UPDATED: (Not) The Snoopers’ Charter: Where we are, how we got here, what we should look for and what should happen next

The Houses Of ParliamentI’m feeling slightly nervous this morning. As I was going to bed last night, news came through that apparently a deal had been struck to introduce emergency legislation on communications data. The Guardian has the details.

The government will announce that it is rushing through emergency legislation underpinning the state’s right to keep personal data held by internet and phone companies.

Labour is expected to accept the bill on the basis that it will simply restore what the government believed to be the law before the European Court of Justice ruled in April that an EU directive on privacy retention had over-reached its powers and amounted to an invasion of privacy.

But, as part of the deal, the opposition has won agreement that ministers will launch a review of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act passed in 2000. The act is seen as the source of excessive surveillance by the security services.

Hang on, what was that last sentence again? “The opposition has won agreement that Ministers will launch a review of RIPA.” Let’s just remind ourselves who was in Government when RIPA was passed? Ah yes, that authoritarian, illiberal Labour government that thought it was ok to lock people up for 90 days without charge.  Our MPs have been going on about reviewing RIPA since it was passed. It’s really important that Labour don’t get to claim that ground.

Remember Conrad

Civil liberties is incredibly important to me and it always takes a lot to convince me that infringing people’s freedom is desirable or necessary.  Any government, including one with my own people in it would have a hard job on that front. The late, wise Conrad Russell always used to advise reading things three times before reacting to them and that’s what I will do.

I thought it might be useful to also set out the reasons why the Liberal Democrats stopped the Draft Communications Data Bill in its track 20 months ago. Julian Huppert wrote at the time:

Towards the end of the evidence sessions, we began to get a bit more of an understanding of what the Home Office actually want. For example, proper IP address matching would allow the existing system to work better. We could look at measures such as that, but only with proper safeguards.

However what the Home Office asked for was indeed a snoopers charter, which we were asked to support with virtually no evidence.

The Bill in its current form simply cannot proceed. We must find a way forward which increases current safeguards, is narrower in scope and has a far better understanding of the technical challenges we face.

Our lives are moving online. It would be ridiculous for the Government to be given a blanket power to watch over us, just as it would be ridiculous for us to stop the Government from ever accessing any communications data. The proposals got the balance between liberty and security utterly wrong.

If the Home Office wants to fiddle with online surveillance, they have to give us evidence that it’s needed, they have to provide a costed policy, they have to improve the existing system under RIPA and they have to bring in strict and proper safeguards.

These are the principles we should be looking out for in any announcement today. Is the new legislation. which MPs will be asked to pass very quickly, anything like that which was rejected? If not, what are the differences. Devils, details and all that.

Here is Julian’s Independent article referred to in his piece. And here is the full report of the Committee that studied and rejected the draft bill two years ago.

Has Nick Clegg learned anything about communicating with the Party?

An important side issue of today will be whether Nick Clegg and those Liberal Democrats within the Government have learned anything about communicating with the Party. This is obviously going to be something that is going to be of serious concern to us. He needs his activists motivated and out there on doorsteps much more than Cameron or Miliband do. Although his leadership has never been under serious threat, he has been criticised quite heavily in the wake of the European elections and the party is still in quite a fearful and fretful state. People are getting on with their campaigning but there’s an underlying anxiety there. He’s going to have to be quite sensitive and hold our hands through this, explaining very carefully and respectfully to us what’s changed, why now and why so quickly. Why he is willing, as well, to push through a law that flies in the face of a European Court of Justice ruling in favour of something that Theresa May has been wanting for ages. And, seriously, he needs not to use any sort of hyperbolic language about terrorists and paedophiles. That sort of thing just winds us up and is to be avoided.

How well he does that will influence how well the party is prepared to understand his thought processes in coming to the decisions he’s reached.

The reaction of three people in particular will be particularly interesting.  Julian Huppert, as the key Committee member from the last time, Tim Farron as party president and, externally, Shami Chakrabarti, the Director of Liberty.

Watch this space. We’ll be back with more details after Clegg’s and Cameron’s press conference at 10:15.

 Update: 8:25 – The Snoopers’ Charter will not happen

Well, the answer to the second question appears to be yes. Party members have received this email.

I’ve just been told that the Cabinet has been called to an urgent meeting at No10 this morning to discuss emergency legislation. This is being made public in the next few minutes.

I understand that behind-the-scenes Nick and Norman Baker, with the help of Julian Huppert, have been locked in negotiations for a number of weeks, trying to deal with how police and security services can continue to access the information they need to keep the public safe.

They will confirm today that the ‘snooper’s charter’ will not happen.

I’m also told that as well as making sure there’s no snooper’s charter, we’ve secured more transparency and a major review of RIPA – something I know a lot of Lib Dems will be delighted with.

I will update you with more information as I get it.

Helen Duffett.

 Update 9am: Nick Clegg: “This urgency will not be used as an excuse for more powers”

The Guardian’s Andrew Sparrow has Nick Clegg’s first words on the matter:

We know the consequences of not acting are serious, but this urgency will not be used as an excuse for more powers, or for a ‘snooper’s charter’.

