Skip to main content

House of Lords rejects attempted 'Snooper’s Charter' revival

The House of Lords has rejected Thursday’s last minute amendments to the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill which many saw as an attempt to revive the so-called “Snooper’s Charter.”

Last week, a series of changes were made to the Bill, which is currently being considered by Parliament, that would have allowed the government access to information about calls and Internet activity.

Lords King, Blair, Carlile and West proposed adding whole sections of the failed Communications Data Bill into the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill.

However, on Monday, many in the House of Lords argued against these changes resulting in their withdrawal.

Lord Blencathra, who headed the Draft Communications Data Bill Joint Committee, heavily scrutinised the original legislation and said the government has subsequently redrafted the bill into a document that addresses his concerns and cannot be considered a Snooper’s Charter.

Peers then withdrew the proposed amendments and called upon the Home Office to produce the redraft but the BBC reports that the Snooper’s Charter may still be revived if the Department refuses this request.

“We have been clear throughout this Parliament of the need for legislation to give our law enforcement agencies the properly regulated access they need to communications data to help them keep the public safe,” the Home Office has said.

Withdrawal Of Amendments Welcomed

The withdrawal of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill amendments has been applauded by many, including digital rights campaigners Open Rights Group (ORG).

The organisation has argued that rushing such a bill in before the General Election in May is not the correct way to go about things and instead political parties should present their own policies on the subject for debate.

“Theresa May has pledged that the Snooper’s Charter should be brought into law under a future Conservative administration. Labour are a little more equivocal so far; the Lib Dems have been against it, but are yet to say if this would be a ‘red line’ issue for them,” claimed Jim Killock, ORG executive director.

“The correct place for this debate – given Theresa May’s pledge – is the election. Amazingly she has currently pretty much guaranteed that surveillance will be an election issue. The parties can explain what they want to do and why.

“We can learn how these proposals fit in with the clear need for reform and calls to repeal the Human Rights Act can be debated. We can assess candidates for their ability to under the issues and think independently,” he added.

Proper Discussions Required

The views of ORG are similar to that of the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA), the trade body for UK providers of Internet services.

“ISPA is pleased that amendments were withdrawn and believes that inserting wide-ranging powers in to an already fast-tracked Bill was a poor way of making policy,” it claimed.

“ISPA, along with many others, have not seen the amended Bill or had a chance to scrutinise it.

“As many peers and the Joint Committee argued, it is crucial that industry is involved in a full and proper consultation at an early stage.

“ISPA wants to see a full and open comprehensive debate of the legislation in the next Parliament that takes account of the current reviews to deliver a framework that ensures reasonable access to data, is technically feasible and has adequate oversight arrangements, whilst not negatively impacting on the UK as a leading destination for digital businesses,” it added.