Communications Data Bill revival

See Investigatory Powers Bill for proposed legislation

After being blocked in 2013, the Conservative party announced that they would reintroduce a Communications Data Bill (referred to as the Snoopers' Charter in the press) to parliament. New legislation in this area will almost certainly be debated in parliament due to the 2016 sunset clause added to the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014.

Pre-election

2014 Conservative conference announcement

At the Conservative Party conference in September 2014, the Home Secretary Theresa May MP announced that, if they win the 2015 election, they would reintroduce the Communications Data Bill to parliament[1] later confirmed to be a manifesto pledge[2].

Nick Clegg accused her of making false statements regarding the impact of the Liberal Democrats previously blocking the bill.[3][4]

Statements following Paris murders

Andrew Parker, director of MI5 made reference to the claimed loss of interception capability in a speech[5][6] after the 2015 Paris attacks (although scheduled prior to the event).

Changes in the technology that people are using to communicate are making it harder for the Agencies to maintain the capability to intercept the communications of terrorists. Wherever we lose visibility of what they are saying to each other, so our ability to understand and mitigate the threat that they pose is reduced.

The Home Secretary Theresa May MP, in a parliamentary speech regarding the Paris attacks, restated her desire to reintroduce the bill:

Every day that passes without the proposals in the Communications Data Bill, the capabilities of the people who keep us safe diminishes. And as those capabilities diminish, more people find themselves in danger and – yes – crimes will go unpunished and innocent lives put at risk.[7]

Interception requirements for communications services

In a January 2015 speech David Cameron made comments indicating that communications methods, that could not be intercepted, would not be permitted. This was widely assumed to presage regulation of encryption in the UK.

US cooperation

It was reported that the Prime Minister would use a planned meeting with President Obama to lobby[8] for US support in obliging companies to make themselves compliant with UK requests for communications data and interception. Obama described the issue of investigations being hampered as a problem.[9] (See EFF's page on similar proposals to expand CALEA in the US to similar effect, such as the suspected rearchitecting of Skype to allow wiretaps.)

See also: Special Envoy on intelligence and law enforcement data sharing

Political responses to revival of the bill

Lib-Dem leader Nick Clegg MP [10][11]

Let me be really clear , we have every right to invade the privacy of terrorists and those we think want to do us harm… but we should not equate that with invading the privacy of every single person in the UK. They are not the same thing. The so-called Snoopers’ Charter is not targeted. It’s not proportionate. It’s not harmless.[12]

Labour leader Ed Miliband MP [13]

Industry response

ISPA:

Restricting the use of encryption and encrypted communication, as suggested by the Prime Minister, further risks undermining the UK’s status as a good and safe place to do business.[14]

Bill as CTSB amendment

In January 2014, four Lords submitted a series of amendments to the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill that, if accepted, would have incorporated the bulk of draft CDB into another bill at a late stage. The amendments were later withdrawn, but reintroduced, and withdrawn, several days later.

Post-election comments

Following the result of the 2015 election, returning Home Secretary Theresa May made comments alluding to a revival of the bill under the new government.[15]

Queen's Speech

The Queen's Speech in May 2015 announced "New legislation will modernise the law on communications data"[16], referred to as the Investigatory Powers Bill which is anticipated to include revival of the Communications Data Bill in some form.


References

  1. Theresa May: British values will prevail over extremists, BBC, 2014-09-30
  2. Hansard, 2015-01-14
  3. Clegg accuses May of ‘false and outrageous’ slurs over snooper’s charter, Guardian, 2014-10-02
  4. Communications Data Bill - Julian Huppert's letter to Theresa May, Julian Huppert MP, 2014-10-02
  5. Address by the Director General of the Security Service, Andrew Parker, to the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) at Thames House, 8 January 2015, MI5
  6. MI5 chief seeks new powers after Paris magazine attack, Guardian, 2015-01-08
  7. Terrorist attacks in Paris, GOV.UK, 2015-01-14
  8. David Cameron seeks cooperation of US president over encryption crackdown, Guardian, 2015-01-15
  9. Obama Sides with Cameron in Encryption Fight, Wall Street Journal, 2015-01-16
  10. Nick Clegg: Snooper’s charter would not plug intelligence gap, Guardian, 2015-01-13
  11. Nick Clegg slams politicians who proclaim free speech yet seek to constrain it, Guardian, 2015-01-16
  12. Nick Clegg: The so-called Snoopers’ Charter would invade your privacy, Liberal Democrats, 2015-01-13
  13. Ed Miliband rejects calls for revival of snooper’s charter after Paris attacks, Guardian, 2015-01-13
  14. ISPA calls for a better approach on surveillance powers, 2015-01-13
  15. Theresa May to revive her 'snooper's charter' now Lib Dem brakes are off, Guardian, 2015-05-09
  16. Queen's Speech, 2015-05-27, GOV.UK