David Laws to move conference motion proposing an end to secret courts

The Lib Dem conference in Glasgow will include a debate on the party’s manifesto themes document. It contains some very interesting details on civil liberties, which should be read in the context not only of this being the manifesto prequel but also being a document with a foreword by Nick Clegg and being moved at conference by David Laws.

These, then, are words that both Clegg and Laws have closely scrutinised and are putting their name to in public. And what do the words say about secret courts?

We will find practical alternatives to the use of closed material proceedings within the justice system, including the provisions of the Justice and Security Act 2013, with the aim of restoring the principle of open justice.

As with the David Miranda case (where the party wants the controversial Schedule 7 reviewed), it looks like the party will end up saying mostly the right thing – but good politics and good government is about more than getting to the right place eventually. That said, ending up with the right policies is far better than the alternative.

On other issues where civil liberties and technology collide, it says:

We will press ahead with open data reforms, consider adding a public interest defence to the Computer Misuse Act, fully review the legal powers of surveillance for a digital age, and permit intercept evidence in court while requiring judicial warrants for interception.

I’m also particularly glad to see this second set of wording as the inclusion of such commitments was something I, Julian Huppert and others have been pushing for.

The next edition of my monthly Liberal Democrat Newswire, out later this week, looks at party conference in more detail. Sign up here to make sure you don’t miss out on it.

4 responses to “David Laws to move conference motion proposing an end to secret courts”

  1. “David Laws to move conference motion proposing an end to secret courts” – except that really isn’t what the quoted text says.

  2. purpleohms glynmoody markpack Clearly this needs to be stated as one of the “red lines” they wouldn’t compromise on cc julianhuppert

  3. Chris Richards is right. The motion doesn’t say scrapping secret courts, and I will be very interested to see what alternative measures they come up with to reinstate open justice (clearly they accept that this has ended open justice, one of the two fundamentals of natural justice). I would suggest a healthy degree of scepticism is employed in examining the detail of what comes out of this, and that people within the party take advice from experts (eg Special Advocates or the like) to see what the effect in practice will be of any suggested changes. The risk you run is of the leadership saying “Look we’ve passed this so we are the champions of civil liberties again” and convincing absolutely noone thereby compounding the problem.

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