Ad-Lib Article: Giving Football Fans The Right To Stand Safely At Games.

At conference, on Tuesday morning, the party will be holding a debate called “Reclaiming the People’s Game”. That will build on current Liberal Democrat policy and our Manifesto commitment to allow Premier League football clubs to introduce Safe Standing.

First, I must begin by declaring an interest. I’ve been a season ticket holder at Manchester City for over 30 years, and have watched games at 45 different league grounds over the years.

I have seen the highs and (very many more) lows- relegation to the third tier and away trips to Oxford Utd’s old ground (probably the worst ground I have visited) and Grimsby Town and their inflatable haddocks. But more recently winning the title twice in the last three years.

I was a football fan before I was a politician and probably more of a fan than the average MP. I am also a member of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, and the Party spokesperson on Sport. I am a Liberal Democrat because I believe in freedom of the individual and personal choice. We believe that football clubs should be allowed to introduce safe standing areas where there is a desire to do so. Safe standing is allowed in many other sports and in football in places like Germany, the USA and Australia. Why should the two top tiers of football over here be any different?

For years, very few of us would talk about safe standing. A generation of football fans were scarred by the tragedy at Hillsborough, when 96 innocent Liverpool fans died.

After the Hillsborough tragedy, the metal fences, erected in response to the hooliganism in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, came down, and all-seater stadia were introduced. But the recent report into Hillsborough did not blame the disaster on the fact that there were terraces, they rightly blamed poor decision-making by those in charge of the emergency services. But Hillsborough did not bring an end to standing at football. People continued to stand and despite efforts by some clubs to force people to sit down, those efforts have been a complete failure.

Safe Standing is not a return to the terraces of the 1980s. Nobody is proposing the reintroduction of vast terraces like the Kop, or the Kippax or the Stretford End. We want to see the introduction of modern safe standing areas using ‘rail seating’, which operate very successfully in top-tier football across Europe. Rail seating provides a rail on each level, so that people cannot be pushed forward into the person in front, but also has seats attached to the rail, so that safe standing areas can easily be converted into seating areas for European matches that require all seater stadia. This is significantly safer than the current situation where thousands of football fans stand up every week at every premier league ground in areas that are not designed to stand up.

Safe standing areas improve the atmosphere and contribute to a better match day experience. When asked in a recent poll by the Football Supporters’ Federation, over 70% of fans stated that they liked to stand because it created a better atmosphere, and  9 out of 10 supporters wanted to have the choice between sitting and standing.

When clubs & fans are in favour of safe standing and it can be done safely, then why should the Government get in the way? Particularly when safe standing will actually improve safety at football grounds. That is why Liberal Democrats want to change the law.

A standing season ticket at Bayern Munich starts £150. Recently, I went to see City play Borussia Dortmund at their stadium. For league games, Dortmund operate safe standing, with tickets from about 14 Euros (£12.50) and this gives them a capacity of 80,600 (15,000 more than for Champions League Games).

Safe standing offers supporters more choice, a better atmosphere and potentially cheaper tickets, particularly if introduced in conjunction with our conference policy motion that would compel clubs to provide a certain proportion of tickets at an affordable level. It is long overdue, and I am very proud that once again the Liberal Democrats are leading the way by being the first political party to commit to delivering this.


House Magazine Hinterland Column: Why I Love Football.

It is rare that you get a job in politics that covers all your major interests outside politics.

As Lib Dem spokesperson on culture, media and sport I have that honour. How many politicians can say that attending a sporting event is part of their job?

I have always loved sport. My love of football started at age five, when my dad took me to see Manchester City at Maine Road. By the age of thirteen I had season ticket and I still have mine 31 seasons later. Of course, now we are successful, but I remember the wilderness years. Trekking around away grounds in the 3rd tier of English football, I’ve managed to visit 46 league stadiums if you include the ones that do not exist anymore.

Like most City fans, I am a pessimistic football fan by nature. Who can blame me give our track record?  I remember my first visit to Wembley, to watch the 1999 second division play-off against Gillingham. Two nil down with five minutes left- Paul Dickov equalised in the 5th minute of injury time to take it to penalties.

