Julian Huppert MP writes…I agree with Nick. He’s right to kill the Snoopers’ Charter

On 18th March 2010 Nick Clegg gave a speech to Privacy International about Lib Dem plans to roll back the surveillance state.  He said:

 The Conservatives talk a good game on privacy but scratch beneath the surface and it is clear they cannot be trusted to roll back Labour’s surveillance state… Only the Liberal Democrats will bring an end to the endless snooping on innocent people.

We committed ourselves at the last election to ending ID cards, curbing CCTV and stopping the Home Office encroachment into our lives. Enough of citizens as suspects. Enough of “endless snooping” by the Government.

One of our first acts in Coalition with the Conservatives was to end ID cards and regulate CCTV. But when the Home Secretary came forward with plans – similar to Labour – to monitor our internet activity, we saw that Nick was right. Tory commitment to civil liberties is skin deep.

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.

* Julian Huppert was the Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge from 2010-15

Read more by or more about , , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.


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

    A fantastic victory.

    I still do not understand why we could not do the same on secret courts.

  • Melanie Harvey 25th Apr '13 - 11:01am


  • An excellent way to save £1.8 billion!

  • Richard Stow 25th Apr '13 - 11:53am

    Well done LibDems – shame on Cameron for promoting this bill.

  • Keith Edkins 25th Apr '13 - 1:11pm

    Well done Julian. However a cynic might observe that the Coalition Agreement includes the line “We will end the storage of internet and email records without good reason.” Will we ever have cause to celebrate a move in this direction rather than the collapse of a grotesque attempted move in the other?

  • A fair point Keith, though what “good reason” is obviously open to debate. We can be glad though that the LibDem view of what isn’t good reason won out though.

  • Definitely a feather in your collective caps . When libertarians agree with the Daily Mail about something , what’s being proposed probably isn’t a good idea. Quite what Cameron and May thought they were doing, going against their own manifesto, it’s difficult to know.

    Although Clegg seems to be on safe populist ground by rejecting this .The vast majority of the public don’t want a vast, faceless officialdom making suspects of everyone.

  • Just very pleased this dreadful thing has been killed off.

  • Stuart Mitchell 26th Apr '13 - 12:35pm

    Those who are getting carried away praising Clegg need reminding that he agreed to the bill in the first place, allowed it to go in to the Queen’s speech, has said all along that he recognises the “need” for some kind of bill (note how his comments on LBC still allow him plenty of wriggle room), and has only backed away now in the force of overwhelming pressure.

  • Well done Nick Julian Huppert!

  • Well done Nick but what are you and your party going to do about the “state sponsored intrusion into family life” that is being brought before the Scottish parliament ?

    The children and young people bill (GIRFEC) seeks to appoint a “named person” for every child in scotland without parental consent or knowledge to allow “snoopers” legal authority to tell parent how to raise their children. This is despite the policy having no statutory foundation and being in breach of Article 8 of the ECHR and the Data Protection Act (which is a UK wide statute from which Scotland may not divert without reference to the UK Government).

    Disguised as a child protection measure but nothing of the kind, GIRFEC has spawned a series of ‘wellbeing’ indicators known as SHANARRI which represent a universal prescription for a state approved childhood. It has essentially shifted the threshold for intervention in family life on child ‘protection’ grounds from “at risk of significant harm” to “at risk of not meeting state dictated ‘wellbeing’ outcomes”. Every parent in Scotland is now routinely assessed on his/her “parental capacity to provide wellbeing”, based on government defined criteria which, according to its own ‘National Risk Framework to Support the Assessment of Children and Young People’ (http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2012/11/7143/9) places every child under five, and most older children and young people, in the ‘vulnerable’ category (thus liable to ‘early intervention’).

    The fact that every child will be subject to this intrusion by a stranger without opt-out, regardless of his or her wishes (or those of his or her parents in the case of a young child) renders it a disproportionate measure in that most children have no need of state ‘intervention’, compulsory or otherwise, in their family lives.

    While such data gathering and sharing by professionals is already lawful and uncontentious in relation to the small minority of truly vulnerable children who are “at risk of significant harm” (a longstanding definition which empowers agencies to make timely child protection interventions), it is inappropriate and entirely misguided to bring every child within a child ‘protection’ regime by shifting the definition of ‘vulnerable’ to include any child deemed (via tick box) to be at risk of not meeting state dictated ‘wellbeing’ outcomes. As child protection expert Eileen Munro observed, “It doesn’t get any easier to find a needle in a haystack if you make the haystack bigger”.

    Gathering, storing and sharing of sensitive personal data without express informed consent on a universal basis is an unacceptable invasion of personal and family privacy in a free society, and deplore the fact that such prima facie unlawful activity has apparently been sanctioned by the Information Commissioner.

    GIRFEC, as has been practiced to date (in the absence of any statutory framework and thefeore without lawful basis), has already damaged relationships between many parents and professionals and will inevitably place the most vulnerable children at greater risk of harm if parents seek to avoid contact with services which are seen to be staffed solely by state snoopers. The Children and Young People Bill is a Trojan horse piece of legislation which seeks to undermine parents, abolish the right to family privacy and confidentiality, including medical confidentiality, since all records are to be shared (http://www.ehealth.scot.nhs.uk/wp-content/documents/Information-Architecture-Review-Final.pdf), and introduce a national identity register, cleverly disguised in ‘chilld protection’ clothing, by the back door.

    I seem to remember a similar thing many many years ago where all children were indoctrinated by the state but at that time it was called Hitler Youth.

    What are your party going to do about this piece of legislation ?

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Nick Baird
    Imperfect as it is, our democracy is the sum of its parts, and one of those parts is Opposition Day debates. The second largest party gets 17 of those per parl...
  • Nigel Jones
    So good to have Layla representing us in Foreign Policy, especially on this issue. A pity she did not have time to say more, especially to put things in perspec...
  • Margaret
    The party has no jurisdiction over anyone who is not a member, so nothing more can be done other than placing a flag on their membership record to warn us if th...
  • Guy
    Parties "play politics" by using debates / motions to draw attention to splits and compromises in their opponents' positions. There's nothing wrong with that an...
  • Paul Barker
    I am often ridiculed on here for my polyanish optimism about Our Party but even I think its a bit soon to be talking about being "Government Ready". We should ...