Leading article: The Coalition's new tune on security

Share
Related Topics

It could be concluded from developments over the past 48 hours that the Government was engaging in a major rethink on two pieces of security-related legislation it had seemed wedded to. The first is the long-mooted plan for trials and inquests to be held behind closed doors where there are national security implications. The second concerns proposals, revealed last weekend, to extend the surveillance of those using the internet and social media.

Both measures had, quite rightly, come in for ferocious criticism – from campaigners, from most of the media, and from not a few Coalition MPs – as imposing potentially serious curbs on civil liberties. The plan for "secret" trials was additionally condemned yesterday in a report by the parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, which described such closed hearings as "inherently unfair". All this was doubly disappointing, given that the Coalition had come to office promising to repeal the repressive anti-terrorism measures passed by the previous government.

Now, though, the Government is singing a different tune. The Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, seems to accept that the proposals for closed trials go too far, while the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has said that extending surveillance of the internet will appear in the Queen's Speech only as a "draft". The impression is being given, if not of a comprehensive government U-turn, at least of a readiness to renew consultation.

If this is so, it would be extremely welcome – for while the threat presented by terrorism should not be underestimated, nor should the lobbying skills of the intelligence services. And both sets of proposals threatened to tip the necessary balance far too far away from civil liberties and towards security. Yet the actual words used by ministers yesterday fell short of a complete rethink, and the desire of Mr Clegg, in particular, to present his party as exerting a seriously liberalising influence on policy must also be borne in mind. A close watch needs to be kept on what comes next, including what features in the Queen's Speech. Only then will it be clear whether the Government has had a change of heart, or has merely changed its words.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: On behalf of a successful academy i...

Investigo: Finance Business Partner

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A solar energy farm in France  

Nature Studies: For all the attractions of solar power, it shouldn’t blight the countryside

Michael McCarthy
Supporters of New Democracy wave Greek flags during Antonis Samaras pre-election speech.  

Greece elections: Where does power lie? This is the question that ties the UK to Athens

Steve Richards
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project