My favourite City player is Shaun Goater. I met him at a celebration of the 100thanniversary of the PFA in Manchester Town Hall and told him he was my hero. His wife quickly chimed in that I didn’t have to live with him! That same night I argue with Terry Venables that if Ryan Giggs had played for England not Wales we could have won Euro 1996.

Like most football fans, I love playing too.  When I was at school all I ever wanted to do was play sport all day long particularly football.  I kept the football up at University, into my twenties and thirties, playing 5-a-side and Sunday league.  I once scored a triple hat-trick of nine goals in an empathic 10-1 win, the tenth goal was my assist, well it was goal bound shot until someone stuck a foot out and claimed it as their own.  Those heady University days are long gone and now I find myself playing up front for the parliamentary football team.

I’ve swapped the boggy pitches of Sunday league football for Wembley and Stamford Bridge.  In my twenties I played Sunday league against players twice my age, I now find myself up against players half my age or ex-professionals who may have lost some of their pace but their touch has never left them!

When I watched my beloved City in 99’ I never imagined I would get the chance to play on that famous turf myself.  My claim to fame is scoring through the legs of Everton and Wales Goalkeeping legend Neville Southall at Wembley.  I have also played alongside Kenny Dalglish.  Inconsistent is a term that has often been used to describe my footballing abilities and I work on a numbers game, definitely more Shaun Goater than Sergio Aguero.  I have three golden boots for being top scorer, along with three awards for “miss of the season”.  If you keep shooting eventually one of them will go in.

Although most of us in the parliamentary team are pretty average, a few, like Jim Murphy, have real talent.  The only consistency is enthusiasm.


Advertiser Column: Why Scotland Has Sparked An Important Debate On Devolution.

I am half Scottish (my mum is from Glasgow) and I am really happy that Scotland voted to stay as part of the UK last week. However, their debate has raised important issues for places like Manchester.

No-one can argue that this Government has not given extra powers to the Manchester City Region. The City Deal, led on by Deputy PM Nick Clegg, was described as a “Game Changer” by Manchester’s Chief Executive, Sir Howard Bernstein. The deal gives Manchester more power over Housing, jobs, infrastructure, Training and Transport

And no-one can argue that this government has not supported big infrastructure projects.

The North West is having 40 projects funded this year, creating some 20,000 jobs. Schemes include the funding the Metrolink to Didsbury and Chorlton, (despite Labour cancelling it twice). It includes funding HS2, creating some 60,000 jobs in the North, despite some wobbles from some Tories in the South and Labour MP’s looking for an easy target to cut.

It also means £600m for the Northern Hub, £20 million to improve cycling, and unemployment down by 1000 in my constituency since this time last year.

All this is good, but I believe we need to go further. We must remember that the UK still has one of the most centralised governments in the world.

I believe that decisions should be made at the most appropriate level. Sometimes that will be at National or European level, sometimes it would be a City Region, Council, Ward on even estate level.

That does not mean that we need lots of new tiers of Governance and more politicians- most people would not be in favour of that. But we need to enhance accountability at all levels.

It cannot be right that the SNP led Scottish Government takes credit for everything that goes right in Scotland  but blames the Government (or last government) when anything goes wrong.

Similarly, the Manchester Labour run council can’t repackage £1billion of extra Government spend in Manchester as their own, yet pretend they are not in charge when Ofsted say that child safeguarding procedures are inadequate.

The vote in Scotland gives an opportunity to rebalance powers and responsibility across the regions and nations. It is a debate that has been a long time coming.


Advertiser Column: Lib Dem School Dinners Plan Saves £400 Per Year For 13,000 Manchester Parents.

The new school term started last week and so did the Lib Dem policy of providing every child in infant school in England with a free school meal.

If you are one of the 13,000 Manchester parents that have a 5, 6 or 7 year old child at school and used to pay for their school dinners, this will save you about £400 a year per child.