I believe that successive governments have neglected civil liberties in the pursuit of greater security. We will be the first government in many decades to increase transparency and oversight, and make significant progress in defence of liberty.

But liberty and security must go hand in hand. We can’t enjoy our freedom if we’re unable to keep ourselves safe.

Update 9:35 am – Julian Huppert’s briefing

Helen Duffett and Julian Huppert have sent out a further email giving details of the legislation. It includes a sunset clause and a review of the reviled RIPA legislation.

Since my email this morning about the emergency legislation, I’ve been sent more details from Julian Huppert.

I’ve just spoken to Julian and he’s really proud of what the team have delivered, in what are clearly very difficult circumstances.

Helen

From Julian Huppert:

As a Liberal, I care passionately about civil liberties, privacy, and the need to limit abusive state surveillance.

But I also know that there is a need for the police and intelligence agencies to have the tools to do the job we give them – as long as they are carefully controlled, appropriately used, and proportionate to the threat faced.

Those concerns are key – and I have often been incensed at the way governments, whether Labour or Tory, have used threats for terrorism or anything else as a reason to chip away at our individual freedoms. We must not and will not allow this.

There is an issue we have to deal with now. The European Court of Justice threw out the European Data Retention Directive, which underpins all collection of communications data in this country. I sympathise with the reasons, but we must acknowledge that it causes real problems – we do need to have some way to keep some communications data, but under very careful control.

Some people would love to use this to bring back the awful Communications Data Bill – known as the Snooper’s Charter – that Nick vetoed last year. A number of Tories pushed it and Labour tried something similar themselves. We will not allow this to happen. We’ve blocked it once, and we will continue to do so. This legislation just allows the agencies to continue with their current abilities.

I’ve had the chance to speak to Nick and Norman Baker about this – all of us have been clear. We must keep our country and citizens safe, but not by allowing the erosion of our civil liberties and increasing unchecked intrusion into our lives.

We need legislation to allow communications data to be available, but not to store more than is already allowed. And in this post-Snowden world, we need to move towards keeping less, and finding better and more proportionate ways to do so.

We need to completely rewrite the law in this area. But that cannot be done quickly. We have to get it right, which will take a lot of work from many experts. We’ve already started that off – our ‘Digital Bill of Rights’ motion calls for a commission of experts to review all state surveillance and information from the Snowden revelations – that takes time. Nick has already started this work with the Royal United Services Institute, and they need to finish that work.

So I think it is right to agree to a stop-gap. A piece of legislation that can be passed quickly, but crucially will automatically expire at the end of 2016, giving time to write something better, and the certainty of knowing it will not just become entrenched.

And in this stop-gap legislation, we should agree to no more than was previously allowed.

And we’ve managed better than that – we’ve also negotiated and won a package of pro-civil liberties measures to go with it:

  • The Bill includes a termination clause that ensures the legislation falls at the end of 2016 and the next government is forced to look again at these powers.
  • Between now and 2016 we will hold a full review of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, to make recommendations for how it could be reformed and updated.
  • We will appoint a senior diplomat to lead discussion with the American government and the internet companies to establish a new international agreement for sharing data between legal jurisdictions.
  • We will establish a Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board on the American model, to ensure that civil liberties are properly considered in the formulation of government policy on counter-terrorism. This will be based on David Anderson’s existing role as the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation.
  • Further reform of the Intelligence and Security Committee, so that in future the Chair must be drawn from the Opposition parties.
  • We will restrict the number of public bodies that are able to approach phone and internet companies and ask for communications data. Some bodies will lose their powers to access data altogether while local authorities will be required to go through a single central authority who will make the request on their behalf.
  • Finally, we will publish annual transparency reports, making more information publicly available than ever before on the way that surveillance powers operate.

I don’t claim that this is a perfect long-term solution. But I don’t think anyone could write down, right now, what would be perfect. And it’s a huge lot better than either the Tories or Labour would have done on their own. But because this legislation – though not the extra safeguards – will end in 2016, there will have to be a proper full discussion in the rest of this Parliament and the next on this – the status quo cannot be continued forever.

We’ve done much to be proud of to support civil liberties. We’ve scrapped ID cards, ended 28-day detention without charge, curtailed stop and search powers, ended routine child detention for immigration purposes, reformed the libel laws to protect free speech, and much more. If it was just down to us, we’d have made even more progress – but this simply would not have happened without us in Government.

Best wishes,

Julian

While I can see that there are some clear Liberal Democrat fingerprints on all of this, I still have two very major concerns:

1) If the European Court of Justice says that something is illegal, does this not mean that what we are doing is illegal and we shouldn’t be enshrining it in law.

2) Rushing this Bill through Parliament seems unwise to me. This is the very last sort of legislation you want to be nodded through with very little scrutiny. Having said that, cleverer people than me will be looking at it with lawyers’ eyes over the next few days. It will be interesting to see if any major concerns emerge. If they do, then I think that the timetable should be re-jigged, even if that means postponing the recess.

A mammoth post – what do you think?

This post is severely breaching our word limit and some of my colleagues will be having kittens at its length. The reason I’ve decided to keep it all in one post  that I keep updating is that before we have been accused of diluting debate by having different posts on the same subject. What would you prefer to see? Is this getting too unwieldy?

Update 11:09: A chat with someone on the inside

I’ve had a little chat with a senior government insider and put the two points I raised above to them.

In addition, Sarah Ludford had said on Twitter that Liberal Democrat MEPs had opposed the law that had been struck down by the ECJ when it originally went through Brussels so I put that to them.

The response was that the new law was not the same that the Liberal Democrats opposed way back in 2005. because of the new safeguards insisted upon by the Liberal Democrats. Their view is that the new law would satisfy the European Court of Justice. Sarah Ludford has since told me that she is “wary but not revolting” due to the narrowing of the scope of what was already happening, the sunset clause and the additional safeguards.

Another point made was that one of the reasons the MEPs opposed it was because we thought it should be the national parliament making this law, not getting Europe to do it. It was apparently a dastardly Labour trick to get potentially unpopular legislation through Europe first and then implement it as secondary legislation.

To look at those safeguards a bit, they include:

  • a massive reduction in the number of people who can requests to access the data – so no more will councils be able to do it, for example
  • the review of RIPA (although some people might have preferred to see it ripped up, burned and the process started from scratch
  • greater transparency
  • the sunset clause
  • expansion of the role of David Anderson

In terms of the speed, I’m told that the Bill is not likely to be very long. We won’t see it until it’s published later. The reason for the emergency is that ongoing operations could be jeopardised if we waited until the Autumn.

The prime movers in government for this were David Cameron and Nick Clegg, not Theresa May. Clegg was able to persuade Cameron to include the additional safeguards.

So where are we?

It is quite clear that there are some very obvious Julian Huppert shaped fingerprints all over this. The review of RIPA, which he and many Liberal Democrats will see as a route to riding a coach and horses through it, is very welcome. Whether Labour and the Tories will have such a view of it is another matter. I think that it is very clear that without the Liberal Democrats in a position of power, the unadulterated, unreconstructed Communications Data Bill would be an Act and none of these new safeguards which actually rein back the existing power of the state would be happening.  So far, so good.

My worry, though, is that the ECJ ruling happened in April. In the ensuing two months, we’ve discovered that the main party leaders have negotiated in private to reach an agreement rather than have the legislation properly scrutinised in public. Rather than 650 MPs discussing the finer points, it’s been 3 men and a few civil servants. I instinctively don’t feel good or reassured about that sort of process. Nick Robinson got it right when he asked Clegg and Cameron in their press conference about whether the public was right to be suspicious of legislation portrayed as an emergency like this. Nick Clegg’s answer was that people should question authority but he sought to reassure by saying that this was all about reinstating existing power with what he described as a “poison pill.”

Labour are very keen to look like they are the guardians of civil liberties, saying how they welcome the review of RIPA, a truly awful law introduced by them. We cannot let them away with that sort of nonsense. How many billions did they waste on ID cards, remind me?

I might feel uneasy but I’m not seething like I was over secret courts or the Immigration Bill. My blood pressure is relatively normal. That is probably because at the end of next week, the state will have fewer powers than it does now. It unquestionably has more than we would like, but its reduction is due to my party and I can take some genuine pride in that.

Let’s read the Bill when it’s published and see what we think.

That European Court of Justice judgment

I thought it might be useful to hunt down the European Court of Justice judgment from April which struck down the Data Retention Directive. You can read it here. A proper lawyer might laugh at me but I’m not so sure that the new law would satisfy it.

It might on accessibility. At the moment, councils and all sorts of people can access the data. This is what the judgement said:

Secondly, the directive fails to lay down any objective criterion which would ensure that the competent national authorities have access to the data and can use them only for the purposes of prevention, detection or criminal prosecutions concerning offences that, in view of the extent and seriousness of the interference with the fundamental rights in question, may be considered to be sufficiently serious to justify such an interference. On the contrary, the directive simply refers in a general manner to ‘serious crime’ as defined by each Member State in its national law. In addition, the directive does not lay down substantive and procedural conditions under which the competent national authorities may have access to the data and subsequently use them. In particular, the access to the data is not made dependent on the prior review by a court or by an independent administrative body.

But on time limits, it thought data was being retained for too long:

Thirdly, so far as concerns the data retention period, the directive imposes a period of at least six months, without making any distinction between the categories of data on the basis of the persons concerned or the possible usefulness of the data in relation to the objective pursued. Furthermore, that period is set at between a minimum of six months and a maximum of 24 months, but the directive does not state the objective criteria on the basis of which the period of retention must be determined in order to ensure that it is limited to what is strictly necessary.

Other concerns included the fact that it was so wide ranging, that it was too open to abuse and that it didn’t require the data to be retained in the EU.

Obviously the new law doesn’t have to be ECJ compliant because it’s being passed by a national parliament, but I would like to see it address the principles in the judgement.

We’ll have to see whether it does when we see the Bill.

