liberal Democrats who voted on this at our last Conference, and who campaigned for your election.

Congratulations once again, and best wishes,

 

Jo Shaw

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More evidence of British complicity in torture

Channel 4 news on Friday contained a report by Kevin Toolis about Abdul-Hakim Belhaj.

http://www.channel4.com/news/new-evidence-of-uk-complicity-in-libya-torture

Belhaj is the Libyan man, now a member of the post-Gadaffi government, who was kidnapped and returned to Libya in 2004 with the complicity of British security services personnel. He is now suing Jack Straw and the British government for damages for the torture he sustained on his return.

There has been an unseemly rush to complete the progress of the Justice and Security Bill through parliament. The main reason is the claims brought by Belhaj and others. If the Bill passes in its current (or even JCHR amended) form, Mr Belhaj’s claim will almost certainly be dealt with by a CMP, and the true extent of the involvement of the British government in his torture and kidnap will never be known. We understand the Bill is due to go into Report stage in the House of Commons in the week commencing 25th February – Eastleigh by-election week.

Toolis’ excellent report shows the level and extent of British complicity in torture, and the assistance being given to Gadaffi in finding and tracking down the people who opposed him, all over the world. It is shocking and a must-see.

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OSF publishes damning report on CIA, rendition, detention and UK involvement

This week the Open Society Foundation published its report: Globalizing Torture – CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition.

http://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/reports/globalizing-torture-cia-secret-detention-and-extraordinary-rendition

As well as setting out the CIA’s human rights abuses, the report details the 54 countries who assisted and participated in these operations. Sadly, as we know, the UK is one of the 54, along with

Afghanistan, Algeria, Australia, Canada, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Libya, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, and Zimbabwe

It is a proven fact that our government has facilitated torture and rendition. In order for human rights abuses to stop, our society needs the means to establish what has happened, who is responsible, and to bring them to account. The Justice and Security Bill is an attack on the principles of open justice, a free press and equality of arms. It is specifically designed to prevent exposure of the facts of torture and kidnap. The aim of Part II of the Bill is to stop disclosure of the unpalatable facts of the “War on Terror” being known.

The OSF report makes recommendations to the US government and to the governments of the 54 states involved. The most relevant of these to our campaign are:

3. Disclose information relating to human rights violations associated with
CIA secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations, including but
not limited to the identities of all individuals subjected to secret detention
and extraordinary rendition operations along with available information
on their detention and treatment, current whereabouts, and diplomatic
assurances secured in particular cases.

4. Conduct effective and thorough investigations (including, where
appropriate, criminal investigations) into the full range of human rights
abuses associated with CIA secret detention and extraordinary rendition
operations, with a view to examining and publicly disclosing the role
of, and holding legally accountable, officials who authorized, ordered,
assisted, or otherwise participated in these abuses.

5. Provide appropriate compensation to all individuals subjected to secret
detention and extraordinary rendition operations in which the particular
government participated.

In other words – NO SECRET COURTS!

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Thank you to Julian and Mike

A big thank you to Julian Huppert and Mike Crockart for everything they fought for today on Secret Courts.  They’re still in the thick of committee stage on the bill with important votes still to come, but this report from Lib Dem Voice highlights how hard they are fighting:

Mike Crockart and I just called a vote to remove secret courts from the Justice and Security Bill, in line with Conference’s motion.

Despite highlighting in the debate that they supported closed proceedings in principle, Labour saw an opportunity to make mischief and eventually backed us. But due to DUP support for the Tories, we lost 10-9.

I’ll give a fuller update to everyone concerned soon. Suffice to say there will be more crucial votes to come on the Committee, and the Government has to move or the Bill will not pass as is.

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Members’ letters to Nick Clegg and other Liberal Democrat MPs

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.

Dear Nick,

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/news/secret-courts-unjust-warns-law-society. Are you going to ignore all of them for the quick fix policies of Ken Clarke and Theresa May?

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/publications/reports/neither-just-nor-secure/ sums it up. Lord Pannick feels the same way, calling the Bill “unnecessary, unfair and unbalanced.”

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.

Yours sincerely,

Neville Farmer

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.


Regards,
David Wright

Harlow

Dear Nick
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.org.uk . You should also, by now, be aware of the strengths of the arguments which demonstrate as Lord Pannick said, that this Bill is “unnecessary, unfair and unbalanced”. As the leader of the Liberal Democrat party, you must also know the core values at stake, for our party as well as our country.

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/publications/reports/neither-just-nor-secure/. It is deeply disappointing for a member of the Liberal Democrats to see a Conservative MP leading the fight against this repressive, unnecessary and unfair legislation which contradicts Liberal Democrat core values so profoundly. I would have hoped that this fight would have been led by Liberal Democrat MPs and not MPs from other parties.

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.

Yours sincerely,

Gemma Roulston

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Jo’s reply to Nick Clegg’s “Letter from the Leader” today

Dear Nick,

Thank you for your letter today about childcare. I welcome your work in this vital area.

I have noted from your letter your concern for new policy areas regarding civil liberties. You may recall I wrote to you in December on the subject of civil liberties when your letter referred to the equal marriage legislation and the Communications Data Bill, but not to the Justice and Security Bill.

