27 January 2015
Yesterday, the House of Lords debated the Counter Terrorism Bill. I think it’s fair to say that normally this event would have passed with less media interest. However, on this occasion there was plenty, owing to the fact that a group of peers had made a last minute list of amendments to be included in the bill, which itself was already being fast-tracked.
Critics of this decision have pointed out that the suggested changes are simply the key points of the previously rejected Communications Data Bill, which was more commonly referred to as the ‘Snooper’s Charter’.
The Internet Services Providers’ Association (ISPA) was very clear about their stance on the matter, calling for Parliament to not accept the amendments. It’s not surprising when you consider that this would mean ISPs having to collect more of their users’ data, and would put more power to access that data into the hands of law enforcement. What has shocked so many people about this, however, is the peers’ apparent attempt to smuggle powers through Parliament whilst people’s heads are turned.
Since the expenses scandal, there’s been a growing mistrust of the government and news like this doesn’t do anything to help that. You cannot simply sneak clauses from a proposal that has already been rejected – the Communications Data Bill – into a bill that is currently being debated by the House of Lords – the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill. Especially not at the last minute.
We’re supposed to be a democratic country that canvasses the opinions of the public and, in this instance, the relevant industry experts, before changing or introducing laws. The group of peers who have made the amendments seem to be attempting to sneak them into the bill with little chance for discussion or debate before it is passed on to the House of Commons for a vote.
The way I see it, we need more transparency in politics, as what we’re getting now is not good enough. The public has to have a say in important issues rather than feeling like the wool is constantly being pulled over their eyes. Do we need greater protection against terrorism? Yes. However, if people start as they mean to continue, this doesn’t bode well for the future of data privacy.