Today is Internation Human Rights Day, marking the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Today we can celebrate what we have achieved but also raise awareness about the risks to these rights which we have fought so hard to get.
One of the reasons I joined the Liberal Democrats is that we believe we should all be free from an overreaching state and that the individual freedoms guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act are central to a free and democratic society.
You can draw a clear link between the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Human Rights Act, both of which are celebrating are celebrating milestone anniversaries this year. The Human Rights Act is one of our Parliament's greatest legislative moments and has supported thousands of individuals to protect their rights - whether it be Deepcut or Hillsborough.
There have always been threats to our rights, whether it be Labour Home Secretaries wanting to be able to lock people up without charge, or Tories wanting to scrap the Act altogether, Liberals have stood firm and not flinched in our commitment to protecting your rights.
So on this momentous day, let me reiterate that decade's old commitment so that in 70 years time we can be celebrating this milestone again. The movement cannot stand still; we must jump on injustices. I oppose any attempt to water down, withdraw from or abolish the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act.
The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill, however, represents a real and present threat to our rights and freedoms. Currently, with the Lords, it is due back to the House of Commons soon for ascension. If our MPs vote the same way then every single Tory and Labour MP will be voting for it - even Bristol West's.
The Liberal Democrats are leading the campaign against this. Rather than fighting terror by protecting our freedoms, Labour and the Tories are signing off on a litany of ill thought through new proposals blindly expanding the government's power. But what does the bill actually mean?
- It means if you watch the wrong YouTube video just once, you face up to 15 years in prison.
- It bans even photographs of certain flags or clothing declared illegal.
- Local authorities like Bristol will be brought under the controversial Prevent Counter-Extremism strategy, without an independent review of the scheme. They will also be given new powers to keep your biometric data for much longer, even if you haven't been convicted of a crime.
- It also gives unprecedented powers to border security staff to detain, interrogate and search you even in the case of no suspicion of wrongdoing. There is no requirement for officers to give any justification for their actions.
- It criminalises journalists, human rights activists and aid workers who travel to 'designated areas' of terrorist activity.
It is wrong, will do nothing to prevent terrorists and is an assault on our basic human rights and freedoms. Our MP is currently voting with the Tories for this. Please in the coming days and weeks, get in touch with your MP and ask them to fight to defend your human rights.