At last, the Parliamentary party's defence of their voting on the Justice and Security Bill

…it’s all Labour’s fault.

This is from a mailing to members this evening from Tim Gordon, Lib Dem chief executive:

Justice and Security Bill

The House of Commons voted on Report Stage of the Justice and Security Bill on Monday.

We understand the widespread concern about this Bill in the party. But given that Labour chose not to oppose CMPs, the most that can be achieved is to improve it by negotiation internally and through amendment in Parliament.

Thanks to the tireless work of Liberal Democrats in Government and on the Bill Committee this Bill is now vastly different from the one Lib Dem conference voted to reject in September & addresses the key concerns raised by the JCHR. However, we recognise that this will not be enough to satisfy all the Bill’s critics.

We have secured equity of arms meaning that the claimant now has an equal right to request CMP, using evidence the Government may have wished to keep secret.

Previously only the Government had the right to request CMP.

There was no vote on the Bill as a whole, or on the issue of CMPs as a whole. While there was an amendment laid to delete clause 6 (CMPs), Labour and the Green Party chose not to push it to a vote.

The Bill will now return to the House of Lords where the amendments made in the Commons will be debated and further votes held.

After third reading, some Labour MPs tabled an amendment to have secret hearings at inquests, which Nick quite rightly resisted.

In addition to a number of important improvements to the Bill which were accepted and not voted on, two issues were subject to votes:

Whether to incorporate a different judicial balancing test from the one proposed by the Government, and

Whether to include a ‘last resort’ requirement that would mean all other means of hearing civil cases involving sensitive national security information should be exhausted before a Closed Material Proceeding can be used.

These were among the recommendations made by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, most of which have now been accepted into the Bill. The Committee has said it wants to see these two changes incorporated.

On both points the Government accepts the spirit of the JCHR recommendations but we have proposed alternative ways of meeting their concerns.

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