Welcome to the latest edition of Letter of the Lords – the weekly newsletter aimed at shining a light into the

work the party’s peers are doing in the second chamber. Why not let us know what you think? Email the newsletter onlordsmedia@libdems.org.uk. And that’s also the address to give to friends, colleagues and loved ones to sign up too. Plus don’t forget to keep up to date with the blog at libdemlords.org.uk and follow us on Twitter at@LibDemLords.

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 strong concerns about it, particularly at Conference. The Government, however, has said that it is an essential measure as there are a minority of cases where sensitive evidence cannot be put before an open court in a way which achieves justice. CMPs can only be applied for in cases where there is national 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 it had made key changes to the bill to reflect concerns in the Lords after peers had defeated the Government 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. A number of noble Lords made their support for these provisions contingent on those changes being made. 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 Rights and 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 CMP declaration 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 own accord.”

He added: “The final decision on whether a CMP can be held rests with the judge, not the Secretary of State. The Bill provides the judge with the explicit power to reject an application.” Two amendments were tabled in the name of Lib Dem peers but were not passed. The first, in the name of Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, sought to ensure that a court must, when considering going into closed session, consider the public interest in open justice. The second, in the name of Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, provided for a regular review of CMPs every five years. It was not passed in large part to most Labour peers having gone home by that time. The Bill will now be sent to the Queen for Royal Assent before she opens a new session of Parliament on May 8.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK “Perhaps I should clarify, for the benefit of readers of Hansard, that perhaps my opening remarks should not have been made and we should have gone straight to the noble Baroness, Lady GreyThompson. So my reply came at the beginning of the debate. My plea is that I have been in the House for only 15 years and am still getting used to some of its more arcane procedures.” Lord McNally proves that, in the Lords, you never stop learning.

TWEET OF THE WEEK “Hooray! #UKBA is abolished, as I have suggested; responsibility rests fairly & squarely on the Secretary of Statebit.ly/U9Cukt” Lord Avebury (@EricAvebury) comes to bury the UK Border Agency, not to praise it.

The Crime and Courts Bill passed through the Lords, with peers voting for the future possible transfer of responsibility for counterterrorism from the Met Police to the new National Crime Agency (NC). Baroness Hamwee told peers: “It seems quite logical that counterterrorism should be dealt with alongside and as part of dealing with serious crime and organised crime. They are often inseparable activities that fund terrorism, and I suspect they largely come within the remit of the NCA, or will do when it is in operation.”

The Presumption of Death Act, a Private Member’s Bill pushed in the Lords byBaroness Kramer, this week received Royal Assent, making it law. The Act creates a

new court procedure which can lead to the issue of a Certificate of Presumed Death, alleviating the difficulties caused by the current complex system when a person goes missing but no body is found. Jo Youle, chief executive at the charity Missing People, said: “We are delighted that families facing the unimaginable pain of having a missing loved one will now have access to a fair and effective system. The charity is grateful to everyone who supported the Missing Rights campaign, including John Glen MP and Baroness Kramer for taking the Bill through Parliament.”

Lord Roberts of Llandudno used an oral question in the House to ask the Government what arrangements it had with the Polish government for rehabilitation programmes for destitute rough sleepers from the country in the UK. He expressed his concern that a number of London boroughs had withdrawn funding for the charity Barka, which deals with homeless eastern European citizens and has already rehabilitated 2,822 people. “That means that those who previously could have been helped will still be on the streets of London,” h e said.

And Baroness Northover used a question on global health to stress that the Department for International Development “puts woman and girls front and centre, recognising that they are likely to be the poorest and most vulnerable in the world”. Baroness Northover, the Government’s spokeswoman for both International Development and Health in the Lords, was responding to a report by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health, All The Talents, which called on the Government to promote skills mixes and task-sharing in low- and middleincome countries.

WHAT’S COMING UP The House of Lords is now in recess for Easter and this newsletter will return on April 26. Enjoy your eggs. For a more detailed look at what's coming up in the Lords click here.

‘So was this a last minute thing?’ – Lord Redesdale on the introduction of Martha Lane Fox into the House of Lords

Follow the Lib Dem Lords on Twitter @LibDemLords, contact the newsletter at lordsmedia@libdems.org.uk and see the blog at libdemlords.org.uk.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful