Lib Dems launch freedom bill

Lib Dems want rollback of civil liberties infringements
Lib Dems want rollback of civil liberties infringements

By Alex Stevenson

A campaign to roll back the government's alleged incremental undermining of civil liberties has been launched today by the Liberal Democrats.

The party's justice and home affairs spokesmen in the Commons, David Howarth and Chris Huhne, this lunchtime launched a freedom bill which they hope will act as a focus for civil liberties campaigners.

The bill seeks to repeal or amend 20 existing acts of parliament, gathering a wide range of issues under the civil liberties banner.

Among these are abandoning the ID card scheme, introducing regulation for CCTV and cutting the upper limit on pre-charge detention from 28 to 14 days.

"With one small change after another over the last 20 years, the cumulative loss of civil liberties is huge," Mr Huhne said.

"Our forbears who fought so hard to establish our rights under the law would be shocked at what we have lost. The freedom bill we are publishing today will repeat 20 years of attacks on our civil liberties from both Labour and Tory governments."

After publication the bill is now in consultation but the Lib Dems do not intend to use it as a publicity stunt. Senior party figures are keen to use it to champion the party's credentials on civil liberties.

A group of around 90 MPs regularly votes with the Lib Dems on civil liberties issues and the Conservatives are only expected to back around three-quarters of the measures proposed in the bill.

Despite this, Mr Huhne insisted the bill had a serious purpose: "to build a genuine coalition about what needs to be done after the next election".

The first opportunity for this will be the Convention on Modern Liberty, which takes place in London on Saturday. An array of figures from across the political spectrum will participate, including former shadow home secretary Davis Davis, justice minister Michael Wills and Shami Chakrabarti, director of pressure group Liberty.


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