Sunday, April 29, 2012

Andrew Wiseman's E-mail on Conference security

As you know, I've written at length about my opposition to any sort of accreditation system for party members at our Federal Conference as I believe it represents an illiberal intrusion into private life by the Police which will not make any one person safer. In fact, it's even worse than last year, because we have to put in our past addresses too, which I don't remember having to do last year. What information will they be wanting next year? Details of all our families and friends?

I submitted my views to the Federal Conference Committee consultation and this is the reply I received from FCC chair Andrew Wiseman yesterday:

Many thanks for responding to the consultation by FCC. Apologies for the 'standard' response but as you will appreciate we had a lot of replies and I wanted to advise everyone that responded of where we have got to.
Federal Conference Committee met on Monday to consider the question of conference security.

As we said in our article of 14th April 2012, the police have requested that we adopt a similar system of accreditation for conference that was used for Birmingham last Autumn.  

That system would involve conference attendees submitting certain pieces of information at the time of registration, such as their past addresses and passport number.  That information would be used to assess whether the person registering is who they say they are and whether they pose a serious security threat to conference.  If so, the person concerned would not be accredited.  The vast majority, however, would be.  Those who were accredited for attendance in Birmingham would be recognised by the system, unless they had asked for their data from last time to be deleted, and minimal checks would be required.

As before, safeguards would be put in place were accreditation to be adopted.  These include an appeals procedure whereby the final decision as to whether someone could attend conference or not would be taken by the Party and not the police.  It would also include the facility for the data to be deleted in respect of anyone who wanted it.   What data remained would be held on a standalone system, not linked to the main police computer system.  People who have changed identity would be able to apply for accreditation under their current identity and would not need to reveal their former one.

The FCC recognises that accreditation is highly controversial within the Party.  A motion was submitted about it to Birmingham Conference and, whilst an amendment that would have refused to adopt accreditation in the future failed, conference did ‘condemn’ the system that was in use at that time.

When we called for views on the accreditation proposal for Brighton, many responses were received.  We would like to thank everyone who took the time and trouble to send us their opinions.  Many were in favour of accreditation but many were vehemently opposed to it.

At our meeting on Monday, representatives of LGBT+ attended to tell us about the particular problems with accreditation that face people with previous identities.  We are very grateful for the time they took to do that. 

Senior members of Party staff also attended.  Over the past two weeks, they have talked extensively to the Party insurers and to staff at the conference venue in Brighton.

Following careful consideration, FCC does not think that the case for accreditation of party members is presently made out, but recognises that there are other complex issues around it that need to be addressed.  We are committed to holding conference without it if we possibly can.  

We have therefore decided to delay opening registration for Party members (and only Party members) whilst further negotiation takes place with the police, other Party Committees, the owners of the conference venue and our insurers.  If we possibly can avoid using accreditation though, we will.  We will provide further information as soon as we are able to do so.
Andrew Wiseman
Chair, Federal Conference Committee
The accreditation battle is not over yet, by a long chalk, although this delay is welcome. I think that FCC urgently needs to get our Parliamentarians to question this advice with the Home Office. The other party committees mentioned need to have the courage of their convictions and do all they can to avoid our Conference again being tarnished by an unwarranted invasion of our civil liberties.

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