Update 2:00pm Devils and details

So we now have the Bill, which you can read here.  I have to admit it has collied my wobbles a bit. Many of the safeguards are variable by the Home Secretary by statutory instrument, as Jon has pointed out in the comments below:

The Secretary of State may by regulations make further provision about the
Such provision may, in particular, include provision about
(a) requirements before giving a retention notice,
(b) the maximum period for which data is to be retained under a retention 5
notice,
(c) the content, giving, coming into force, review, variation or revocation
of a retention notice,
(d) the integrity, security or protection of, access to, or the disclosure or destruction of, data retained by virtue of this section

and

Any power to make regulations under section 1ó
(a) is exercisable by statutory instrument,
(b) includes power to
(i) confer or impose functions (including those involving the exercise of a discretion) on any person (including the Secretary of State),

I may well be imagining horns and forked tails where there are none, but it seems like the Home Secretary can vary whatever the heck she likes. That’s too much power for any Home Secretary but especially one who makes it plain she can’t wait to get her hands on our data.

 The last update

13 hours on from the start of this mammoth post, a few thoughts to end the day.

First of all, Suzanne Fletcher’s comment below needs highlighting. She described the Divine Ms Duffett’s email as “the most useful ever.” It was a good day for the party’s internal comms people. Whoever made the decision to do it that way is A Very Sensible Person. More, please.

And I would have succeeded if it hadn’t been for those pesky Liberal Democrats…

Probably my favourite  moment of the day was hearing Theresa May come out with this:

Before I do so, I would like to make something very clear. What I want to propose in my statement today is a narrow and limited response to a set of specific challenges we face. I am not proposing the introduction of the Communications Data Bill, which was considered in draft by a Joint Committee of both Houses last year. I believe that the measures contained in that Bill are necessary, and so does the Prime Minister, but there is no coalition consensus for those proposals and we will have to return to them at the general election.

Liberal Democrats have an uphill struggle on civil liberties. We always do because they are not uppermost in Labour or the Tories’ minds. They aren’t even in the middle of the pile. And we have a huge struggle ahead of us to get our voice heard. I do think that Messrs Clegg, Huppert and Baker have done as well as they could have done. If they had said “no”, we would be worse off because we’d have ended up with none of the safeguards and reviews. If we don’t, or there aren’t enough of us around after the election, the UK faces some pretty draconian curbs on freedoms and increases in surveillance.

There may be problems with this bill, but if the Tories or Labour get their hands on power alone, we’ll be getting the Communications Data Bill with knobs on rather than what we’re doing now with a few added safeguards.

“A rare liberal moment”

Who do you think said this about today’s Bill?

This is a major piece of legislation that will shape how we live and work in the digital world. It may just “safeguard the existing position” – and these powers have been in use in Britain since 2009 – but it also provides an opportunity to hardwire in some civil liberties elements that were missing when Labour introduced them. Given Labour’s “Big Brother” record on these matters when they were last in government, this may prove a rare liberal moment.

Only the flipping Guardian.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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52 Comments

  • Keith Edkins 10th Jul '14 - 8:15am

    I’d love to see MPs sassing the Bill, but I fear that may be a typo for PASS very quickly

  • Nick Barlow 10th Jul '14 - 8:27am

    Well, there’s been an email sent out to members but it’s from a member of party staff rather than a politician. It’s also so eager to point out the wonderful concessions we’ve got that I worry even more what the main bill is going to include that we’ll be expected to swallow in exchange for them. Apparently, we’re ensuring that ‘police and security services can continue to access the information they need to keep the public safe’, so that’s alright as the police and security services have never exaggerated what powers they ‘need’ or abused and gone beyond the powers they already have.

    And legislation that’s rushed through Parliament after a back room deal? That’s a recipe for something that could backfire horribly with unintended consequences. If this is so important, surely our MPs will be willing to forego a few days of their holiday in order to ensure it gets proper scrutiny?

  • William Jones 10th Jul '14 - 9:07am

    Really concerned that any bill can go through the UK parliament without justification, debate or a vote. The only apparent justification for this repackaged “snoopers charter” is scaremongering straight out of the Labour’s war on terror handbook.

  • Nick O'Shea 10th Jul '14 - 9:35am

    This is a text book way for a government to get through legislation only it and its officials want – stifle debate by claiming it is an emergency, steam roller it through parliament on an impossibly short timetable and claim national interest and defending liberty (!)
    The history of such pieces of emergency legislation is far from glorious. They are usually badly drafted and seldom deliver what it claimed for them whilst further eroding individuals’ liberties and rights.
    Yes, I know that the claim is that this will only get us back to where we (or rather the security forces, GCHQ, MI whichever and the NSA) thought we were – but was that the right place anyway? If we are going to have a wholesale review of the powers and responsibilities of the security forces, then good, we can put in the right things like the need for warrants to access personal data, limitation on covert monitoring of UK citizens by foreign governments (whether Russian or the USA’s) and reach some form of consensus on the need to balance individuals’ rights against those of the state acting (as it sees it) in the interests of the wider community as a whole.

