“Snoopers Charter” bill debate

The reading for the above bill; referred to as a snoopers charter, took place today.

I had e mailed my MP Jenny Willott (Lib Dem) but she was a teller for the Ayes so whether that means she couldn’t vote/speak, I don’t know, she certainly didn’t say anything anyway!

This is the e mail I sent her yesterday;

Dear Jennifer Willott,

Re:- Data Retention Investigatory Powers Bill

I am contacting you to express my deep concerns regarding the above

Thursday’s announcement by David Cameron and Nick Clegg that the
coalition was going to expedite emergency surveillance legislation is
something that should concern all of us. The speed with which the Data
Retention and Investigatory Powers bill (‘DRIP’) is being brought into
play, the lack of consultation and the breadth of its powers should
matter to everyone. There is a reason that legislation usually requires
time and careful consideration – and with a contentious issue like
surveillance this is especially true. This is a shabby process, for
what seems to be a very shady law. And, as David Davis MP has
suggested, the ‘emergency’ is theatrical, not real. The need for new
legislation was entirely predictable – and politicians and civil
servants should have known this.

The suggestion that if the legislation isn’t pushed through this
quickly then companies will suddenly start deleting all their
communications data is naïve to say the least. Firstly, it’s hardly in
most communications providers’ interest to delete all that data –
actually, rather the opposite. Back in 2007, Google attempted to use
the existence of data retention legislation as an excuse not to delete
search logs – companies generally like having more data, as they (just
like the authorities) believe they can get value from it. Moreover,
businesses don’t often change their practices at the drop of a hat,
even if they want to. They might, however, if they’re required to by
law – and that may well be the real key here. Legal challenges to
specific practices by specific companies in terms of data retention may
well be in the offing – but this would take time, far more time than
the few days – less than a week – that MPs are being given to pass this

The underlying point here is that there is a reason that the Data
Retention Directive was declared invalid by the ECJ, and a reason that
both privacy advocates and academics have been concerned about it from
the very beginning. The mass collection of communications data breaches
fundamental rights – and DRIP, just like the Communications Data Bill
before it, does authorise the mass collection of this data. It has the
same fundamental flaws as that bill – and a few extras to boot. With
the very limited time available to review the bill so far, it appears
to extend rather than limit the powers available through the
contentious Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) rather than
limit them or modernise them

There appears to be no consideration of “function creep” which occurred
with the Prum Treaty in respect of DNA and ANPR details. Most
importantly, the bill still works on the assumption that there is no
problem with collecting data, and that the only place for controls or
targeting is at the accessing stage. This is a fundamentally flawed
assumption – morally, legally and practically. At the moral level, it
treats us all as suspects. Legally it has been challenged and beaten
many times – consistently in the European Court of Human Rights, in
cases from as far back as Leander in 1987, and now in the ECJ in the
declaration of invalidity of the Data Retention Directive. Practically,
it means that data gathered is vulnerable in many ways – from the all
too evident risks of function creep that RIPA has demonstrated over the
years (dog-fouling, fly-tippers etc) to vulnerability to leaking,
hacking, human error, human malice and so forth. Moreover, it is the
gathering of data that creates the chilling effect – impacting upon our
freedom of speech, of assembly and association and so forth. This isn’t
just about privacy.

Nick Clegg made much of the concessions and safeguards in the new bill,
emphasising that this isn’t a Snoopers’ Charter Mark 2, but it is hard
to be enthusiastic about them at this stage. There is a sunset clause,
meaning that DRIP will expire in December 2016 – but there is nothing
in the bill itself to say that it won’t be replaced by similar
‘emergency’ legislation, railroaded through parliament in a similar
way. Moreover, December 2016 is well after the election – and with
respect, it is not known if the Lib Dems will still have any influence
at that stage.

This is just one part of the shabbiness of the process. Two more
crucial documents,  ‘Impact Assessments’ performed by the Home Office
concerning the data retention and interception aspects of the bill,
were also released – but without even a mention, so that the first that
was heard of them by most concerned people was early on Saturday
morning, when vigilant investigators found them all but hidden on the
Home Office website. Two documents, full of technical details looking
at why the laws were ‘needed’ and what the risks and benefits of the
laws would be, the alternatives and so forth, pretty much hidden away.
These, together with the Bill itself and the Regulations, combine to
produce something with a serious level of both legal and technical
complexity – something that needs very careful study and expert
analysis. And to do this analysis, we are given essentially one
weekend, and no warning.