Manchester Council’s catering company, Manchester Fayre, have taken on 130 new staff to cope with the extra demand created because of these reforms.

This is one of the most important changes in our education system for a generation.

A healthy meal at lunchtime for all children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 will raise school standards and help families save money.

And it would never have happened without the Liberal Democrats in Government, fighting to cut the cost of living.

Universal free school meals have been shown to work in the pilot schemes. Providing children with nutritious and delicious meals gives them the fuel they need to excel both inside and outside the classroom.

It also makes them more likely to opt for fruit and vegetables at lunchtime rather than junk food such as crisps and chocolate

It also does much to tackle child poverty. Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, an independent, non- aligned charity, said:

“The extension of free school meals to all infants in the country is a positive step in the fight against child poverty.

Our analysis shows that about 160,000 more children in poverty will be getting this vital support as a result of this historic move.

It shows that the Government recognises the hardship that thousands of families are facing.”

Nationally, 1.5million children will benefit. Some have criticised the plan, as not every school will be ready with the facilities to provide a hot meal on day one. However, 98.5% of school were ready, with 99.7% ready by next spring.

This proposal, together with the pupil premium which has led to an extra £20m to Manchester schools, are two policies of which I am very proud.


Advertiser Column: Remembering Ww1 At St Chads, Ladybarn

This column appeared in the Advertiser yesterday. For some reason, they left the words in Bold out of the column, even though I was under the word limit for the column. I think it is essential we learn lessons from conflicts both 100 years ago and more recently.

John Leech MP.

 

One hundred years ago saw the beginning of the First World War, a war that changed the way we live today. It is imperative that we remember the past and commemorate those who gave up their lives so we could be free. Organisations and groups up and down the country have staged events to mark the centenary of Britain entry into First World War. These events have been supported by the Government through the Heritage Lottery Funding.

World War 1 was dubbed “The war to end all wars”, and the centenary events are a stark reminder that we have failed to learn the lessons from that war. It focuses our minds on current conflicts throughout the World and the devastation that war brings to the innocent victims of these conflicts.

It is important that politicians play their part in helping deliver peace. Whether that is peace in Gaza, Syria or Iraq and an end to terrible suffering of civilians, or separatism in Ukraine, armed conflict is never the answer.

In Ladybarn I was asked to launch the event to commemorate the men of Ladybarn who lost their lives in WWI at St Chad’s Church. Through a Heritage Lottery Funding grant St Chad’s are staging an exhibition and commemorative book about those men connected with the local area and whose names are recognised on St Chad’s WWI remembrance tablet.

The project brought together people in the community working together to preserve the memories and heritage of local people who lived through the Great War. Volunteers collated photographs, newspaper clippings, documents, keepsakes, as well as family tales passed down to help them build a clear picture of what life was really like.

This project is a fitting memorial to those who made the ultimate sacrifice 100 years ago. It will also be a permanent reminder to future generations of the price local people paid in the war that was supposed to end all wars. Well done to all those who played their part in delivering this legacy.


Advertiser Column: Giving Pensioners More Freedom To Spend Their Own Money

More details of Government pension reforms were made public last week by Lib Dem Pensions Minister Steve Webb.  The major change announced will be that savers are to receive free independent guidance when given access to their pension pots from next year. The advice will be paid for by a levy on regulated financial firms.

Under the current system most people bought an annuity, a pre-set income for life, from a provider when they retired.  However from next April, savers will be able to use their pension money as they see fit, from the age of 55.

The Treasury carried out a consultation after the Budget in March and has now published the final rules for the changes.  It said the plans were “overwhelmingly well received”, with savers backing greater freedom and choice, and the pensions and insurance industry ready to create new products better suiting individuals’ needs.

Some critics claim that the new freedoms could mean people spending large sums early in their retirement and falling back on state support later.  My view is that people have the right to spend their own money as they wish and if you have worked hard, saving for retirement, you are hardly going to be irresponsible in retirement. Especially if you are getting free, impartial advice.  I do not expect to see a whole raft of pensioners driving down Barlow Moor Road in Lamborghinis but I do expect them to have more control over spending their money in the future.

