Coffee House

Tory MP in battle with ministers over ‘snooping bill’ safeguards

9 December 2012

Coffee House has learned that a Tory MP is engaged in a fight with the Home Office on safeguards for its proposed ‘snooping bill’.

The fate of the Draft Communications Data Bill could be decided on Tuesday when a cross-party committee reports back on the legislation. Nick Clegg is already reported to be considering dropping the Liberal Democrats’ support for the Bill, and the joint committee’s report is expected to take a negative view of the proposals. One Liberal Democrat member, Lord Strasburger, told Home Secretary Theresa May that the proposals for monitoring internet users’ records were a ‘honeypot for casual hackers, blackmailers, criminals large and small from around the world, and foreign states’.

Part of the government’s justification for the bill rests on filtering arrangements which ministers argue would only return relevant data, rather than information which could then be mined by those on Strasburger’s list. But Conservative MP Dominic Raab, who is deeply concerned about the legislation, is irritated that the government is refusing to provide information on how those filtering arrangements will work in practice. He is appealing to the Information Commissioner’s Office after having a freedom of information request refused by the Home Office.

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Raab wants to know what advice ministers have received from officials about how the filtering mechanism would work, what warnings experts have given about the risks to information, and how much the filter would cost.

In his letter to the ICO, seen by Coffee House, Raab writes:

‘As I argued in my letter of 22 October 2012, it cannot be appropriate for all available information regarding how the filtering arrangements under the CCDP will operate in practice to be withheld on the basis of an undefined threat to national security. Parliament and the public cannot reach an informed opinion about such a critical component of the Bill and the CCDP’s viability in the absence of key factual information. There is currently no information available whatsoever about the operation of clauses 14 to 16, or an explanation of whether data mining and deep packet inspection and related techniques will be used.’

Raab is not the only MP in the Conservative party to have concerns about the legislation: his colleague David Davis has made his opposition very clear too, and was furious earlier this week when Home Secretary Theresa May argued that ‘anybody who is against this bill is putting politics before people’s lives’. You can read Nick Cohen’s attack on the Bill in The Spectator here.

If the joint committee rejects the government’s arguments about the safeguards for the legislation, we could well see a split in the House of Commons, not just in the Conservative party, but between the two coalition parties as well. It will be interesting to see how the government handles this new legislative row.

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Show comments
  • Olaf

    I wouldn’t worry too much. The chances of this or any other Government bringing in the technology to do this successfully are vanishingly slim. Dare I predict the future…£500M to £2B wasted on yet another failed IT project before it is scrapped by an incoming government keen to look good. This has been thought up by a minister or civil servant who thinks they know about IT. When all they know about is playing angry birds or looking for naughty pictures.

  • anyfool

    Anyone who thinks any government can be trusted with any personal information just need to reflect on all previous database legislation, all had vague promises against abuse of the systems, and now almost without exception the Government itself is hawking these wares around in ever widening circles.

    Most sections of the Public Sector and anyone with the cash have access to some parts of your personal data, that is without the vast amounts of private data being hawked around by banks and others.
    There is a grim possibility, that if it keeps widening the net of those entitled to your personal info you might find out more about yourself from some stranger than even you knew about yourself.

  • William Blakes Ghost

    Scrap the ‘1984 Enabling’ Bill!, Sack May! Scrap the Home Office!

  • In2minds

    With this bill there will be mission creep, there always is. So Dominic
    Raab is right to be both concerned an irritated that the government
    will not be specific on the practical side of filtering and other
    important details. The safeguards the Home Office offer are
    inadequate to prevent misuse of these new powers and the Home Office
    knows this. The also know they are being pushed along by very senior
    officers in the police at a rate that the mid-rank officers find
    alarming. Under Nulabour the police became too close to government
    and here we go again.

    It is a tradition that governments like ours go around the world
    tut-tutting at others who would seek to control the press and impose
    draconian surveillance systems upon the civilian population. They
    should be more like us! But we all know that if these powers of
    surveillance become law in no time at all we will be selling the
    technology to them. And the very same government will tell us to feel
    proud of our exports. Ridiculous.

  • Thick as two Plancks

    Theresa: Please trust me!
    The People: No, never!
    Theresa: What, never?
    The People: Hardly ever.

    I feel seasick.

    • Faceless Bureaucrat

      So Give Three Cheers
      And One Cheer More
      For the swift dispatch
      Of this appalling Law…

  • ben corde

    At this rate we’ll be no better than China. I think they’re all terrified of the power of the internet. For the first time millions of ordinary citizens can make their voices heard. This is what scares them, the fact they are not fully in control.

    • Colonel Mustard

      China is the model. EU bureaucrats and their UK quislings love it. A one party state where the elite can get rich and feel good about controlling us for our own good. Where we must do as they say and not as they do, “nudged” to bland conformity, coerced to obedience by increasingly intrusive legislation.

      • telemachus

        Nico, you have a blind spot on this
        Those with nothing to hide have nothing to fear
        Strikes me Davis, Raab and the Tory Right wish to be seen to be in league with the Paedophiles and the Terrorists

        • James Strong

          Nothing to hide, nothing to fear is infantile.
          We all have secrets, even if we have lived within the law.
          Telemachus, would you like to have opened to scrutiny everything you have ever said about your boss, or his boss, or your MP or tne PM, or the way policing is done in your area, or your comments on the way planning permission is dealt with by your council.
          Have you ever commented how lousy our systems and rulers are compared to those in other countries? Or perhaps you have commented that we are in some way better than our EU ‘partners’.
          How are our masters in Brussels gloing to like that?
          And if this monitoring that you seem to approve of is done to your satisfaction by a government on your sise of the political spectrum will you will still be content if it is done by a government on my side of the political spectrum?
          ‘Nothing to hide, nothing to fear’ is infantile.

          • telemachus

            You know damn that what you say is not what it is about

            • Coffeehousewall

              If telemachus has nothing to hide and nothing to fear then why is he afraid to use his own name to post under? Clearly he has many things that he wishes to hide.

            • Colonel Mustard

              The kind of intelligence peddled by the SS in Rotherham is exactly why children are being “arrested” you ego-loon. This has nothing to do with Al Qaeda and everything to do with New Labour’s national socialist fascism. No surprise that you, an admirer of Stalin and advocate of “trumped up charges” to destroy legitimate political parties you disagree with, should support it.

              We’ll take no lessons from you on civil liberties.

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