    But a hurriedly drafted piece of emergency legislation pushed through parliament at break-neck speed with little or no chance for rational public debate is one of those slippery slopes ladies and gentlemen. You know where the road paved with good intentions leads…

  • Keep it in one place, Caron.

  • Nigel Cheeseman 10th Jul '14 - 10:02am

    I didn’t know there was a limit on the length of posts and hadn’t noticed that this was particularly long. It is an important issue, and it’s at the heart of why I’m in this party.

  • Bill le Breton 10th Jul '14 - 10:15am

    It is worth looking back one month to 9th June. Nick Clegg relaunched himself in a speech at Bloomberg which LDV covered here: https://www.libdemvoice.org/nick-clegg-on-the-liberal-democrats-unique-mission-40763.html
    In a response to the Euro election battering he advocated a stronger expression of our Liberalism and a stronger rebuttal of false accusations by our opponents.

    “So don’t let our critics rewrite history about the reasons we went in to government. Don’t let them airbrush out our role and what we’ve done in government,” he urged, and challenged listeners, “Did we split the difference when we blocked the Snoopers’ Charter that had both Tory and Labour support?”

    And here is/was (just 30 days later) our chance to express our commitment to Liberalism in the strongest way possible; our chance to demonstrate that we don’t just split the difference; to live our beliefs, to act as defenders of Liberalism; to walk through the Lobbies alone on this Liberal principle, 57 against the might of the Establishment – the Establishment that knows it can always rely on the innate conservatism of The Conservatives and Labour …

    And what are we told – “we have split the difference on a number of issues”, “when push comes to shove our principles count for little”.

    Nick Clegg wouldn’t know a Liberal cause or a Liberal campaigning imperative if one jumped up and bit him.

  • The use of a sunset clause doesn’t mean much. I remember the Prevention Of Terrorism Acts being renewed eagerly by Parliament every year, and anyone who dared to suggest they might be retired was lambasted for supporting the IRA. All it means is that around the end of 2016, we’ll have exactly the same thing again, and probably attempts to bolt on some new powers to the renewal.

    Cameron’s description of the review suggests that it will be centred around what powers the security services ‘need’, rather than on protection of rights, so it’s entirely likely that this review could come back and recommend more powers are needed, not fewer.

  • Just to clarify my above comment, I’ve now been told that overturning the sunset clause and renewing the powers would require new primary legislation. That would be a relief, if the Government wasn’t bringing this in by rushing through primary legislation in days to make it happen.

  • I haven’t had many opportunities to say this, but I agree with George! 🙂

  • May has just told the House of Commons that it is vital that this Bill becomes law by the summer recess. Why is this only being done now? The decision by European Court of Justice was made in April.

  • Tsar Nicholas 10th Jul '14 - 11:40am

    The comments on here convince this ex-Lib Dem member that the old party I once belonged to is not dead.

    Unfortunately, the posters on here don’t run the party.

  • Paul in Wokingham 10th Jul '14 - 11:53am

    Any plans to have Lieutenant Gruber park his little tank in from of Heathrow like happened during the Iraq War debate in 2003? Stitched up deals from smoke filled rooms. Hardly an advertisement for Liberal values. But as Bill points out, Mr. Clegg has no intuitive grasp of these things, and neither does his coterie.

  • Bad law introduced by Labour the year before an election and struck down by the EU before being reintroduced by the Con Libs a year before an election. My conclusion governments snoop when they feel power slipping away.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 10th Jul '14 - 12:06pm

    Gareth, I’ve used the Franklin quote many times myself, but I think it should stay in the cupboard this time. It has its place, but it becomes a meaningless query. Ultimately, the state will have less power next week than it has this week. That can’t be too bad a thing. I might not like it but I can’t find massive amounts of anger and outrage in me.

  • jedibeeftrix 10th Jul '14 - 12:12pm

    “Some bodies will lose their powers to access data altogether while local authorities will be required to go through a single central authority who will make the request on their behalf.”

    Thank the lord.

    Review ripa by all means, just make sure we reduce by at least 90% the ~500 public bodies that can access data using it.

  • ” Ultimately, the state will have less power next week than it has this week.”

    I’m not necessarily sure that’s the case – isn’t this reinstating powers for the state that the ECJ has taken away? However, whatever the marginal gains or losses there are, the review that’s been announced is sounding more and more like it’s going to be given a remit to suggest more powers for the security services – both Cameron and May have talked about it giving the security services what they think they need.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 10th Jul '14 - 12:22pm

    Nick, they think new law will comply with ECJ, which is important.

    And we know that we’re up against it on RIPA. We know fine that Labour and the Tories would spy on people for the slightest reason. We are in a minority here. But on this we get to roll back the powers of the state by making sure that access to that data is restricted rather than every Tom, Dick and Harriet being able to find out you called your Granny a week ago last Tuesday at 5:17 pm and by getting greater transparency into the system.

    I am more reassured on the ECJ point than I was this morning. My concern about the speed remains. I think the Government needs to keep an open mind about it if an issue is revealed once the Bill is published – possible unintended consequences identified or whatever.

