There has been growing concern within the Liberal Democrats about Secret Courts – or Closed Material Proceedings as the government would prefer them to be known. Hundreds of Lib Dem members have signed a petition against the move, which was roundly rejected by the party’s conference in September.
While members can’t mandate parliamentarians, the outcry from within the Lib Dems should have given Honourable Members of both Houses an indication in how to proceed.
Instead, this appeared in the Government’s Mid-Term review, published yesterday:
We will legislate to ensure that the security services are properly monitored through increased Parliamentary oversight and that proper balance is struck in trials involving highly sensitive matters of national security.
The comment, which appears on page 37 of the document, is clearly referring to Part II of the Justice and Security Bill. While detractors may try and dismiss this as a niche issue, it is one that goes to the core of the Lib Dems. It is not an issue where the party has differing opinions and can debate, like the economy or welfare.
Preserving a fair and open justice system is critical to what the Liberal Democrats are about.
As more and more members join the campaign against the provisions, a campaign I’m proud to be helping with, the mid-term review having such a comment seems put the government and party leadership right in conflict with their general membership.
Saying “if only you knew what we knew” because the securocrats have whispered in your ear is really not good enough.
Of course, I could be wrong. The comment is just (only just,) about vague enough that it gives the coalition some wriggle room. Let’s hope they use it.