There was more good news for pensioners announced this month as well: pensioners would be guaranteed to earn at least an extra £790 per year by the end of the next parliament under Liberal Democrat manifesto plans.  These changes mean the state pension will be worth at least £131-a-week by 2020, up from just £97.65 four years ago.

Thanks to the Liberal Democrats’ triple lock guarantee, the basic state pension has risen in each year of the last parliament by whichever is the higher of earnings, prices or 2.5%. The triple lock was a key demand from the Liberal Democrats in Coalition negotiations.

This means the state pension is £440 higher per year in 2014-15 than if it had increased in line with earnings from the start of this Parliament, and worth over £800 a year more in total.

Only the Liberal Democrats are committed to write this guarantee into law, giving pensioners more certainty that their pension will continue to rise in future and giving them more choice on how to spend their money.


Advertiser Column: Why I Support A Public Inquiry Into Historic Child Abuse.

Nothing is more important than the protection of children from abuse.  The revelations that have come to light over the last few years have been very serious, stomach-churning allegations.

I am glad the Government has announced there will be independent inquiries into the historic allegations of child abusers linked to Westminster.   Everyone has been shocked by the revelations relating to people in the public eye who have often got away with abusing people over several decades.  The fact that a number of these people have then been brought to justice will hopefully encourage others to come forward knowing that just because the events may have happened a long time ago does not mean they will not be fully investigated and pursued in the courts.

We cannot begin to imagine how difficult it is for victims of child abuse to come forward and talk about the abuse they have suffered.  My Parliamentary colleague Tessa Munt MP announced this week she was a victim of child abuse.  She highlighted how important it is that victims feel they will be listened to and believed, and that action will be taken wherever possible to ensure justice is done, and that those who have suffered may hopefully work towards gaining some sense of closure.  I could not agree more with Tessa.

There are concerns that abuse of children is under-reported and the Government are considering whether mandatory reporting will provide greater protection to children.

Of course this is a decision that needs very careful thought and the Government are consulting with a wide range of experts on this issue before coming to any definitive conclusions.

What needs to happen now is that the investigations get to the truth, leaving no stone unturned, that justice is delivered and the victims are given full support they deserve.

The lid needs to be lifted off those who were protected by allegations being swept under the carpet.

Child abuse is one of the worst crimes imaginable and leaves devastating consequences.  It is only right that these investigations finally see the abusers brought to justice.


Garden Tool Libraries Thanks To @EatGreenUK

Yesterday was the launch new scheme set up by the group “Eat Green.” They have had the great idea of setting up “Garden tool libraries” that allow aspiring gardeners to borrow all manner of gardening tools, which they can then keep for up to three weeks.

They began the scheme at Westcroft Community Centre Burnage and you can still borrow tools from there on Fridays between 12:30 to 5:30. However, not content to just run one “tool library,” they’ve extended the scheme to Didsbury library. The launch event took place yesterday at Didsbury library and you can pop down any time to borrow tools, free of charge.

We all live hectic, busy lives, so it can be really difficult to eat healthily and fast-food can be really tempting at times.

Producing your own food and using an allotment, in fact, has a number of benefits that very much outweigh the small inconvenience of using up a little more time. Households could save up to £1300 per year through growing their own food and the “tool libraries” of “Eat Green” make it easier than ever to grow your own food.

If you want to know more, take a look at: http://www.eatgreen.co.uk/

@EatGreenUK have some big ambitions and I wish them the best of luck in their events and campaigns. Make sure to pop down in the next couple of weeks and check it out too!


Data Retention (DRIP) Bill

I have received numerous emails and tweets about this particular Bill and am aware of how strongly many of my constituents feel about this situation.  

The Liberal Democrats and I take this issue very seriously.  Part of the reason why there has been a delay since the April ruling is because the Liberal Democrats wanted to ensure that this legislation included the necessary extra safeguards to protect the privacy of our citizens, and because the decision in April was so complex, we wanted to make sure to get it right.