  • matt (Bristol) 10th Jul '14 - 12:28pm

    Caron: “…the ECJ ruling happened in April. In the ensuing two months, we’ve discovered that the main party leaders have negotiated in private to reach an agreement rather than have the legislation properly scrutinised in public. Rather than 650 MPs discussing the finer points, it’s been 3 men and a few civil servants. I instinctively don’t feel good or reassured about that sort of process. ”

    Amen! Whilst it is (arguably) an attempt to be consensual, this is not the ‘new politics’ of coalition government, and very close to the Leveson response. And we all know how effective that has been in getting something up and running and accepted by all parties.

    I’m not going to get agnry immmediately, but on the issue of due legislative process and also how the party is presented, I do not want my party to be seen as part of a stitch-up by the big 3 that excludes the increasing diversity of political voices and movements in our state and parliament. I thought we were against politics as usual?

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 10th Jul '14 - 1:01pm

    The politics of fear is potentially leading us towards greater state sponsored intolerance, which itself with lead to even more Islamophobia.

    Liberal Democrat English Party Diversity Champion
    Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrat (EMLD) – Vice Chair
    Liberal Democrat South Central Region Executive – Diversity Officer
    Newbury Town Council – Councillor for Victoria Ward & Deputy Leader

  • David Allen 10th Jul '14 - 1:03pm

    “So I think it is right to agree to a stop-gap. A piece of legislation that can be passed quickly, but crucially will automatically expire at the end of 2016, giving time to write something better, and the certainty of knowing it will not just become entrenched.”

    Then again, in 2016 the government can presumably just turn around and renew the “stop-gap” for another “temporary” period, and then do the same again, ad infinitum….

    “The review of RIPA, which he and many Liberal Democrats will see as a route to riding a coach and horses through it, is very welcome. Whether Labour and the Tories will have such a view of it is another matter.”

    No doubt they’re already thinking about how they are going to quietly go away and beef RIPA up.

    “Rather than 650 MPs discussing the finer points, it’s been 3 men and a few civil servants. I instinctively don’t feel good or reassured about that sort of process.”

    Yes. Why did Lib Dems agree to it? Was it so very flattering to see “Lib Dem fingerprints” displayed all over it? It clearly appeals to our neediness to show how we are not just political bit part players. Meanwhile, the Tories have taken care to get our signatures displayed on a rather blank cheque.

    “Let’s read the Bill when it’s published and see what we think.”

    If it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.

  • Kelly-Marie Blundell 10th Jul '14 - 1:14pm

    If the legislation is different from two years ago, and does not promise anything new, why is Nick quoted on BBC as saying;
    Mr Clegg insisted he was not seeking to limit the powers available to the police and security services but said efforts to prevent radicalisation and confront extremism must be approached in a “calm and forensic way”.

    “I have never suggested that the very considerable powers that our security services and the police have – far in excess, by the way, of many other forces in other parts of the world – should in any way be rolled back.

    “Quite the reverse, I’m actually saying in one important respect – matching IP addresses to individual phones and mobile appliances – we should take further action.”

  • If you look at the draft bill (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/328939/draft-drip-bill.pdf), sections 3 and 4 of Clause 1 give some cause for concern. They allow the Secretary of State to make quite large changes by statutory instrument.

  • Well, well, well – roosting time for those chickens! 🙂 I mostly agree with what the government is doing – what I find hilarious is I’ve been arguing with Lib Dems on these issues for years, then come a moment of having no surveillance everyone wants it back!

    Huppert explains it’s not the snoopers charter, it’s just state powers to snoop on internet communication without a warrant, then he tells how he’ll ensure American corporations own us for the foreseeable future. He waves his Digital Bill Of Rights EDM about, written by the worlds largest companies. He squirms through why he’s going to vote for legislation that re-introduces state internet surveillance and how it’s really a good thing, even though it’s antithetical to the stance he’s been pushing for years!

    Had we of had a sensible policy and discussion then we’d be in a very different situation, but Lib Dems have been marketed an anti-government stance on the subject of internet control, and many members bought it. Now your internet freedoms champion is telling you he wants to negotiate “with the American government and the internet companies to establish a new international agreement for sharing data between legal jurisdictions.”. Sounds delightful!

  • paul barker 10th Jul '14 - 1:23pm

    One of the hard things about being a Liberal is that we are forever having to say things like “Its a question of balance” or “This is complicated”.
    I am very inclined to trust Clegg & Huppert.
    On ringing alarms, I am glad that Clegg raised the issue of Terrorists & Child abusers. Surely the point is precisely that this sort of State Surveillance is for the really nasty stuff & not for Benefit Fraud, using the wrong bins, parking fines etc. If Terrorism & Organised Crime werent problems we wouldnt need any Surveillance at all.
    The point about the emergency is that pretty soon MPs will be going on Holiday, then we are into Conference Season & then The Election Campaign. There isnt time for a proper debate on this but it cant wait till next June either.

  • Stephen Campbell 10th Jul '14 - 1:55pm

    This bill will be passed with the absolute minimum of debate and no public consultation. The actions of this government pushing this bill through are not the actions of an open, democratic government. Pushing through “emergency measures” is the hallmark of corrupt, authoritarian states.