I do apologise for the length of this e mail and I thank you for taking
time to read it, as I know you are busy with your job and family.

Please bring my concerns to the attention of the PM, Deputy PM and Home
Office ministers that this is a wholly unsatisfactory state of affairs.
Indeed, the whole thing is highly unsatisfactory, and in a democratic
society, it should be unacceptable. That our MPs seem willing to accept
it speaks volumes.

Yours sincerely,

I think Elfyn Llwyd (Plaid Cymru) put the issue quite succinctly;

Mr Elfyn Llwyd (Dwyfor Meirionnydd) (PC):

I am very concerned about this rush to legislate because, as we all know, if one legislates in haste, one may well repent at leisure. We are told that there is some urgency. While accepting that at face value, I do not think that limiting our debating time in such a savage way is appropriate.

The Minister, with support from the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington (Sir Malcolm Rifkind), said that the Bill is a continuation of the status quo. It is not. Even on a cursory glance, I found two reasons why that is inaccurate. First, at present, public authorities and public bodies are able to gain access to data for a broad range of reasons. Section 37 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 requires judicial authorisation before local authorities can access communications data. That requirement is absent from the Bill.

Secondly, clause 5 extends the definition of a “telecommunications service”. The explanatory notes to the Bill state that the new definition covers companies that provide

“internet-based services, such as webmail”.

That means that internet service providers—even those based overseas and, hence, outside the UK’s jurisdiction—will be compelled to grant access to data. That is unprecedented. I have no doubt that there will be other examples when we have all had something like an adequate opportunity to look at the draft legislation.

In all honesty, I am appalled at the way in which Parliament is being ridden over roughshod. I repeat the point that I made earlier: the Minister could have come to the minority parties on Privy Council terms and included us in the discussions. It is all very well waving a hand and saying, “It is extremely urgent—security demands it,” but I do not accept that for one minute. I am in this place to scrutinise legislation, not just to listen and be rolled over by it.

You can read the responses from other MP’s involved in the debate here:-


Second reading of the bill (3 hours later – pity they’re not as quick as this when dealing with the PIP assessments!)


Anyway, check out the list below to see how your MP voted:-


Tellers for the Ayes:



Tellers for the Noes:




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16 Responses to “Snoopers Charter” bill debate

  1. Mike Sivier says:

    Reblogged this on Vox Political and commented:
    More on this from me later… I notice my own MP, Roger Williams, didn’t vote!


  2. Pingback: "Snoopers Charter" bill debate | Welf...

  3. joggon says:

    excuse the ignorance on my half,but,is the list of mps under the Ayes,mean they have voted yes to have this snoopers charter imposed on us?my MP is Lucy Powell(Labour) for Manchester central.
    Has she voted yes to impose this infringement on my freedom?If so,i am in absolute disgust at her.
    thank you for any advice given


  4. sdbast says:

    Reblogged this on sdbast.


  5. Lloyd Kennedy says:

    Francis Maude doesn’t appear to fall into either of the above categories . I assume he abstained although I would have thought he would have been with the Ayes .


  6. veganapanda says:

    My MP is Labour’s Teresa Pearce and she’s voted “Aye”, typical! Thank goodness for people such as Jeremy Corbyn, Caroline Lucas and Diane Abbott, very principled indeed!


  7. beastrabban says:

    Reblogged this on Beastrabban’s Weblog and commented:
    A detailed critique of the invasion of freedom by the Date Retention Act, as laid out by Glynis in an email to her MP, Jennifer Willott. There’s also another criticism of the act by Elfyn Llwyd of Plaid Cymru. One of the most significant features of the way the bill was introduced was the fact that two technical documents discussing the impact of the bill were released without any kind of major announcement, buried on the government’s website on Saturday morning, so that most of the opponents of the bill would be simply unaware of them. The bill represents a serious infringement of our civil liberties, and Glynis shows that there is a real danger of function creep, with the Act used by the government to acquire new powers, and extend its application into greater areas of citizens’ private lives.


  8. Pingback: Snoopers Charter UPDATE | glynismillward189

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