Saturday, 24 January 2015

I’ll write (urgently) to a Lord

As I wrote yesterday, a handful of peers (Lord Carlisle, Lord King, Lord Blair and Lord West) have introduced the rejected Draft Communications Bill of 2013 as an amendment to the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, which is due to be debated by the Lords on Monday. The clauses of the amendment are virtually unchanged from that filed bill apart from – very worryingly indeed – the fact that some clauses insisting on oversight have been removed.

By inserting this as an amendment, the peers in question are submitting a complex 18 page change to an already complicated bill at pretty much the last minute.  The Lords cannot possibly have time to consider the proposal or to understand its implications prior to the vote.  In addition, the tactic bypasses the Commons entirely.  This is a clear abuse of procedure and a sign that the government is determined to pass these draconian laws regardless of their effectiveness, workability, cost, legality or agreement of the UK population.

So not being able to think of anything else to do about it, I wrote to a Lord.  In this case, Lord Sawyer of Darlington, since he’s local. There are certainly better criteria for picking a Lord but I decided that since time is so short, it would be better to just pick one more or less at random and fire off a letter, trusting that groups like the ORG and EFF are doing a better job at targeting Lords with the right sympathies, assuming any exist.

I urge you to take a few minutes to write to a Lord too, asking them to debate the #SnoopersCharter on Monday.

The ORG wants you to do it too.  That’s a link to their newsletter, which has a bunch of other activities you might also want to get involved with.

Here’s the letter I wrote.  Feel free to use it or copy it outright if you want.  You can also find the ORG’s statement (with useful sources and other links) here.

Dear Lord Sawyer,

I'm writing to urge you to attend Monday's debate on the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill.

This bill includes an 18 page amendment, which is virtually identical to the highly problematic Draft Communications Bill of 2013.  That bill was scrutinised by a cross-party committee, which said that “the draft Bill pays insufficient attention to the duty to respect the right to privacy, and goes much further than it need or should for the purpose of providing necessary and justifiable official access to communications data.”  It also criticised the estimated cost to the taxpayer of £1.8 billion to be "fanciful and misleading", believing that the true cost would exceed this by a considerable margin.

Including this rejected bill as an amendment to the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill is an abuse of procedure.  The Lords cannot possibly have time to properly consider the bill and the opportunity for the Commons to debate the amendment clauses is altogether denied.

I believe the implications of the amendment to be highly destructive of privacy and freedom and that considered scrutiny of the proposal is critical at the earliest possible stage.  I hope I can count on you to provide some of this scrutiny.

The Open Rights Group has issued a briefing on this matter with links to source and related material.  This can be found here: https://www.openrightsgroup.org/ourwork/reports/abuse-of-parliamentary-procedure#sdendnote2sym

Yours sincerely,

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