    This bill will give our “democratic” government the right to monitor people’s private communications – without any real justification for doing so. Crime and terrorism have both existed since the dawn of time. We didn’t need to monitor everyone’s phone calls or mail when we faced the IRA threat. And to see someone I used to hold in high regard – Mr. Huppert – backing this illiberal, authoritarian bill makes me feel sick to my stomach. What, exactly, is happening to Western society that our rulers feel they need STASI/KGB-style powers to snoop on us all? Is this being pushed by the US government and American corporations? I don’t normally go for conspiracy theories, but part of me thinks this whole charade is not to protect us from terrorism, crime or paedophiles. Maybe it is to protect the government against it’s own people? After all, any protests these days are handled by police in an almost paramilitary fashion. I remember the way protests were policed in the 70s and 80s – the police were often heavy handed, but nowhere near as brutal as they are today with kettling, intimidation of peaceful protesters and keeping files on thousands of people who are labeled “domestic extremists” for the crime of wanting to protect the environment (for example). Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, our government always made a big deal that we were not like “them”. We didn’t need to engage in mass surveillance of our own population. Listening in to the phone calls of innocent people or protesters was something the STASI did. Not us. I no longer recognise this nation as the one I grew up in.

    Why not just put CCTV inside all our houses so we can be monitored 24/7? After all, it’ll keep us all safe, right?

  • David Evans 10th Jul '14 - 1:56pm

    Some people will always trust Clegg and others will always think MPs taking their holidays makes things like this an emergency. Others know how badly Nick has fouled up on so many things and would make MPs and Civil Servants work very, very hard to get anywhere near this level of power.

  • Stephen Campbell 10th Jul '14 - 2:15pm

    Sorry, I am still so angry about this. I have a good friend who grew up in the USSR. We talked recently about the effects all-encompassing state surveillance had on the population. It resulted in a browbeaten, bland, self-censoring populace where accepted opinion was very narrow. Just imagine the affect this could have on one historic Lib Dem goal – reform of drug laws. This bill would make it much easier for everyone campaigning on that issue (and countless others) to be under surveillance by the authorities. Anyone who campaigns for a change in these laws will be under suspicion and have their emails, web history, etc. constantly monitored. It will happen.
    I don’t want to live in a surveillance state. I don’t want to live in a society where people are afraid to campaign for change, where people self-censor or are afraid of saying anything controversial for fear that they are being watched. I voted Liberal Democrat to stop this from happening. I hate myself now for actually believing you lot.

    This bill is one more small step in the slow eroding of our rights, freedoms and democracy. Shame on every MP who votes for this bill. Shame on Labour, shame on the Tories – but most of all, shame on the Liberal Democrat party.

    @Colin above me is correct – you have no soul left.

  • James Baker 10th Jul '14 - 2:18pm

    The EU data retention directive got stuck down by the CJEU yet the UK has been carrying on with data retention. The danger was always that the Home Office would seek to re-legislate the same discredited law. Without brining them in line with human rights. ISIS provided the Home Office with an ’emergency’ they could try and use to push for that.

    The court in para 58 of it’s ruling said:

    “Restrict retention to data that is related to a threat to public security and in particular restrict retention to a particular time period, geographical area and / or suspects or persons whose data would contribute to the prevention or prosecution of crime.”

    That should kill blanket retention dead, unless the UK can demonstrate it’s needed for national security and proportionate for a democracy. That will probably be heading to Strasbourg for a ruling (note Terrorism is actually a criminal issue than national security, as despite the hyperbole it doesn’t actually threaten the nation).

    We are in a very powerful situation to demand compliance with that aspect of the ruling as the price of any new legislation.

    This should have been done with full scrutiny of both houses, not as a stitch up between party leaders. There is no immediate emergency. Furthermore the legislation proposed gives far too much power to the Secretary of State to change the state of play through the use of Statutory Instruments. That allows for the potential of a future snoopers charter through the back door.

  • As usual, lots of bluster here about “the reviled RIPA legislation”.

    Historical note: Lib Dem MPs supported RIPA’s introduction.

    It’s instructive to go back and read Hansard (26 July 2000) at the time RIPA was completing its passage through Parliament. Senior Lib Dem MPs were queuing up to praise the government for the way it had consulted and amended the bill; Alan Beith dismissed as “wrong” those who had portrayed RIPA as a “snooping exercise”; and there was general agreement that the balance between liberty and security is a tricky one to get right but that the government had done a reasonable job of it.

    Declaring that this new legislation is “not the snooper’s charter” is no more meaningful than pointing out that TPIMs are not control orders, child detention is not “routine child detention” (as Julian Huppert now puts it), or Theresa May’s Draft Detention of Terrorist Suspects (Temporary Extension) Bill is not the same thing as having active but unused legislation on the statute book. In coalition supporters’ eyes, the difference between civil liberties and rampant authoritarianism is little more than a few tweaks and a rebranding exercise.