I will accept that one day for debate in the House of Commons and two days in the House of Lords is rushed; however it is legislation that is maintaining existing legislation.  There is also a sunset clause, which I will discuss further below and there are also extra protections for individuals.

I understand many are pressing for a sunset clause of six months’ time; however if it was six months, with a summer and conference recess of roughly three months, we would be back in the same time table as we were with April.  For that reason, I do not accept that a 6 month sunset clause would be practical.  This sunset clause being in 2016 allows the next Government and political parties the opportunity to fully decide what new legislation or policies are necessary to deal with the retention of data.   I am certain that both the Tories and Labour will want to extend it further. This is very unlikely to be the position that the Liberal Democrats will take. We need to have full debates and see everyone come to a decision about what we think is necessary.  This will hopefully ensure that the next government gets it right and does not infringe on people’s freedoms.

Contrary to what some critics have claimed, the bill contains no new powers. One national newspaper claimed that because there is an £84 million cost attached to the legislation that this must mean that the legislation extends the scope the existing legislation. This was either a deliberate attempt to mislead people or a misunderstanding of the cost. There are no additional costs attached to the legislation. I am sure that most people are aware of this; however it really is worth reiterating.  This Bill is about retaining existing powers by clarifying the definition, not creating new ones and it is for these reasons I voted for the Bill. 

In order to make sure everyone has fullest response, I would like to set out all the issues raised and provide answers to all questions to make it as clear as possible for everyone.   

 

Why do we need a Bill?

There are two reasons for introducing this Bill. First, in April this year the European Court of Justice overturned the EU Data Retention Directive, which will mean that internet and phone companies will soon start deleting data that the police need in order to investigate serious crimes. The reason was that the Directive lacked safeguards – it allowed Member States to compel phone and internet companies to store data, but said nothing about how that data should be accessed or for what purposes. As a result of this ruling, where the court ruling is relevant to the UK situation, we are making changes to change our system.

Secondly, communications service providers themselves have asked government to clarify the legal framework that allows our agencies to find out what terrorists and serious criminals are saying to each other (“lawful intercept”). These are companies which are based abroad, and want to continue to cooperate with the warrants that we serve on them, but have now said that they will stop cooperating in the next few weeks if we don’t make it clear that as foreign companies they are legally obliged to help.

This Bill is not the “Snooper’s Charter”.  Liberal Democrats care passionately about civil liberties, privacy and the need to limit abusive state surveillance. We have resisted and continue to resist anything that might be or give rise to a “Snooper’s Charter”.

As part of this package, the Liberal Democrats have negotiated a significant package of concessions and safeguards. These include:

 

o   The afore-mentioned sunset clause that will see the Bill lapse at the end of 2016.

o   Asking the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson, to carry out a review of our communications data and intercept laws.

o   Starting in the next Parliament, all three party leaders will commit to a full parliamentary review of RIPA, leading to proposals for an updated and reformed approach in 2016.

o   To sort out the issue of conflicting legal jurisdictions regarding the application of the law to foreign service providers, a senior former diplomat will be appointed to lead negotiations with the American Government and the internet companies to put these complex jurisdictional issues on a more stable footing through an international agreement.

o   We will establish for the first time a Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, based on the American Model, to ensure that civil liberties are properly considered in the formulation of Government policy ion counter-terrorism.

o   We will radically cut the number of public bodies who have the right to approach phone and internet companies for your data. Councils, for example, will now need to justify their requests first to a central body and then a magistrate, and will not be able to approach phone and internet companies directly.

o   We will also, for the first time, publish regular transparency reports listing new details about exactly how many warrants are issued, by whom, and for what purposes. The public will know more about how and why surveillance powers are administered on their behalf than ever before.

Q1: Why do we need emergency legislation?

There are two problems that need to be fixed urgently, and which therefore need fast-tracked legislation. If we don’t pass legislation before the summer recess, some companies will start deleting large amounts of stored data, and others will stop providing help with interception warrants. This will lead over the next few weeks to a very serious reduction in the ability of the police and intelligence to protect the public.

Q2: Does the Bill create new powers?

