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Labour urged to be a “real opposition” to Tory assault on civil liberties

by Steve Beasant on 10 October, 2018

The Liberal Democrats have called on Labour to be a “real opposition” and oppose the Conservative Government’s Counter-Terrorism Bill as it has its second reading in the House of Lords today.

The legislation has drawn widespread criticism from human rights groups, including Liberty and Amnesty International. Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights has said that it “strikes the wrong balance between security and liberty.”

The Bill would:

  • Create a new offence of “entering or remaining in” areas outside the UK designated by the Home Secretary, punishable by up to ten years in prison;
  • Make it illegal to view online material that is “likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”, with those convicted facing up to 15 years in prison;
  • Expand existing powers to detain people at ports and airports and for the police to retain biometric data.

Liberal Democrat MPs voted against the Bill at third reading in the House of Commons, but the Labour Party voted with the Conservatives and the DUP to pass it by 376 votes to 10.

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:

“I don’t agree with Jeremy Corbyn on many things, but I always admired his courage in standing up to the New Labour Government in defence of civil liberties. Since becoming leader, though, he’s been notably absent in the fight to protect British freedoms.

“When the Liberal Democrats voted against this Bill in the House of Commons last month, I had hoped to see Corbyn bringing his MPs through the ‘No’ lobby with us. Instead, he ordered them to vote with the Conservatives. Liberal Democrats demand better.

“The UK needs a real opposition to this Tory assault on our freedoms. It’s time for Corbyn to rediscover his principles, reverse his position and ask Labour peers to join the Liberal Democrats in our fight to stop the erosion of civil liberties.”

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson in the House of Lords Brian Paddick added: 

“These proposals run the very real risk of the innocent being detained and harmless people being turned into criminals. Experience shows that loosely-drawn laws such as these can be, and have been, used by the authorities to target innocent people and those from minority groups.

“Allowing people to be stopped and searched without any reason is oppressive and a ‘reasonable excuse defence’ is no protection from being wrongly arrested and detained.

“We will do everything we can to protect our country from those who mean us harm, provided law-abiding citizens are not unreasonably drawn into the net. Liberal Democrats are the only party determined to protect our hard-won freedoms and defend the rights of those from minority backgrounds.”


At a Stop the War Coalition conference in 2011, Jeremy Corbyn said “I’ve been involved in opposing anti-terror legislation ever since I first went into parliament in 1983”. Source: The Guardian (on YouTube)

Corbyn voted with the Liberal Democrats against Labour’s Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill in 2001, saying that “it is extremely dangerous because it is a denial of civil liberties. If we parade ourselves as a democratic society, in times of difficulty it is important to show the rest of the world that we are prepared to stand up for the civil liberties and rights which we enjoy.” Source: Hansard HC Deb 13 Dec 2001 c1119

He also voted with the Liberal Democrats against Labour’s Identity Cards Bill and its proposal for 90-days detention without charge, both in 2005.

  • The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill is available here
  • The Joint Committee on Human Rights’ report the Bill was published on 10 July 2018. It is available here.
  • Liberty’s briefing on the Bill for second reading in the House of Lords is available here.
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