Opinion: A reference article for the Communications Data bill

Back in February 2012, I became concerned about rumours of proposed new legislation which would put in place the means for monitoring all UK citizens’ online and mobile communications – legislation which had previously been thrown out as unworkable by opposition parties when the last Labour government tried something similar.

I wrote a policy amendment, appended to Julian Huppert’s Spring 2012 Conference motion on civil liberties, setting out what I hoped would be a good Liberal Democrat position against those – then unseen – proposals. If I’d known then what was to be included when the proposals finally became public as the Draft Communications Data Bill, I would have set out a more detailed position!

Conference supported my arguments, and that amendment became our policy position. Nick Clegg insisted that the proposals should come forward in draft form, rather than as a full Bill. This enabled intense scrutiny by a panel of MPs and peers of all parties last summer. Our interests on that panel were energetically represented by Julian Huppert and Lord Strasburger. The panel came to a group decision – i.e. supported by all the different parties represented – and effectively, again, threw the proposals back to the Home Office as unworkable. The report from that panel makes fascinating reading.

Now the Home Office is working on a redraft of the proposals and the topic has become of wide general concern. It not only has severe consequences for our own civil liberties, but also for the example we set less-liberal regimes abroad. It has a chilling effect on entrepreneurship, could potentially damage our communications companies and infrastructure, lacks effectiveness in tackling crime, is a tangled confusion in its legal application to international companies and has outrageous costs.

I thought it might be useful for LDV readers to have a reference pulling media stories discussing concerns into one place – here are links to articles which have appeared in the media over the past few days. If readers spot others, please add them into comments.

The Guardian: Home Office fears Clegg will veto “snoopers’ charter”

The Times (paywall): Cameron is told to drop snooping on web users

The Sun: We’re under atax

The Times (paywall): This is an idea either illiberal or pointless or very possibly both

The Telegraph: Data Communications Bill: the Home Office is trying to trap Britain in the past

The Telegraph: Home Office faces legal action unless it reveals details of ‘Snooper’s charter’

The Telegraph: Police spying on phone calls & emails

The Telegraph: What right does the state have to spy on the lives of others?

The Telegraph: The Communications Data Bill will strangle new businesses

The Telegraph: Snoopers’ laws could be used to ‘oppress us’, says David Cameron technology adviser

The Spectator: The scattergun snooping bill won’t help tackle crime or protect people.

The Spectator: Govt keeps snooping bill campaigners in the dark


* Dr Jenny Woods is an activist from Reading with a particular interest in how advances in science and technology can contribute to future policy.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.

One Comment

  • A Orwellian type big state snopping and control. Over the last 20years rights freedoms have been taken away in the name of security. This is so so wrong the terrorist have won turning us into a controled freak state GET REAL stop listenibng to the blinkered closed minded security advisors

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