The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill, otherwise known as the Snooper’s Bill or Charter, has been successfully rushed through Parliament.
It was announced last week that Prime Minister David Cameron was attempting to protect “the country’s ability to fight criminals and terrorists” by upholding the right to order telecoms and Internet providers to store details such as call logs and browsing history.
Cameron claimed this “emergency” was not a move to increase powers, but to retain rights already held in light of an EU ruling that may threaten the government’s surveillance reach.
On Tuesday, the new bill passed the final stage in the Commons and then moved to the House of Lords on Wednesday.
The process can take up to weeks or months, although MPs have measures for fast-tracking bills when they deem it proper to do so.
Despite its quick passage through Commons so far, there are many who oppose the bill including privacy and civil liberties campaigners and some MPs.
“I consider this to be an outright of abuse of parliamentary procedure. Even if one is in favour of what the Home Secretary intends to do, to do so in the manner in which it is intend, to pass all stages in one go, surely makes a farce of our responsibilities as MPs,” claimed Labour MP David Winnick, member of the Home Affairs Select Committee.
Meanwhile, human rights charity Amnesty International has accused the Cabinet reshuffle of distracting the public from the data bill passing through Commons.
“But what about the complete circumvention of Parliamentary scrutiny so that ‘emergency’ legislation – affecting all our lives in real terms – can be forced into law,” it questioned.
“While we agree that the UK government certainly needs new and clearer laws on how its intelligence agencies carry out surveillance, [the bill] fails to address the reasons why the European Court of Justice stuck down the previous law in the first place,” Amnesty International added.
However, other MPs have deemed the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill absolutely necessary.
“This bill merely preserves the status quo. It does not extend or create any new powers, rights to access or obligations on communications companies that go beyond those that already exist,” claimed Home Secretary Theresa May.
“If we delay we face the appalling prospect police operations will go dark, that trails will go cold, that terrorist plots will go undetected. If that happens, innocent lives may be lost,” she added.