Probably nothing is more important than the Government’s primary responsibility of security of the realm and its citizens. The Prime Minister acknowledges that in his Statement. Clearly, we do not have the evidence, nor would it be appropriate to share that evidence publicly, and therefore we must accept the judgement of the Prime Minster in responding to perhaps one of the most serious calls that has been made on him. However, it would be interesting to know whether this is a matter that the Intelligence and Security Committee will be able to look at.
There is also reference in the Statement to the legal basis. Having worked closely as a law officer with the present Attorney-General, I know that his judgement would be made with considerable rigorous legal diligence and bringing to bear his considerable personal and professional integrity. I do not call for the publication of law officers’ advice; that is not something that, as a former officer, I would readily do. However, the noble Baroness will remember that before the House debated chemical weapon use by the Syrian regime and a possible UK government response, and before we debated last year the position on military action in Iraq against ISIL, the Government published on each occasion a statement setting out the Government’s legal position. If it is felt possible to elaborate on what was said in the Statement by a similar note, I think that we would find that very helpful.
Writing for the Huffington Post, Home Affairs Spokesperson Brian Paddick has pulled apart the Psychoactive Substances Bill, highlighting the problems with the current legislation and the ways in which the Lib Dems are seeking to fix it.
Liberal Democrats in the Lords are trying to rescue something from the car crash that is the government’s Psychoactive Substances Bill by tabling a series of amendments.
The Bill seeks to make it illegal to produce or supply any substance that affects someone’s mental functioning or emotional state, unless the government specifically exempts it.
This takes the “my substances of choice, like alcohol and tobacco, are OK but yours aren’t” approach to a new level.
On Tuesday we tried and failed to press the pause button while an independent, evidence-based review (posh phrase for ‘what works in practice?’) of existing laws was carried out.
The UK Bill is based on a similar Act in force in the Republic of Ireland for the past four years that has been so disastrous, the Irish are thinking of repealing it.
At the moment ‘head shops’ sell so-called ‘legal highs’ with impunity. The government has been trying to play catch-up, banning harmful new substances as they are developed, and losing.
They have now lurched, with Labour Party support, to banning everything.
Writing to The Times, Lib Dem Peer Anthony Lester QC highlighted the mistake the Tories would be making in not following the recommendations of the Anderson Report:
Sir, As David Anderson, QC, underlines in his report, public trust is essential for the vital work of the security and intelligence agencies (reports, June 12; letters, June 13). We need a new legal regime that keeps pace with technology, is publicly accessible, and provides effective safeguards against the misuse of the powers of the state to infringe privacy.
The prime minister, the home office and the agencies should accept the need explained by Mr Anderson for surveillance warrants normally to be signed by judges rather than ministers. That is already the position in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The public would trust judges more than politicians to uphold the rule of law and maintain a fair balance between security and liberty. Ministerial accountability to parliament is necessary but not sufficient. Parliament amended the Justice and Security Bill to give judges rather than ministers the task of ensuring that secret trials are held only where necessary in the interests of justice. Parliament should do so again when approving the new legal framework in the proposed Surveillance Bill.
Speaking in the Queen’s Speech debate on home affairs in the House of Lords this week, Brian Paddick, Liberal Democrat spokesman for home affairs, paid tribute to Charles Kennedy and went on to warn that upcoming legislation showed that “the Government have all the hallmarks of an authoritarian, anti-libertarian, inward-looking Administration ”