Friday, April 06, 2012

Lib Dem President Tim Farron MP responds to open letter

Thanks very much for the letter, I will raise this directly with Nick and his team.

I think you probably know my views on this matter. As a Liberal I was extremely concerned by the press reports of new surveillance powers potentially to be included in the Queens Speech.

I also agreed very much with Julian Huppert’s article on Lib Dem Voice — there must be no question of the authorities having universal internet surveillance powers.

We are reasonable people and we should be prepared to look at what will now be draft legislation with an open mind, but we should be prepared to put our foot down and pull the plug if we consider the proposals to be illiberal. We must not as Liberal Democrats fall into a position of trying to amend, unpick or apologise for a piece of authoritarian Tory policy.

Over the last couple of years we have made some mistakes, which is OK so long as we learn from them. This is our opportunity to put those lessons into practice. Britain must be more liberal and free as a result of Liberal Democrats in power, not less. The proposals as they were first set out undoubtedly cross a red line, we’ve crossed enough of those already – no more.
Open Letter to Tim Farron MP, Liberal Democrat President

Re: Concerns over our liberal identity and mission in government

We understand that the leaked policy on RIPA internet surveillance is now being reviewed more thoroughly, rather than rushed into the Queen's speech. As such we would like you, as our president, to convey the following thoughts to appropriate Liberal Democrat ministers.

The Home Secretary wrote in the Sun on Tuesday that "Only suspected terrorists, paedophiles or serious criminals will be investigated." This is akin to saying "if you've done nothing wrong, you've got nothing to worry about." If the hacking scandal and ongoing Leveson inquiry has taught us anything, it is that argument is demonstrably false.

At first hacking was tolerated by the public when it was only celebrities and politicians who were victims. It was only after it was exposed that private individuals were hacked that there was public outrage. Even the Queen's own police protection sold information about her to the News of the World. If our head of state cannot be safeguarded from corrupt police officers, what chance has the rest of us got? This is our fear over these leaked proposals; we believe that extending universal, rather than targeted internet surveillance powers to the police, exposes innocent citizens to corrupt sections of authority. We agree with Julian Huppert MP when he argues that the police should only be allowed to access private internet usage when they have obtained a "named, specific and time-limited warrant" from a judge or minister.

In a February 2011 interview with the Guardian Nick Clegg said: "You should not trust government – full stop. The natural inclination of government is to hoard power and information; to accrue power to itself in the name of the public good." And later: Clegg says the restoration of liberty is ongoing, and urges campaigners to "hold the government's feet to the fire". We are attempting to do just that with this letter. Surely an important part of our party's mission is to defend and protect the civil rights of our fellow citizens, and if we fail, our party's liberal identity will be put at grave risk. We urge our ministers to heed our call – block these illiberal proposals and lead the charge for reform of RIPA to ensure our citizens enjoy the fair, free and open society we seek to build and safeguard.