You are aware of the strength of feeling in the party about this Bill. Our party voted democratically and overwhelmingly against the Bill’s extension of secret courts to any civil case. You should also, by now, be aware of the strengths of the arguments which demonstrate, as Lord Pannick said, that this Bill is “unnecessary, unfair and unbalanced”. As Liberal Democrat leader, you must also know the core values at stake, for our party as well as for our country.

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/publications/reports/neither-just-nor-secure/. It is deeply disappointing for Liberal Democrats to see a Conservative MP leading the fight against this repressive, unnecessary and unfair legislation which contradicts Liberal Democrat core values so profoundly.

The Justice and Security Bill could not have more serious implications for civil liberties in the UK. 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 by early March, in advance of our Spring Conference.

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, but I have examined the government’s proposed amendments (tabled in response to the 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 dispute) then they can and should be available on the same terms for all.

2. Additionally the government’s amendment 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 interest in fair and open justice is not considered in deciding whether or not to order a CMP. This is wrong in principle.

3. The government amendments 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.

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.

Yours sincerely,

Jo Shaw

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What the MPs have said so far…

So… we asked all our MPs what they thought of the ‘Secret Courts Bill’.

Where did they come out?

For almost all of them… it’s a secret!

MP Constituency Response
Danny Alexander Inverness, Nairn, and Badenoch & Strathspey No answer. It’s a secret.
Norman Baker Lewes No answer. It’s a secret.
Sir Alan Beith Berwick upon Tweed No answer. It’s a secret.
Gordon Birtwhistle Burnley No answer. It’s a secret.
Tom Brake Carshalton and Wallington “I am following Nick’s lead on this.”
Annette Brooke Mid Dorset and Poole North No answer. It’s a secret.
Jeremy Browne Taunton No answer. It’s a secret.
Malcolm Bruce Gordon No answer. It’s a secret.
Paul Burstow Sutton and Cheam Holding response received 17.12.12 – awaiting full reply. Currently, it’s a secret.
Lorely Burt Solihull No answer. It’s a secret.
Vince Cable Twickenham No answer. It’s a secret.
Menzies Campbell North East Fife No answer. It’s a secret.
Alistair Carmichael Orkney and Shetland No answer. It’s a secret.
Nick Clegg Sheffield Hallam Supports Government Bill.
Mike Crockart Edinburgh West “Supports Bill with JCHR amendments”. On the Bill Committee. Proposing amendments in line with the JCHR report.
Edward Davey Kingston and Surbiton No answer. It’s a secret.
Tim Farron Westmoreland and Lonsdale No answer. It’s a secret.
Lynne Featherstone Hornsey and Wood Green No answer. It’s a secret.
Don Foster Bath No answer. It’s a secret.
Andrew George St Ives No answer. It’s a secret.
Stephen Gilbert St Austell and Newquay No answer. It’s a secret.
Duncan Hames Chippenham No answer. It’s a secret.
Mike Hancock Portsmouth North No answer. It’s a secret.
Nick Harvey North Devon No answer. It’s a secret.
David Heath Somerton and Frome No answer. It’s a secret.
John Hemming Birmingham Yardley No answer. But the only Lib Dem MP to vote against the second reading of the Bill.
Martin Horwood Cheltenham “… minded to support the Bill at second reading”
Simon Hughes Southwark and Bermondsey No answer. It’s a secret.
Chris Huhne Eastleigh No answer. It’s a secret.
Mark Hunter Cheadle No answer. It’s a secret.
Julian Huppert Cambridge On the Bill Committee. Proposing amendments in line with the JCHR report.
Charles Kennedy Ross, Skye and Lochaber No answer. It’s a secret.
Norman Lamb North Norfolk No answer. It’s a secret.
David Laws Yeovil No answer. It’s a secret.
John Leech Manchester Withington No answer. It’s a secret.
Stephen Lloyd Eastbourne No answer. It’s a secret.
Michael Moore Tweeddale, Ettrick & Lauderdale No answer. It’s a secret.
Greg Mulholland Leeds North West No answer. It’s a secret.
Tessa Munt Wells Won’t reply as not asked by constituent. It’s a secret.
John Pugh Southport No answer. It’s a secret.
Alan Reid Argyll and Bute Won’t reply as not asked by constituent. It’s a secret.
Dan Rogerson North Cornwall No answer. It’s a secret.
Bob Russell Colchester Won’t reply as not asked by constituent. It’s a secret.
Adrian Sanders Torbay No answer. But signed the Secret Courts petition.
Sir Robert Smith West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine No answer. It’s a secret.
Andrew Stunell Hazel Grove Won’t reply as not asked by constituent. It’s a secret.
Ian Swales Redcar No answer. It’s a secret.
Jo Swinson East Dunbartonshire No answer. It’s a secret.
Sarah Teather Brent East No answer. It’s a secret.
John Thurso Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross No answer. It’s a secret.
David Ward Bradford East No answer. It’s a secret.
Steve Webb Thornbury and Yate No answer. It’s a secret.
Roger Williams Brecon and Radnorshir No answer. It’s a secret.
Stephen Williams Bristol West No answer. It’s a secret.
Mark Williams Ceredigion No answer. It’s a secret.
Jenny Willott Central Cardiff No answer. It’s a secret.
Simon Wright Norwich South No answer. It’s a secret.
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