 

No. It simply confirms the position that we have had for a long time, and ensures that we don’t lose powers over the coming weeks.

 

Q3: Does the Bill allow the extension of powers by the back door? 

No. Some people have suggested that the Bill gives the Home Secretary the ability to take further powers that go beyond what is on the face of the legislation by statutory instrument. This is not the case. The scope of the data retention powers is strictly limited to the types of data that were listed in the Data Retention Directive and the 2009 regulations – i.e. existing practice. The regulations that set out the detail of the data retention notices have been published alongside the Bill.

 

Q4: Could the Bill be used to re-introduce elements of the ‘Snooper’s Charter’? 

No. The data retention provisions are identical to the scheme that has existed since 2009. None of the new categories of data that would have been collected under the Draft Communications Data Bill are included in the scope of this Bill. Clauses 4 and 5 (lawful intercept) similarly reflect what already happens: they do not allow the police or intelligence agencies to do anything they cannot already do.

 

Q5: Are you extending data collection powers to companies around the world?

RIPA has always applied to telecommunications services offered or provided to the public in the UK irrespective of where the company is based. That was made clear during the passage of the legislation. But in the absence of explicit extraterritoriality, some overseas companies have challenged whether it applies equally to them. The Bill is intended to put that beyond doubt.

 

Q6: The European Court of Justice found that the Data Retention Directive was incompatible with human rights. Why are you simply overruling them?

We’re not. The ECJ ruling struck down the European directive, not our own legislation. The UK implements the directive in part using a pre-existing framework of checks and balances under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA). While that Act has rightly come in for criticism in some regards, not least by the Lib Dems, the basic framework for accessing data that it sets out IS compliant with ECHR. Where the court ruling is relevant to the UK situation, we are making a number of changes to respond to the ECJ judgement. These changes are set out in the regulations that accompany the Bill.

 

Q7: Is the Bill compatible with ECHR?

Yes, the Bill responds to the issues raised by the European Court, and a statement of compatibility with the ECHR will appear on the face of the Bill.

 

Q8:  What is your response to the concerns raised about legal jurisdiction? 

We recognise that there are genuine issues around conflicting legal jurisdictions, and the position of companies with conflicting legal requirements is covered in clause 4(4) of the Bill. We are also appointing a senior diplomat to lead discussions with the US government and the companies to find a long-term, international solution to the question of how data stored in one jurisdiction can be shared with law enforcement and intelligence agencies in another jurisdiction. Such data exchange should only take place where it is necessary and proportionate for the investigation of a serious crime.

 

Q9: Why are you extending the definition of ‘communications service provider’?

The Bill does not extend it – in order to make clear that this includes the kinds of service that people are increasingly using to communicate.

 

Q10: Why is there a sunset clause? 

There is a clear need to act quickly to deal with the particular challenges that we are currently facing, and to avoid a damaging loss of capability. But we recognise that there are serious questions around our existing surveillance laws and whether they are fit for the internet age. Liberal Democrats have been arguing for a full public debate about the need for reform for some time. The current Bill has opened the door to that debate, and to a comprehensive overhaul of the legislation ahead of the expiry of the sunset clause in December 2016.

 

Q11: Why does the sunset clause only expire at the end of 2016? Could it be brought forward? 

This will allow Parliament to draw on the outcomes of the various reviews that are in progress (the RUSI panel, the ISC, and David Anderson’s work).

 

Q12: Could the sunset clause be extended by statutory instrument, allowing the Bill to have permanent effect?

No. The Bill will cease to have effect on 31 Dec 2016. It is an absolute termination provision. There is no possibility of extension by Order or any other route.

 

Q13: How does the reform package relate to the RUSI review? 

Nick Clegg set out his thoughts on this question in his speech to RUSI in March 2014, where he announced the creation of an independent panel of experts from intelligence, technology, legal and civil liberties backgrounds to examine the case for reform. The panel holds its first meeting this week. The panel will report after the General Election and its findings will feed into the parliamentary review of RIPA which will be established shortly after the election, leading in turn to proposals for new legislation in 2016.


