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IN THE CHAMBER
The Lords this week passed the Justice and Security Bill,a Bill
which has proved difficult for many Liberal Democrat peers. It extends the closed material procedures(CMPs) into the main civil courts in England and Wales, but many in the party have voiced strongconcerns about it, particularly at Conference. The Government, however, has said that it is anessential measure as there are a minority of cases where sensitive evidence cannot be put before anopen court in a way which achieves justice. CMPs can only be applied for in cases where there isnational security material that otherwise could not be disclosed in open court.
Lord Wallace of Tankerness
, the Lib Dem minister who led for the Government in the Lords, said ithad made key changes to the bill to reflect concerns in the Lords after peers had defeated theGovernment during an earlier stage of the bill.
He told peers: “It is fair to say that the provisions dealing with closed material procedures have
undergone significant changes since the Bill was first i
ntroduced into your Lordships’ House 10
months ago. This House made significant amendments to the Bill on important issues of principle. Anumber of noble Lords made their support for these provisions contingent on those changes beingmade. The Government have brought forward amendments that address the views of this House, and
I believe that the measures in the Bill are proportionate and sensible.”
The Government had sought to take on board the concerns of the Joint Committee on Human Rightsand amendments passed in the Lords, Lord Wallace said. In particular, a new clause addressed the
“last resort” concern of many peers by allowing a court to revoke a CMP declaration at any time.
“Under these amendments the judge now has total discretion over whether to m
ake a CMPdeclaration following an application by any party to the proceedings, or a Secretary of State, should
the Secretary of State not be a party to the proceedings,” said Lord Wallace. “The court also has the
power to order a CMP declaration of its ow