Farron: Lib Dems will resist Snoopers’ Charter

GCHQ Bude by Paul WalterIt looks like the Tories’ Snoopers’ Charter to be unveiled this week will be the blinged-up version, with even more sweeping powers than they tried to introduce before. Tim Farron told the Independent that the Liberal Democrats would oppose it just like we did in Government:

Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, signalled that he would be prepared to muster his 112-strong bloc of peers to oppose measures which undermined individual liberty. “We would use all parliamentary tools available to us to ensure any proposed legislation is properly scrutinised,” he told The Independent.

“Liberal Democrats will always support proportionate measures to increase our security, but we must not allow cornerstone civil liberties to be swept away. We will wait with interest to see the detail of the draft Bill, as the Tories have long argued for powers that are not targeted and not proportionate. We blocked the ‘snooper’s charter’ in government and would strongly resist any attempt to bring it back.

“It would be a dramatic shift in the relationship between the state and the individual and fundamentally strikes the wrong balance between liberty and security.”

Back in 2012, Nick Clegg almost agreed to this but after interventions, one by angry bloggers who understood the technicalities in a Conference call with a special adviser, he pulled back. Instead, a draft bill was tabled and subjected to scrutiny by a committee made-up of representatives from both Houses of Parliament, including our Julian Huppert. They rejected the plan and you can read their report here. They determined:

 Our overall conclusion is that there is a case for legislation which will provide the law enforcement authorities with some further access to communications data, but that the current draft Bill is too sweeping, and goes further than it need or should. We believe that, with the benefit of fuller consultation with CSPs than has so far taken place, the Government will be able to devise a more proportionate measure than the present draft Bill, which would achieve most of what they really need, would encroach less upon privacy, would be more acceptable to the CSPs, and would cost the taxpayer less. We make detailed recommendations accordingly on the content of a revised Bill.

This report led Nick to kill off the measure completely. Julian Huppert explained why in a post for LDV at the time:

Nick refused to allow the Bill to go ahead, and forced the Home Office to publish the Bill as a draft, allowing us all to see what the Home Office were planning. Nick appointed Paul Strasburger and I onto a Committee to scrutinise it in detail. We went through the evidence, heard from many experts and published a cross-party report. This was damming of the Home Office proposals – it unanimously describe some of the Home Office information as ‘fanciful and misleading’.

Following Nick’s intervention and our report, the Home Office was given the chance to rethink. To build a proper case and look for proposals which were proportionate to the problem.

They have failed to do so; they have failed to meet Lib Dem demands. They have failed to meet what the British public deserve.

As a result, Nick has just this morning announced that he has killed off the Data Communications Bill, dubbed the “snooper’s charter”.

These Labour and Conservative efforts to have all of our web records stored and monitored by the Government was an affront to basic liberty. The plans were based on patchy evidence, ignorance of modern technology and a complete disregard for our basic rights.

Put simply, they were anathema to our Party: the only British political party which is dedicated to protecting the rights of every citizen.

This is truly an immense moment for any liberal, and every Liberal Democrat.

We’re not shouting from the sideline. We’re doing what we promised to do in Government, in the face of an onslaught of baseless claims from Labour, Conservative and the right wing press.

Next time you’re on the doorstep remember what Nick has done today; how we’ve protected and defended people in a way which Labour and Tory simply cannot.

These plans were based on scant evidence, scaremongering and a disregard for our personal lives; treating everyone as a suspect and our online activity as ‘fair game’.

Lib Dems know what it means to defend liberty in Government, and today Nick’s done just that.

This is yet another example of the Conservatives showing their true colours.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • I await the verdict of the Labour party saying `the lib dems are a finished force` and the conservatives saying `because they only have 8 mps they shouldn’t hold so much power`. Then true to form labour will probably abstain on the issue and the conservatives will row back when the public realise what’s going on.

  • “Back in 2012, Nick Clegg almost agreed to this but after interventions, one by angry bloggers who understood the technicalities in a Conference call with a special adviser, he pulled back.”

    The above sentence should have the word “almost” removed to make it accurate.

  • Lib Dem’s lost this debate in the last Parliament from poor comprehension of the topic. As Stuart points out, Clegg initially flip flopped on the issue, then we had a consistent platform until DRIP, whereupon we ditched everything said prior on the grounds of national security. So, whilst Julian Huppert did make the above statement, he later said this on LDV : https://www.libdemvoice.org/julian-huppert-this-is-not-snoopers-charter-its-what-we-had-already-plus-additional-safeguards-41464.html .

    Our inconsistency was mainly borne of Huppert responses and the trust placed in him on these issues by the rest of the party. Early this year the DRIP legislation that Huppert and Baker went to great lengths to try to persuade us to accept was ruled illegal because it contravenes the Human Rights convention – they’re both on LDV telling us why we NEEDED it (we don’t have it now, the world didn’t ended). That legislation couldn’t of passed without Lib Dems and ironically was started because of a letter from the ORG (which many Lib Dems are members of), since then it’s been pretty apparent to any spectator that the party is completely lost on this subject and this article helps reinforce that view.

    I don’t understand how we keep falling for this, but this article shows there’s no end/recovery in sight. Until we stop deferring judgement to “heroes of the internet” and “tech wizards” in their battle against “the snoopers charter” we won’t develop a platform that adequately addresses these issues. The idea that this sort of legislation changes day to day working practices in GCHQ seems laughable to me, we just don’t seem to understand how things are, how they could be and that this subject is completely entangled with our broader relationship with America. Whatever our MPs vote for, it won’t change the data we send to the NSA, I read this situation as analogous to the plight of the Chagossians.

  • Alex Macfie 3rd Nov '15 - 9:23am

    Julian Huppert didn’t say that DRIP was the best piece of legislation, rather that it was the best compromise available at the time, and only intended as a temporary solution. He was probably not sorry that it was struck down.
    We don’t defer to so-called “tech wizards”,m whatever those are. The tech sector is multi-faceted and has diverging interests. What large tech companies like Micro$oft is different from small start-ups ; different from open-source or free-software creators; different from ISPs; different from IT contractors; different from people like me who work in the IT service sector (i.e. as an IT person in a largely non-IT organisation). That you (ChrisB) have a habit of lumping all or most of these together and claiming the party as representing them as a group shows the weakness in your understanding of the issue.

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