Guest Blog: Julian Huppert: This Is Not Snoopers’ Charter. It’s What We Had Already Plus Additional Safeguards

As a Liberal, I care passionately about civil liberties, privacy, and the need to limit abusive state surveillance.

But I also know that there is a need for the police and intelligence agencies to have the tools to do the job we give them – as long as they are carefully controlled, appropriately used, and proportionate to the threat faced.

Those concerns are key – and I have often been incensed at the way governments, whether Labour or Tory, have used threats for terrorism or anything else as a reason to chip away at our individual freedoms. We must not and will not allow this.

There is an issue we have to deal with now. The European Court of Justice threw out the European Data Retention Directive, which underpins all collection of communications data in this country. I sympathise with the reasons, but we must acknowledge that it causes real problems – we do need to have some way to keep some communications data, but under very careful control.

Some people would love to use this to bring back the awful Communications Data Bill – known as the Snooper’s Charter – that Nick vetoed last year. A number of Tories pushed it and Labour tried something similar themselves. We will not allow this to happen. We’ve blocked it once, and we will continue to do so. This legislation just allows the agencies to continue with their current abilities.

I’ve had the chance to speak to Nick and Norman Baker about this – all of us have been clear. We must keep our country and citizens safe, but not by allowing the erosion of our civil liberties and increasing unchecked intrusion into our lives.

We need legislation to allow communications data to be available, but not to store more than is already allowed. And in this post-Snowden world, we need to move towards keeping less, and finding better and more proportionate ways to do so.

We need to completely rewrite the law in this area. But that cannot be done quickly. We have to get it right, which will take a lot of work from many experts. We’ve already started that off – our ‘Digital Bill of Rights’ motion calls for a commission of experts to review all state surveillance and information from the Snowden revelations – that takes time. Nick has already started this work with the Royal United Services Institute, and they need to finish that work.

So I think it is right to agree to a stop-gap. A piece of legislation that can be passed quickly, but crucially will automatically expire at the end of 2016, giving time to write something better, and the certainty of knowing it will not just become entrenched.

And in this stop-gap legislation, we should agree to no more than was previously allowed.

And we’ve managed better than that – we’ve also negotiated and won a package of pro-civil liberties measures to go with it:

  • The Bill includes a termination clause that ensures the legislation falls at the end of 2016 and the next government is forced to look again at these powers.
  • Between now and 2016 we will hold a full review of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, to make recommendations for how it could be reformed and updated.
  • We will appoint a senior diplomat to lead discussion with the American government and the internet companies to establish a new international agreement for sharing data between legal jurisdictions.
  • We will establish a Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board on the American model, to ensure that civil liberties are properly considered in the formulation of government policy on counter-terrorism. This will be based on David Anderson’s existing role as the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation.
  • Further reform of the Intelligence and Security Committee, so that in future the Chair must be drawn from the Opposition parties.
  • We will restrict the number of public bodies that are able to approach phone and internet companies and ask for communications data. Some bodies will lose their powers to access data altogether while local authorities will be required to go through a single central authority who will make the request on their behalf.
  • Finally, we will publish annual transparency reports, making more information publicly available than ever before on the way that surveillance powers operate.

I don’t claim that this is a perfect long-term solution. But I don’t think anyone could write down, right now, what would be perfect. And it’s a huge lot better than either the Tories or Labour would have done on their own. But because this legislation – though not the extra safeguards – will end in 2016, there will have to be a proper full discussion in the rest of this Parliament and the next on this – the status quo cannot be continued forever.

We’ve done much to be proud of to support civil liberties. We’ve scrapped ID cards, ended 28-day detention without charge, curtailed stop and search powers, ended routine child detention for immigration purposes, reformed the libel laws to protect free speech, and much more. If it was just down to us, we’d have made even more progress – but this simply would not have happened without us in Government.

Julian Huppert MP

Member of Parliament for Cambridge

Member of Home Affairs Select Committee

Lib Dem Spokesperson on Home Affairs, Justice and Equality


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