Lib Dem peers help inflict defeats on Government in Lords over secret courts plans

by Stephen Tall on November 21, 2012

On Sunday we reported that Lib Dem members were none-too-impressed with the Government’s plans for secret courts. This morning we reported that 172 Lib Dems had written to The Times to protest. This evening the Lib Dem battle found its voice in the House of Lords, as the Guardian reports:

Government proposals to expand secret courts suffered a series of damaging defeats in the House of Lords on Wednesday, significantly narrowing the scope of the justice and security bill. By margins of more than a hundred votes, peers opposed to the bill significantly limited the government’s power to control the deployment of secret intelligence in civil courts and gave judges’ greater independence. … The defeats will send a powerful message to both the House of Commons and the government. In a sign of tension within the coalition, the Liberal Democrat leader and deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, has already indicated he believes the bill requires improvement. …

There were signs of cooperation between Labour and Liberal Democrats to rewrite central sections of the controversial legislation. During the debate, Lord Beecham, the peer leading for Labour in the upper chamber, praised the stance adopted by Clegg, who supports changes to the bill.

On Wednesday, Clegg backed criticisms of the bill made by parliament’s joint committee on human rights (JCHR), which suggested giving judges greater discretion and narrowing the scope of the bill. The Liberal Democrat leader said: “I am very sympathetic to a lot of what the committee says, and the government are considering its amendments with an open and, in many respects, sympathetic mind. I hope that we will be able to amend the bill to allay those concerns in line with many of the recommendations made by the joint committee on human rights.”

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.