From these Benches we unequivocally condemn atrocities perpetrated by ISIL, be they in Paris, Ankara, Sharm el-Sheikh, Tunisia or Beirut, or indeed the day-in, day-out victimisation of people in the Middle East. We have also recognised that in defeating an enemy like ISIL the use of military force will be necessary, and indeed we have supported air strikes in Iraq. But the use of lethal force should never be used simply as a gesture—not even a symbolic gesture. It has to have effect. And to have effect, it must surely be part of a wider strategy, not least on the diplomatic front. So the challenge is not whether the Government have made a case to justify bombing but whether they have a strategy to bring stability to the region and lay the foundations for a peaceful future for Syria.
Writing for The Scotsman, Jim Wallace, Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords and a cross-party champion for Britain Stronger in Europe, has laid out the issues facing Scotland and the wider UK.
Turning the page and seeing another article about a referendum campaign, readers will be forgiven for experiencing déjà vu. But as minds turn towards the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, voters will face a vital choice for the future of our country. And we must be in no doubt about the magnitude of the choice we face.
As a Liberal Democrat, I have always believed that by working together, countries can achieve more than if they work alone. Britain’s membership of the EU is essential for creating a stronger economy and increases our influence in a more global economy. This has real, tangible benefits for everyone in Scotland.
Being part of the world’s largest market supports jobs and businesses in Scotland. It is estimated that 330,000 Scottish jobs are linked with trade with the EU, and major employers such as BAE Systems, Diageo and Shell have declared that Europe helps Scottish business to thrive and invest.
The full article is here
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.
My Lords, for decades, as a Liberal and Liberal Democrat candidate and MP, I supported campaigns to incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights into our domestic law. “Bringing Rights Home” was our call, and so understandably I welcomed the passing of the Human Rights Act 1998. However, it never occurred to me during all these years of campaigning that I would be the first government Minister in the United Kingdom to be on the wrong end of a decision under that Act—yet that is what happened on 11 November 1999.
As Justice Minister in the newly established Scottish Government, I had inherited a sheriff court administration which relied on temporary sheriffs to keep the system in working order. However, the Scottish Appeal Court ruled that because the Lord Advocate was involved both in their reappointment, or not, and was also head of the Public Prosecution Service in Scotland, temporary sheriffs could not be regarded as sufficiently independent of the Executive that an accused might have a fair hearing before an “independent and impartial tribunal”. As a result, I was forced to suspend every temporary sheriff in Scotland overnight.
I am not going to pretend: on that day I would much rather that the case had been won. Losing put significant pressure on resources and made for a time the operation of our sheriff courts more difficult. But here is the thing: in the cold light of day, the court was right. What was happening was wrong and, because of the Human Rights Act, it was put right. For all the difficulties this decision caused me, officials and, indeed, the public, I would rather live in a country were there is such a human rights check over decisions and actions of Ministers and the Executive than in a country where Ministers and the Executive can ride roughshod over basic human rights. This, I believe, shows the value of the Human Rights Act. As Liberal Democrats, we on these Benches are instinctively suspicious of government. We believe that the state has the power to improve people’s lives—but, equally, the power to damage them. Such power should not operate in a vacuum. There must be a check on the ability of the state to wield its power, even when its actions are carried out with the best of intentions, and there must be a check to protect individual citizens against the arbitrary use of state power.
This debate is about the challenges facing the culture of human rights and civil liberties in our country. My experiences as a Minister both in Scotland and in the coalition Government have given me some understanding of those challenges and the difficulties of balancing interests that sometimes compete with human rights and civil liberties, not least the need to keep the public safe. I do not pretend that it is always easy. The appalling events in Tunisia last Friday and our response to them have once again thrown into sharp focus the challenge of balancing liberty and security in an age when terrorism stalks the globe. The Prime Minister rightly argues that, armed with our values of justice, democracy, liberty and tolerance, we will prevail over hateful intolerance and its evil manifestations. But the challenge is to ensure that in doing so we do not undermine the very values that we cherish and seek to uphold.
During my time as Deputy First Minister of Scotland, I had the somewhat doubtful distinction of becoming the first government minister in the UK to be on the wrong end of a decision under the Human Rights Act. As a result I know first-hand of the value of that Act in giving British citizens the ability to challenge the state. The state has the power to improve people’s lives, but also the power to damage them. Such power should not operate in a vacuum – there must be a check on the state. The Human Rights Act provides this very powerful safeguard.
As the debate on the future of the Act progresses, it is essential that we do not focus only on the philosophical importance of our rights and freedoms, but that we also concentrate on the very real way in which the Human Rights Act has protected individual citizens against the arbitrary use of state power.
The full article is available here
The full list of Lib Dem spokespeople in the House of Lords has been announced today by Lord (Jim) Wallace of Tankerness, Leader of the Lib Dems in the Lords.
The new principal spokespeople will lead a strong team of Lib Dem Peers, operating in Parliament, the media and across the country.
Lord Wallace said: “Liberal Democrats are, and have always been, a formidable fighting force in the House of Lords. I will be actively leading a team of new Liberal Democrat Frontbench Spokespeople in protecting liberal values and promoting radical policies.
“There has never been a more important time for Liberal Democrats to be at the forefront of the fight against authoritarian and illiberal policies. Our Spokespeople will take every opportunity to champion Liberal Democrat priorities in Parliament and out in the country.”
Lord Wallace was re-elected unopposed as Leader of the Group and has re-appointed Lord Newby as Chief Whip.
The full list of spokespeople is below
In his response to the Queen’s Speech, Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, will argue that the ‘importance of the House of Lords retaining “the right to say no”’ ensures that the Government must operate in Parliament ‘in a constructive frame of mind’.
Lord Wallace will say that the Lords “may wish to reflect on the strength of the mandate of a government which secured less than 37% of the popular vote on a turnout of 66%”. He will notes that “This House has demonstrated time and time again that it is the last bastion of defence of civil liberties and human rights. On these issues in particular, this House has a legitimate right to question the excesses of any government. It has the right to vigorously scrutinise and revise legislation.”
Lord Wallace also will criticise the agenda of the first Tory government in over 20 years saying that they “seem intent on taking up where they left off” from when they were last in power.