Snoopers Charter to face rocky Lords ride as Lib Dem Peers indicate their opposition

Houses of Parliament

Liberal Democrat Party Peers have confirmed they plan to do as much as possible to derail the UK Government’s Snoopers Charter legislation, which is currently making its way through Parliament.

Public awareness of the progression of the UK Government’s Investigatory Powers Bill, otherwise known as the Snoopers Charter, has been minimal as all other Parliamentary activity has been completely overshadowed by campaigning for the European Referendum.

IPBill still in full flow

But despite the referendum, normal Parliamentary business has been continuing and the Investigatory Powers Bill was actually debated in Parliament on June 7th, where it was passed in a vote by MPs by 444 votes to 69, with the UK’s official opposition, the Labour Party, failing to oppose it.

If passed, the bill would undermine the privacy and civil liberties of British internet users, whilst handing sweeping new surveillance powers to law enforcement agencies, and given that this is something that the Labour Party also tried to do whilst in office, this is not therefore a huge surprise.

One party who did oppose it was the Liberal Democrats, who have been a consistently strong voice in Parliament for civil liberties, and indeed who stopped such legislation being passed while they were in coalition government between 2010 and 2015.

However, the Lib Dems were decimated in the 2015 General Election and currently only have 8 MPs in the House of Commons.

House of lords set to scrutinise IPBill

Having passed the Commons, the Bill will now go to the House of Lords, and it is here where the Lib Dems do still have some influence. There are 108 Lib Dem Peers, and with support expected here from the 21 Labour Party Peers and 173 Crossbench (Independent) Peers, they are expected to push for some significant changes to the Bill.

Lib Dem Peer and former Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police told the Register website it would be at the Committee Stage when the Bill is scrutinized line by line, where these changes would be made.

“People are being hoodwinked by the government over issues like Internet Connection Records (ICRs),” said Lord Paddick. MI5 and MI6 have said they don’t need them, only law enforcement does, so one has to question whether they are needed on national security grounds.”

The Lib Dem Briefing document on the Snoopers Charter describes ICRs as “disproportionate and misguided,” saying they “would be akin to having a CCTV camera installed in your bedroom or a police officer following your every move.”

Still raising red flags

Similar warnings have come from elsewhere too, with one notable one this week from the Information Commissioners Office. Quoted in a report by Parliament’s Culture, Media, and Sport Committee into the 2015 data breach at TalkTalk, they told the committee the Investigatory Powers Act created a “haystack of potential problems given the huge pools of personal data that it would create.”

The Committee itself then went on to conclude that “the vulnerability of additional pooled data is an important concern that needs to be addressed urgently by the government.”

So far, the only nod from the Government towards the need to address any of these concerns has been the agreement of Home Secretary Theresa May to set up an Independent Review of the powers being handed out in the Investigatory Powers Bill. This was only done in order to secure the support of the Labour Party for it in the Commons and is being led by the government’s reviewer of anti-terrorism legislation, David Anderson.

It is due to report ahead of the final vote on the Bill in the Lords, which is not expected to take place until the Autumn.

However, it is clear that the Liberal Democrats in the Lords, spearheaded by Brian Paddick, intended to do as much as they can to reign in the civil liberties infringement proposed in the Snoopers Charter, before this report comes out.

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