Kind regards,

1. Cllr Lev Eakins, Manchester City Council 2. Cllr Janet Battye, Leader, Calderdale MBC 3. Cllr Guy Poultney, Cabinet Member, Bristol City Council 4. Cllr Anood Al-Samerai, Leader, Southwark Liberal Democrat council group 5. Cllr Iain Roberts, Cabinet member, Stockport MBC 6. Cllr Prue Bray, Leader, Wokingham Liberal Democrat council group 7. Cllr Tom Papworth, Leader, Bromley Liberal Democrat council group 8. Cllr Erica Kemp, Liverpool City Council 9. Cllr Alex Folkes, Deputy Leader Cornwall Liberal Democrat council group 10. Cllr. Tony Harwood, Deputy Leader Maidstone Liberal Democrat council group 11. Cllr Tom Simon, Deputy Leader, Camden Liberal Democrat council group 12. Cllr Tom Morrison, Chair Liverpool Wavetree 13. Cllr. Neil Taylor, Chair Altrincham and Sale West 14. Cllr Victor Chamberlain, Manchester City Council 15. Cllr James Baker, Calderdale 16. Cllr Nigel Ashton, Southport 17. Cllr Michelle Pearce, Wiltshire 18. Cllr Colin Rosenstiel, Cambridge 19. Cllr Darren Thornton, Richmond 20. Cllr Colin Strong, Spelthorne 21. Mark Pack, London, Co-Editor Lib-Dem Voice 22. Stephen Tall, Oxford, Co-Editor Lib-Dem Voice 23. Paul Walter, Newbury, Co-Editor Lib-Dem Voice 24. Mark Thompson, Bracknell, LD Blogger 25. Richard Morris, Richmond, LD Blogger 26. Zadok Day, Co-Chair Liberal Reform, Secretary Bury LDs 27. Linda Jack, Member of FPC and SLF Council and Chair Liberal Left 28. Kelly-Marie Blundell, Vice Chair of Ashford, Diversity Champion for the SE Region and South East SLF 29. Conor McKenzie, Harrogate, England Convenor Liberal Youth 30. Hannah Bettsworth, Liberal Youth Scotland Ordinary Executive Member-elect 31. Sara Lloyd Williams, Ieuenctid Rhyddfrydol Cymru Liberal Youth Wales Chair 32. Tom Lister, Ieuenctid Rhyddfrydol Cymru Liberal Youth Wales Vice Chair/Treasurer 33. Linden Parker, Ieuenctid Rhyddfrydol Cymru Liberal Youth Wales Communication Officer 34. Cadan ap Tomos, Aberystwyth, Ieuenctid Rhyddfrydol Cymru Liberal Youth Wales Young Members' Officer 35. Rory Roberson, Ieuenctid Rhyddfrydol Cymru Liberal Youth Wales Branch Officer 36. Natasha Chapman, East Midlands Regional Liberal Youth chair 37. David Cope, LD Youth South West Regional Chair 38. Joe Donnelly, Rossendale, Chair of Durham Liberal Youth 39. Daniel Waterfield, Liverpool, Co-Chair Liverpool LD Youth 40. Madeleine Spink, Chair York University LDs 41. Alan Belmore, Horsham (Former Chair, Liberal Youth) 42. Richard Gadsden, Manchester, Exec Member NW Region 43. Josh Allen, York Central (Press Secretary) 44. Tracy Connell, Newcastle, Regional Officer 45. Neil Derby, Chair of Preston Liberal Democrats 46. Gemma Roulston, Reigate, LDDA officer 47. Paul Wild, Walsall, MDO 48. William Jones, Chair, Wythenshawe and Sale East 49. Steve Middleton, Treasurer, Salford Lib Dems 50. Jennie Rigg, Branch secretary, Brighouse Liberal Democrats 51. Steven Haynes, Northfield Liberal Democrats, MDO 52. Joy Winder, Manchester, former Councillor 53. Karen Chilvers, Brentwood, Essex 54. Maria Pretzler, Swansea & Gower 55. Lance Idiabor-Moses, Leeds Central and Yorkshire and the Humber Liberal Youth 56. Kevin White, Liverpool 57. Penny Burgess, Cotswolds 58. Peter Reisdorf, West Kirby 59. Graham Hopgood, Hastings & St Leonards 60. John Richardson, Newark 61. Iain Donaldson, Manchester 62. Tim Allan, Newcastle Central 63. Alan Neil Webb, Amber Valley 64. Kat Dadswell, Liverpool 65. Bevis Maun, Manchester 66. Stuart Wheatcroft, Carlisle 67. James Rowe, Barnsley 68. Gareth Peter Jones, Swansea 69. Graeme Cowie, Glasgow 70. Martin Veart, Edinburgh 71. Louise Shaw, Stockport 72. Leon Duveen, Bassetlaw & Sherwood 73. Ian Morris, Doncaster 74. Jason Kay, Folkestone 75. Stephen Clarke, Tower Hamlets 76. Jack Cartwright, Brighton 77. Andy Spracklen, Manchester 78. Jock Coats, Oxford 79. Andrew Hardwick, Manchester 80. George Potter, Guildford 81. Hywel Morgan, Calderdale 82. Harry Matthews, Sheffield 83. Callum Morton, Colchester 84. Robert Pitt, London 85. Colin Walklin, Canterbury 86. Rev Simon Wilson, Broadland 87. James Howitt, Salisbury 88. Jonathan Bates, Southampton 89. Andrew Tennant, Charnwood 90. Jonathan Lancaster, York Central 91. Gary McKenna, Salford 92. David Roberts-Jones, Cheadle 93. Riff Devin, Dudley 94. Lee Thacker, Rhondda Cynon Taff 95. Iain Coleman, Edinburgh 96. Martin Tod, Winchester 97. Shaun Young, Portsmouth 98. Martin Gentles, Battersea 99. Caron Lindsay, Dunfermline & West Fife 100. Valerie Talacko, Prague 101. Rob Parsons, Lewes 102. Ron Stafford, Warrington 103. Will Howells, London. 104. Richard Struck, North Bedfordshire 105. Lois Norton, Wealden 106. Frank Little, Aberavon & Neath Liberal Democrats 107. Andrew Hickey, Manchester 108. Ed Trelinski, Rugby 109. Leslie K. Clark, Aberdeen South 110. Sam Bennet, Greater Reading Lib Dems 111. Aidan McGuire, Southport Lib Dems 112. Bob Browning, Ealing