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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Will the Lords give Cameron another bloody nose?

Fresh from forcing a rethink on tax credits the Liberal Democrats peers in the House of Lords are preparing to take a stand on another piece of legislation, and a stand that chimes very much with liberal principles.

The Guardian reports that a fresh showdown is being prepared with the Government over plans to allow police to examine people’s online browsing histories. Peers are also concerned that the Government has rejected calls for judges, rather than ministers, to issue eavesdropping warrants.

The paper says that critics from across the political divide believe that the Bill, which will update 15-year-old legislation, could amount to the return of the “Snooper’s Charter” and undermine the privacy of individuals:

The power of the upper house to frustrate Tory legislation was dramatically illustrated on 26 October when peers defeated the Government twice on tax credits. The next day it came within a few votes of blocking moves to delete 1.9 million names from the Electoral Register in December, and peers are likely to defeat the Government next month and support allowing 16- and 17-year -olds to vote in the EU referendum.

Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, signalled that he would be prepared to muster his 112-strong bloc of peers to oppose measures which undermined individual liberty. “We would use all parliamentary tools available to us to ensure any proposed legislation is properly scrutinised,” he told The Independent.

“Liberal Democrats will always support proportionate measures to increase our security, but we must not allow cornerstone civil liberties to be swept away. We will wait with interest to see the detail of the draft Bill, as the Tories have long argued for powers that are not targeted and not proportionate. We blocked the ‘snooper’s charter’ in government and would strongly resist any attempt to bring it back.

“It would be a dramatic shift in the relationship between the state and the individual and fundamentally strikes the wrong balance between liberty and security.”

This is the House of Lords doing the job it is meant to do, providing a check on the Commons and giving them another chance to consider measures. How Cameron must wish his party had not blocked reform in the previous Parliament.
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