This transcript covers the end of the opening keynote address, and the beginning of the plenary session which followed.
The draft transcript which follows is unedited or requires further editing. It is provided strictly on the understanding that it may contain errors. In particular, it should NOT be considered a complete or correct record of proceedings.
SHAMI CHAKRABATI: In Mr Bingham Mohammed’s case which has shocked Britain, not just people here but all over Britain it has shocked Britain which does dill believe in its rights and, fundamental right not to be tortured shows that governments will cover up shows that governments will opswisscate and shows one very important thing as well, the compromises, where possible, because people thought that rights at freedoms could be just for people like us. Rights for English men, rights for Americans and citizens and nationals rather than fundamental human rights for human beings. (applause).
Some of the extra dition now affecting Gary Macinnonish going to be shipped off to the states with his autism this awkward hacker that is possible because it was sold in the names of dealing with dark skinned terror suspects. Reaper was sold in the name of dealing with serious criminals. I D cards O were sold in the, he never said I D cards are okay as long as for foreigners he said no to I D for anyone, it is unnecessary, it is disproportionate it is dangerous but the moha mad case shows that if we renege on the Human Rights Act for human beings and substitute with a British bill of rights and responsibilities, which is interesting by the way, do we not owe the government enough responsibilities already. What I dream wing when all those acts of Parliament spweingring out more police powers and duties and obligations that we owe to the state and each other, do we now think that we can’t even have a small bundle of non-negotiable humans rights without contingent responsibilities to the state. I say no. I say hell no. What do you say.
AUDIENCE: Hell no!
SHAMI CHAKRABATI: When these salesmen come calling from either party, and from out the party system with their British bills of rights and response bills what is that a British rights for British workers. Not much more bin yes, I am moha mad in there you might think. I say remember that the greatest commice is to our rights at freedoms come when we allow them to be traded away for other people, for dirty foreigners first.
And British rights and American rights and French rights and nationallisticrs and rights for free born English men that Ladies and Gentlemen is the road to Guantanamo bay. (applause).
Now I have read page 11 of today’s guardian and I know a few enthusiastic or desperate attempts at PR when I see them and how much easier it is to court what was it celebrity you said Anthony, to get attention by generating a bit of antagonism between us. That is not good enough for me. That is not the way we defeated 42 days and that is not the way we will protect rights and freedoms in Britain. We will not trade away the Human Rights Act when the salesmen come calling with their car bet bags’s with their swindles of contingent rights and rights for the worthy the people that they deem worthy. Certainly we won’t at Liberty the national council for civil Liberties 75 this year. Perhaps when does not agree with me but I ideally hope that most of you do and I hope that what you take away from today is something positive about alternative policies about alternative ways forward and you go and do as I say and as as I do, join the political parties and make a difference there. Whoever you vote for in my experience the government always gets in (laughter).
But if I have one message for you today above all others it is to quote to the Prime Minister human rights are universal and no injustice is forever. Thanks very much. (applause).
THE CHAIR: Thanks very much Shami and good morning everyone I am George be na Henry look after comment at the guardian both in the paper an on the web. Guardian is really thrilled to be a media sponsor of this wonderful day very interesting day and thank you very much for coming to this first plenary on the citizen and state.
The reason for, other this particular session to sort of set a up the days that we are really at a turning point in public life where there is an enormous change going on in the way that the state organises itself and I think the fact that so many people are here today is because citizens are waking up to this.
I our we’ve got a fantastic pal for you I will go straight on to introduce them.
In the order in which they will speak. They will all speak for about 45 minutes and that is all so we have lots of time for you to question them.
On my far right here Dominic Grieve a member of Parliament more becons field since 1997 a distin questions lawyer. He has been shadow attorney general since 2003. He was appointed shadow secretary, following David Davis, as a passionate supporter of civil liberties and a strong defender of the Human Rights Act many commentators wondered if he would sir 5 that in role he laststed 7 months before being moved in January this year to shadow the justice secretary.
Conservatives have not always be in the right side of the angels regarding and social justice he once set and today he will tell us if they still, if that is what they are now.
