Andrew Wiseman has been kind enough to send me answers to my long list of questions. There is one outstanding point. People keep claiming that conference standing orders provide a power to exclude people. I can find no such power. Paragraph 6.2 provides for an appeal if the Chief Steward excludes you but without giving him explicit power to do so or setting out grounds for such a decision. That just leaves Public Order legislation which I believe relates to the behaviour of people at conference, NOT to any pre-emptive ban. Here are the questions again with Andrew's answers in italics.
Police accreditation for Liberal Democrat Conferences
A. Questions re data protection
1. Why do the police require passport, driving licence or NI number ? What will they do with the information ? What are the checks they will carry out ? What sources of information will our identities be checked against ? Will these include CRB, County Court judgements, credit reference agencies, Sex Offenders List, anti-terrorist intelligence obtained through interception of signals or undercover officers or word of mouth from informers ? Has FCC asked these questions yet ?
The checks are carried out firstly to ensure the person registering are who they say they are ie someone is not registering under a false name. We have been advised that one way of them doing this is by checking passport or driving licence details. This is because of the checks that are carried out before either are issued. If no such details are available they look at other information to verify the persons identity. The next stage is to decide whether the person poses a significant risk to conference and those attending conference. This is a risk assessment looking at criminal records and other information..
The fact that someone has a criminal record is not a bar, similarly the fact they have been on a picket line, protest etc is not a problem. It comes back to that test of posing a significant risk to conference. By way of example this could be terrorism or one of the known individuals to the police who they believe are a serious threat to certain individuals within the party (a fixated person).
2. What arrangements, if any, has FCC made for people who have none of these items ? Will they be able to attend ?
This is something that we have been assured the police are use to dealing with. They can accept banks statements, registration on the electoral role etc. I attended one of the other parties conference last year with someone who didn’t have the usual information (they do not have a UK passport or driving licence) and they got accredited on site very quickly.
3. What arrangements has FCC made for people whose identities have changed in some way, e.g. transgender people ?
I am in discussions with DELGA, a number of transgender people and the police to work out a system that they are comfortable with. The police have dealt with similar cases with the other parties but we want to go for a slightly different approach that our reps will be more comfortable with.
4. If an elected representative is unable or refuses to provide this information, will they be able to attend ?
Given the wide range of data that is acceptable if they do not have a passport or driving licence which can be provided before conference or, if really necessary at conference there should be no reason for someone not being able to provide the information.
5. Why do the police need to retain the information after they have carried out their checks ? Did FCC consult anyone else in the party to see if they would object to such retention ? Did FCC consider making arrangements to allow members to provide the information on condition that it is not retained ? If such an arrangement happens now, what guarantees will there be that the information has been deleted ?
The police have confirmed that any member that wants their data deleted can have it deleted.
6. How many organisations will actually hold the data ? Just Manchester Police or West Midlands Police or the Home Office or ACPO ? What about the contractors who collect and pass the information to the police ?
The data is held by Greater Manchester Police. They run the accreditation of all the party conferences. The local force (in our case West Midlands) ‘contract’ with GMP to carry out the checks.
7. Section IV of the Data Protection Act has exemptions for various purposes including crime and tax. Has FCC enquired of the police whether they would wish to use the information provided by members, for any of these exempted purposes ?
We have asked .The conference accreditation system is a stand alone system that is not accessed for any other reason than the accreditation to attend party conference (any of the three main parties). Data can be deleted if requested after conference.
B. Questions re excluding representatives from conference
1. Did FCC or anyone negotiating on behalf of the party raise with the police or the Home Office the provisions of our constitution ?
We did raise this with the police (and Home Office). It is because of the unique position of our members and conference that many of the procedures have been put in place.
2. Has FCC established what information the police will give to the party to back up any recommendation to exclude someone from attending conference ? The police are unlikely to disclose information obtained through secret surveillance or intelligence sources. In that situation how will FCC “approach any such decision seriously” ?
There have been discussions over this. Where ever possible they will advise us, this is subject to data protection laws and security considerations. Often the information is in the public domain and can be pointed out to us. Other information may be disclosed subject to confidentiality. We have made it clear that we need to be satisfied. We have offered to take the advice of certain members of the party that have the highest level of security clearance and to whom the police could disclose some information to. Much depends on the nature of the reasons for the potential exclusion.
3. If a member learns that FCC has excluded him or her form attending conference (without of course any constitutional power to do such a thing), what reason will be given and what, if any, appeal process will be available ? How can a member appeal against an allegation if the police will not tell the party what it is ?
An appeal process has been set up. The first stage will be for the person to speak to a senior police officer That will enable any clarifications to be mad and will enable the police to reconsider their recommendation. If that is not successful it will come to myself and the Chief Exec. From there it will go to a full meeting of FCC.
4. Does FCC have a timetable for the accreditation process ? When will the police give their advice ? When will FCC consider it ? When would an excluded person have a chance to appeal ?
As soon as the person registers on the party website the police will start the accreditation process. Thye work through them one by one. As soon as there is a problem we will be advised. They will not save them up. We will deal with the issues as soon as they arise.
5. Has FCC or anyone negotiating on behalf of the party actually asked either the venue or the insurers whether they would refuse us if we did not accept any particular point of police advice or has this possibility been assumed ?
This has been discussed. Advice has also been taken from our insurance advisors. We are continuing the discussions to try and get us into the best position possible.