Liberal Democrat peers have defeated the Government on a key vote on the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill.
Amendment 15, tabled jointly by Liberal Democrat frontbench spokesperson Brian Paddick and two Labour peers, creates exemptions to the new offence of “entering or remaining in a designated area” so that it doesn’t apply to aid workers, journalists, people visiting ill relatives or those attending funerals.
The amendment passed by 220 votes to 191.
Liberal Democrat peers also voted for another amendment, tabled jointly by Lord Paddick and Baroness Jones, to limit the Bill’s impact on freedom of speech. However, Labour abstained and Tory peers voted against the amendment, so it failed by 93 votes to 198.
Liberal Democrat MPs had previously voted against the Bill in the House of Commons, joined only by Caroline Lucas, but Labour voted with the Tories to pass it 376–10.
Brian Paddick, Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson for Home Affairs, said:
“Through our opposition to these unnecessary, illiberal new laws, we have secured important changes that will reduce the risk of innocent people being wrongly convicted.
“However, we are still fundamentally opposed to much of the Bill, most of which is based on the discredited ‘conveyor belt’ theory: that simply expressing extreme views inevitably leads to radicalisation and terrorist violence.
“Completely innocent people could be arrested and detained simply for expressing an opinion or for undertaking legitimate research.
“It would also allow people to be detained at ports, airports and the border area between Northern Ireland and the Republic, have the contents of their phones and computers gone through, even if they had no intention of committing any offence.
“We must do all we can to protect our country, but not at the cost of losing our own liberty.”