Helena Kennedy one of Britain leading human rights lawyers who has been involved in many cases of the last foo years. She was appointed to life peer. The honeymoon didn’t la standard she was rebelling against the anti-terrorism, voted against the labour governments attention to extend state powers and curve civil liberties, on criminal justice and I D cards, one of her most power recent speeches in the house was over the proposed 42 day detention you cannot preserve Liberty by reducing it a sir David Varney on my left is the Prime Ministers A adviser on public service transformation. Campaigners would describe him as one of the are I ask tects of the database state. A in a review he did for the he are get a his name was to make public service delivery more accessible and convenient for citizens the case for identity management was compelling the report says sighting an earlier report by Lord Carter concluding there should be a single source of truth about each citizen.
Before joining the civil service Sir David worked at shell for 28 years and finally on the Panel Ken Macdonald stepped down, as director of public prosecutions. In his final lecture he warned that as while technology has brought the state enormous powers of access to information we need to take great not to fall into a way that freedom’s back is broken by the relentless pressure of a security state. Since stepping down he has been an outspoken critic all of the — this database walked be an in imaginable hell house of personal, private and personal information. No government of any colours to be trusted with such a road map to our souls.
So Dominic Grieve would you like to go.
NEW SPEAKER: Thank you very much and what is in the build up a very important event. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. I think that if we need to start with an overview about what is going so wrong in the field of civil liberties, we have to take a long look at ourselves at how we have succeeded forgive me saying this but collectively in creating this state monster that is threatening to goable freedom up.
Can I just take an example? Bit away from the main theme and that was the community nurse down in Bristol. The one who you remember said she asked a patient if she could pray for her and the consequence of that was that she was suspended for 7 and a half weeks. While somebody considered this issue before coming to the rather common place conclusion that if you are dealing with inter personal relationships you need to be quite sensitive to the person you are speaking to.
Now, that is, I suggest to you, in large measure the origin of the disaster that we are visiting upon ourselves because under pressure from media, individuals electorate, politicians have been latcheting along a road of greatter regulation in the mad and deluded belief by doing it we all end up safer, better protected, better able to relate to each other.
Whatever as what in fact is going to be the end product is going to be a state and society where we are vastly regulated, where it makes no difference to our security, and where individuals feel disempowered and demoralised because the things which come naturally to them in terms of their relationtions with others are constantly fettered at every turn.
In the idea that the criminal of the extremist be it BNP or mad Islamist is going to be in some ways deterred by these structures is laughable. But the trouble is that we as politicians seem so often to lack the courage to just come forward and say none of this will work, you have to accept that society and life carries risk, death is an inevitable for is all and whilst it is the duty of the state to do its best to moderate and prevent what is wrong, never the less there are finite limits on what we should be doing because the moment you go beyond it you start creating that monster.
And that, for me, as a conservative politician coming in I in 1997 and watch indeed with increasing astonishment and horror what we have been creating for ourselves in the last ten years seems to me to be the source of the problem. I say this at the outset of discussion because we will in the course of the discussion have lots to say on 42 days and data share and it DNA databases and I D cards.
But actually we have to get behind all that to understand the drivers that are forcing us down this crazed road uniquely in Western society. I don’t think there is any other European country in the united states that has gone complete hell for leather in this fashion and is transforming us into this really rather unpleasant place. Shami mentioned Bingham Mohammed and the whole episode fills me with up motor shame. Here we are a country that outlawed torture and we appear to have pretty clearly cocluded with in the past four years for issues of state expediency. (applause).
So I think the rallying call for today before we move it is on the discussion is to try to keep this point in mind that all these has been done incrementally shall we say the warming up on the pan. People have said in this case it will help this or it will help that. We’ve got to change the philosophy. Unless we change H that it is going to continue. Now the challenge posted to me a moment ago I will try to answer it that conservatives can get things wrong and of course they can there is authoritarianism as with other political parties the one thing I have to say keeps more on the straight and narrow and I actually thinks helps us is that when we are about to do something that is authoritarian and silly somewhere in the back of our conscience, somebody says your grandfather wouldn’t have approved (laughter).
And it works quite well. So what we need to do is to ally that spirit with the modernity and social justice that many of you have come fired with and try to find a way forward that governments are no longer inclined down this road of constantly appealing to every knee-jerk reaction of the electorate trying to strive for a totally mythical state of absolute security that can never exist and will destroy the quality of our lives if we let is knew. Thank you.