At the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference being held on the weekend of 10-11 March 2012 Cambridge MP Julian Huppert is moving a motion titled “Civil Liberties” scheduled for debate at 10:45 am on the Sunday morning.
The text of the motion is available, but only deep within the Conference Agenda (on page 50 of the PDF). I think it’s fantastic and deserves to be made more easily accessible.
I have reproduced the full text of the motion below:
Conference believes that:
- This Government needs to undo the damage done to civil liberties, including Labour’s sustained assault on basic freedoms.
- It is the duty of Liberal Democrats to safeguard basic freedoms against the encroachment of state power and unfair discrimination in society.
- Liberal Democrats have an excellent tradition of promoting human rights, and should continue to support both the Human Rights Act and our 2009 conference motion Standing Up for Civil Liberties.
Conference therefore welcomes the introduction of the Protection of Freedoms Bill and other measures taken by this Government to restore civil liberties, including:
- A. Scrapping of ID cards.
- B. Removal of innocent people from the national DNA database.
- C. Controls on the misuse of CCTV and local authority surveillance.
- D. Ending the taking of biometric material from children without their parents’ consent.
- E. Abolition of the ContactPoint database.
- F. Ending of 28 day detention without charge.
- G. Abolition of Control Orders and the end of internal exile.
- H. Rolling back of government powers of entry into your home.
- I. Commitment to review the powers of bailiffs.
- J. Dramatically increasing openness of government data.
- K. The repeal of provisions which banned protest near Parliament.
- L. Reform of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.
- M. Ending Labour’s policy of routinely detaining children for immigration purposes.
But conference notes that:
- The government needs to go further in protecting the right to free speech when:
- a) Police can still prosecute those who use words and behaviour which are merely insulting, not abusive or threatening.
- b) The cost of defamation proceedings limits freedom of expression and the protection of reputation to the rich and powerful.
- Vigilance is needed as the right to peaceful protest is constantly under threat – for example international attempts to control recent protests, such as the ‘Occupy’ movement, have led to disproportionate policing and an undermining of the right to peaceful protest.
- Individual freedom must be upheld:
- a) Police powers, such as stop and search, have been used in a discriminatory way, which has caused a breakdown in relationships with the police and has been identified as one of the factors in the summer riots.
- b) People must have equal access to justice for society to be free and fair.
- The public’s right of access to information and individual private data must be protected:
- a) Public organisations, and private companies contracted to deliver public services, continue to withhold information.
- b) Police and other agencies tend to hoard private data, with risks to individual liberty as technology allows more efficient cross-referencing.
- c) Government has a poor record of protecting private data from wider dissemination.
Conference therefore calls for:
- The right to free speech to be protected through:
- a) The repeal of section 5 of the Public Order Act, which creates ‘non-intentional’ speech offences, and the removal of ‘insulting’ from Section 4A of the Public Order Act, both of which have been used to criminalise legitimate freedom of expression.
- b) Amendment of Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 to include context and intentionality to prevent the criminalisation of jokes.
- c) Review of the Malicious Communications Act 1988 to ensure that it covers intentional conduct only.
- d) The introduction of a libel reform bill in the next Queen’s speech to provide better protection for every citizen for free speech and protection of reputation.
- e) The creation or development of effective public interest defences in relevant criminal and civil offences to protect and foster investigative journalism.
- The right to protest to be restored through:
- a) The repeal of the offence of ‘Aggravated Trespass’, as set out in Sections 68 and 69 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 and used in the Fortnum and Mason trial.
- b) A properly regulated right to protest in quasi-public spaces to balance the interests of citizens and landowners.
- c) An end to threats being made against protestors who have done nothing wrong, such as the threatened use of rubber bullets before demonstrations.
- d) The end of kettling large groups of people.
- e) Resisting new powers to impose curfews on unconvicted people.
- f) Not extending the existing powers on people covering their faces.
- The restoration of individual freedom and policing by consent through:
- a) Greater control of the use of stop and search powers; in particular provisions in the Terrorism Act 2000 and the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which have been used indiscriminately and beyond their stated intent.
- b) A review to reduce the use of civil orders, such as ASBOs, for criminal activity.
- c) Stronger controls over the use of mobile fingerprint devices and non-lethal devices such as tasers, sound cannons and laser lights.
- d) A guarantee that where citizens are not required to provide their name and address this will be made clear to individuals by the police.
- e) Guidelines to regulate the collection, storage and use of videos and photos of innocent people taken by the police, particularly Forward Intelligence Teams.
- f) A ban on high frequency Mosquito devices which discriminate against young people.
- g) Tighter controls to ensure the ban on police covering their badges.
- h) The introduction of safeguards to prevent pre-emptive arrests and pre-charge bail conditions being used to restrict civil liberties and stifle peaceful protest.
- i) Full review of the powers of bailiffs and the repeal of the power for the Secretary of State to further enable bailiffs to use force against people.
- j) An end to the ban on photography of police and preventing police from forcibly deleting photos with no grounds.
- k) Oversight of undercover police tactics to protect citizens from unfair and unwarranted surveillance.
- The right of access to information and individual data protection to be expanded through:
- a) A review to reduce exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act.
- b) A review of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.
- c) Increased powers for the Information Commissioner and tougher sentences for breaches of the Data Protection Act.
- d) An end to the Ministerial veto over information tribunal decisions.
- e) The creation of one overall Privacy Commissioner with specialists leading on each separate area.
- A second Protection of Freedoms Bill to enact any necessary legislative changes.
I agree with everything in this motion. I’m not a Liberal Democrat, I’m not a member of any political party, but I fully support this motion and a lot of what Liberal Democrats do in the field of Civil Liberties.
I have lobbied myself in many of the areas mentioned, including on the police misrepresenting their powers, RIPA, CCTV, TASERs, extending FOI and the police stopping people taking photos. I have also described the Contact Point database as big-brotheresque.
One thing which will be interesting to see, if the motion is passed, is if it will not only be used as a mandate for MPs including Julian Huppert to continue to pursue their pro-civil liberties agenda in Parliament, but if local Liberal Democrat councillors also pursue the policies agreed both via their councils and on other bodies such as Police Authorities.