I've known Lord Carlile of Berriew for a long time. He was MP for Montgomeryshire from 1983-1997,when he stood down, thus allowing Lembit Opik to take his place in Parliament. Alex was also my next door neighbour. I was elected the MP for Montgomeryshire in 2010, and have worked with Lord Carlile on several issues, particularly our mutual opposition to legalisation of assisted suicide. Because I have a great respect for his opinion, I like to discuss complex legal/political issues with him over a coffee in the Lords tearoom as going through the process of making up my own mind.
Alex and I had one such discussion about the new Communications Data Bill. I had found myself in two minds on the Home Secretary's proposals. Thought Alex could help me work through the issues. On the one hand I tend to be suspicious of prying authority - but not to the extent of leaving us exposed to a greater terrorism threat. I was surprised by the vehemence of his support for the Bill, particularly since he has always been, and remains a committed Liberal Democrat. He has also been the Gov'ts reviewer of anti-terrorism legislation for 10 yrs. Anyway, his article in today's Telegraph will have come as no surprise to me. I will leave you with a few of Alex's quotes.
"put simply, the details of who communicated with whom, when and for how long are a proportionate response to a fundamental problem"
"responsible commentators should be seriously troubled by the inaccurate and misleading coverage of the Gov't's plans to update the legislative framework."
"communications data are vital to successful prosecutions. They are used every day in courts up and down the land - in murder cases, fraud trials and drugs prosecutions."
"In relation to terrorism, the availability and use of such data......saves lives."
"Like Mr Clegg, I am strongly opposed to the routine accessing of the content of communications...... but powerful controls exist to prevent that. The Gov't's proposals are about something quite different. They are about the data surrounding a communication; the fact of something being said, not what precisely was said. And the draft legislation provides for an equally stringent access regime to the current system, subject to regular independent oversight."
"Between July 2012 and Feb 2013, communications data were used in 95% of all serious organised crime cases handled by the CPS. They were also a vital part of every major counter-terrorism operation by the security forces over the last decade. Without updating the law, the simple reality is that these figures will fall over time."
"Parliament should be brave enough to press ahead with the plans, in the protection of the public interest."
Now this man knows what he's talking about when it comes to anti-terrorism law - so where does that leave Mr Clegg?