Government plan for courts to sit in private is rejected
The Liberal Democrat leadership suffered an embarrassing defeat last night as activists rejected Government plans to allow some courts to sit in private to hear evidence relating to national security.
A succession of critics warmed that the moves would undermine fundamental principles of open justice. The architect of the proposals, the former Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke, insists the scheme is essential to help the Government defend itself in a limited number of civil cases.
Liberal Democrat ministers had urged delegates not to back the rebel motion, arguing that much of the Justice and Security Bill, which contains the controversial proposal, was in the public interest.
But activists at Brighton called by a huge majority for their MPs and peers to "press for the withdrawal or defeat" of the Bill.
The Liberal Democrat peer Lord Strasburger denounced the proposed legislation as "hopelessly flawed and beyond repair".
Nick Clegg is expected to use the vote to try and gain more safeguards against the secret courts provision being abused.
After the defeat, Lord Wallace, a Government law officer, said: "It has always been the Government's intention that closed courts should only be used as a last resort and in a very small minority of cases where the alternative is no justice at all."
* Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader, accused some banks of making racist decisions over lending. He said he had heard of banks turning down requests from black people even if they had a "better financial reputation" than white customers.
Emergency landing at Heathrow sparks further controversy over London airport capacity
Unrest may spread across Europe, warns Red Cross chief
French government seeks to ban extreme right-wing group
BNP and EDL accused of attempt to fuel racial hatred after Woolwich terror attack
You want to get an Eton scholarship? All you need to do is answer four (not so simple) questions
- 1 What, let gays get married? We must be bonkers
- 2 'Something passed underneath us, quite close': Airbus A320 has close encounter with UFO
- 3 Rocky Horror star Tim Curry 'suffers major stroke'
- 4 Exclusive: How MI5 blackmails British Muslims
- 5 Lord of the Sings: Sir Christopher Lee, 91, to release heavy metal album
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Nook is donating eReaders to volunteers at high-need schools and participating in exclusive events throughout the campaign.
Get the latest on The Evening Standard's campaign to get London's children reading.
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.