Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

Exclusive: Senior Lib Dems push for changes to secret courts bill

Senior Lib Dem MPs are deeply concerned about the government’s plans for secret courts, and will urge the government to accept changes made to the legislation in the House of Lords, I understand.

The Justice and Security Bill will have its second reading in the House of Commons in the next few weeks, fresh from a series of embarrassing defeats on the secret courts measures in the House of Lords. Ken Clarke has said that some of the amendments brought in the upper chamber will need modifying at the very least. But the Liberal Democrat grassroots have been lobbying their parliamentarians to drop the Bill entirely ever since their conference voted on a motion calling for just that in September.

Deputy Leader Simon Hughes, who sits on the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which recommended the amendments passed by peers, has told Coffee House that he wants the government to accept the changes when the Bill comes before the House. He says:

‘Clearly the Bill had some proposals which were rightly the cause of some concern. The House of Lords made significant amendments after this bill was considered by the Joint Committee on Human Rights. The government should now accept these amendments when they come to the House of Commons for further consideration.’

The party’s president Tim Farron tells me he is also concerned about the proposals, and has been holding meetings with campaigners.

The changes made in the House of Lords would give judges more power to decide whether a court should sit in secret, and restrict the government’s power over the use of covert intelligence in civil cases.

But grassroots members will not be satisfied if the government accepts the amendments and then continues with the legislation: they want it dropped altogether.

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