UK 'Snooper's Charter' Torn Up; Now What?
from the not-over-yet dept
Since the UK government published the draft version of its Communications Data Bill — better known as the “snooper’s charter” — with plans to store data about every British citizen’s emails, mobile calls and visits to Web sites, there has been almost total opposition to it from everyone else. Indeed, there has been growing resistance even within the UK government’s ranks, largely from the smaller of the coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats. Here’s what the party’s leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has been up to, as described by one of the Liberal Democrat MPs, Julian Huppert:
Nick refused to allow the Bill to go ahead, and forced the Home Office to publish the Bill as a draft, allowing us all to see what the Home Office were planning. Nick appointed Paul Strasburger and I onto a Committee to scrutinise it in detail. We went through the evidence, heard from many experts and published a cross-party report. This was damming of the Home Office proposals — it unanimously describe some of the Home Office information as ‘fanciful and misleading’.
Following Nick’s intervention and our report, the Home Office was given the chance to rethink. To build a proper case and look for proposals which were proportionate to the problem.
However, instead of trying to answer the huge range of criticisms of the proposed Bill, the Home Office simply insisted that such an intrusive system of surveillance was needed. As a result:
Nick has just this morning announced that he has killed off the Data Communications Bill, dubbed the “snooper’s charter”.
By withdrawing the support of the Liberal Democrats, Clegg makes it practically impossible to pass the Bill, since the UK government will lack the requisite majority to push it through. However, this is by no means the end of the story.
Clegg will be under huge pressure from the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and his Conservative party colleagues, to agree to some slightly watered-down proposals. Cameron will doubtless invoke all the usual reasons — tackling terrorism, paedophiles, organized crime etc. — knowing that this plays well with enough of the electorate that Clegg won’t be able to ignore it completely. So we can probably expect to see new plans in due course. The question then becomes to what extent they address the huge flaws in the original snooper’s charter, and whether they represent an approach that is truly “proportionate to the problem”, as the cross-party report puts it. If they don’t, the battle will doubtless begin again.