It’s been difficult not to get completely swept up in referendum-mania. But while the press and many campaigners are pre-occupied, the Conservative Government is up to its old tricks again.
Yep, the Investigatory Powers Bill is back.
This is the kind of ‘comms data’ and ‘snoopers charter’ legislation that the Lib Dems blocked for five years in Government – but in a new form.
It’s not that the security services don’t need some adapted powers in response to new technology.
But if the police want to search your house they need a warrant – and the same should be true with your online communications. There needs to be basic protections in place before the powers of the authorities are extended.
The Conservatives in Coalition never understood this, and unfortunately their new draft is no improvement. It has been widely criticised by campaign groups like Liberty, politicians from all parties, security experts and the tech industry. Just the initial review prompted over 100 different recommendations on how to improve and amend it.
I think this was really a polite way of saying how terrible the whole thing was, and to go back to the drawing board!
Yet just a few weeks after the feedback, the Government plans to publish the final Bill. And surprise surprise, the concerns haven’t been fully addressed.
Today Tim Farron spoke out on the Bill. I was pleased, though not surprised, to see him putting forward the arguments against the Bill in its current state. He said:
Liberal Democrats will not support a rushed process to introduce the Investigatory Powers Bill. It is a complex bill, and there are wide ranging concerns about some of the powers contained within it. Liberal Democrats will not let the Home Secretary try to sidestep public scrutiny with her plans.
Liberal Democrats have a proud history in championing civil liberties, from scrapping Labour’s plans for ID Cards, to blocking the Snoopers Charter. Theresa May proposed this when we were in Government because it was intrusive, excessive and would have fundamentally undermined liberty in the UK. We will not hesitate to do the same again if we have to.
Of course, the Lib Dems can’t block the law in the Commons now if the Conservatives all follow the whip. But we can look to the House of Lords to put forward amendments – or even try to kill the Bill completely...