UK: Lib Dems hollow promise on snooping
In yet another of British Liberal Democrats’ face-saving comments on the government’s proposed snooping laws, the party’s president has pledged to “kill” the bill.
Tim Farron said the Lib Dems “are prepared to kill” the controversial plans but watered down his tough rhetoric saying that will happen if the proposed changes, by their senior coalition partners in the Conservative party, become a “threat to a free and liberal society.”
“But we are prepared to kill them [the plans], be absolutely clear about that, if it comes down to it,” Farron told BBC.
“If we think this is a threat to a free and liberal society then there would be no question of unpicking them or compromising, this just simply must not happen.”
The new legislation proposed by the Home Office will give security services unrestricted access on demand to all web usage, emails, chat logs and telephone calls of any individual.
Lib Dem Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said earlier this month that the government is only to publish the plans “in draft” to ensure the changes face a lengthy delay that would open space for further debate on the details of the legislation.
His stance was crucial to save the face of the party, which opposed similar legislation tabled by the former Labour administration when Lib Dems were in the opposition.
It even triggered civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch to welcome a “draft bill” as a “significant climbdown” on the matter.
However, Home Secretary Theresa May undermined Clegg’s comments saying, “I would expect us to be able to do this in a Bill in the next session [of parliament],” that is by the next month.
In the context of May’s remarks, Farron’s talk of Lib Dems killing the bill seems another hollow promise to both please Lib Dem supporters and leave space for the government to push ahead with its snooping wishes.
After all, Farron did make it clear that he sees the “need” to give security services wider control power over the digital world.
“I am prepared to recognise that there is obviously a need in modern society with new technology to have a look at what needs to be given to the security services, but only if it is absolutely clear there is no universal access,” he said.
Farron further cemented the point that Lib Dems’ opposition to the bill will not be unconditional saying they will oppose it only “if we think this is a threat to a free and liberal society.”
He did not explain what exactly constitutes a “free and liberal society.”
He also did not clarify whether Lib Dems will define such a society with the same commitment to liberal principles that they exercised when going back on their election pledge to keep university tuition fees unchanged.
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