    Lib Dems may claim that this is not the snooper’s charter but don’t expect the likes of Shami Chakrabarti to agree :-

    http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/campaigning/no-snoopers-charter

  • Steve Griffiths 10th Jul '14 - 2:39pm

    Well let’s look at the tally so far.

    The Lobbying Bill, Secret Courts, Legal Aid, asleep over the David Miranda detention etc., and now this. And people look surprised when I express the opinion that the party has changed beyond all recognition from the one I was proud to tramp the streets for. Previous comments above have it right – no soul left.

  • Suzanne Fletcher 10th Jul '14 - 3:55pm

    I don’t have the time or competence to go into all of this in detail needed, so will just say thank you to caron for putting all in one place for ease of digestion, and I can hardly believe I am writing this – but the posting in the helen duffett e-mail this morning (from party not politician as they have the e-mail addresses!) is probably the most useful ever.
    Yes it is awful we have to say it is complicated and a matter of balance, but life is. On balance what Julian said makes sense (But I might change my mind when i find out more!)

  • James Baker 10th Jul '14 - 4:25pm

    What Julian says may make some sense but none of the safeguard provisions he talks about are actually included within the bill it’self. We are enabling the continuation of powers that have been ruled illegal by means of granting the Home Secretary powers to make retention orders. This is apparently all ok though as we are entrusting a future government that may or may not have Liberal Democrats in it to put it all right in the future.

  • Eddie Sammon 10th Jul '14 - 6:19pm

    I broadly support the bill. Lib Dems should govern by the principles of balance and proportion, not an ideological love for privacy.

  • The draft bill includes a wide power for the Secretary of State to make regulations to retain different types of date for different periods of time (s.1(2)(e) – in other words do what the hell they want.

    All subject to an affirmative resolution. The last time an SI was rejected under that procedure? 1969!

    The explanatory notes (which can be used as a guide to interpretation) state: “Paragraph (e) allows for a notice to
    make different data types subject to different provisions so, for example, there may be a requirement to retain different types of data for different periods of time.”

    These are powers far to wide to be passed in emergency legislation. They aren’t needed – if other provisions are needed then they can be passed by Parliament very speedily if needed.

    Lib Dem MPs should oppose the legislation whilst that clause is still in the bill.

  • What a total shocker. This is truly crossing the line.

    Even with things so bad, and Clegg’s leadership and direction so dire, I didn’t expect to hear the line effectively ‘civil liberties are important BUT…’ effectively we have to trade liberty for security.

    This is our probably once in a generation chance to make a difference and roll back the surveillance society and we’ve just rolled over meekly in line with the authoritarian state.

  • Martin Lowe 10th Jul '14 - 7:20pm

    The golden rule in politics is if someone is trying to rush something through then they are up to no good.

    And the inclusion of a sunset clause is nothing but a sweetener. What better way to get busy politicians to pass legislation they don’t like.

    The whole thing stinks to high heaven.

  • “But liberty and security must go hand in hand. We can’t enjoy our freedom if we’re unable to keep ourselves safe.”

    I might explode with impotent rage.

    As for the sunset, I suspect we’re at the onset of a never-ending day. We’ll be bathed in sunshine, for ever and ever, amen. Rejoice!

  • Lee: “how do you have any moral or ethical ability to say that it is conversely not ok to monitor every individual’s movements, if it were feasible, to note down what locations they visit, for how long, etc? ”

    Of course, lots of people are trying to do just that, with gait analysis, facial recognition stuff, cctv, anpr etc etc etc

    I’m trying to be charitable and optimistic on this, because, well, Julian. But am finding it very difficult not to be totally sceptical. Will LDV host a Tor node? 🙂

  • ” It’s really important that Labour don’t get to claim that ground.”

    Is it? Is it really? In the scheme of things? And you wonder why people don’t like party politics.

    “I’ve had a little chat with a senior government insider and put the two points I raised above to them.”

    So in an article about transparency you introduce an anonymous “government insider”? Are we supposed to be impressed at these levels of irony?

  • I am happy with Julian Huppert’s email but would just argue with the ending. We should not miss any opportunity on issues like this to say ‘ we would have done more but the constraints of coalition with the Tories meant that we could not’. We need to repeat that over and over and over again!

  • Sarah Ludford 14th Jul '14 - 12:20pm

    I must say I rather regret that our ministers in government (I am thus exempting Julian) have echoed the ‘we are not changing existing law’ line. This is true only in the sense that the substance of the retention obligation will be broadly similar to the 2009 regs which implemented the 2006 EU Directive. But as I explain at https://www.libdemvoice.org/baroness-sarah-ludford-writes-how-not-to-use-brussels-for-policy-laundering-41496.html and commentators here realise, the ECJ created a legal void by striking down the EU Directive.

    I would much have preferred our ministers to candidly say ‘we don’t like the 2006/2009 law but are prepared to let it be revived a) to buy time and avoid legal uncertainty and b) at the price of safeguards including a tighter access regime (RIPA), having a PCLOB, reforming the ISC etc.

    This is a package I can live with as long as we do seriously campaign for it and seek to deliver.

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