Lynne Featherstone MP/Communications Data Bill constituent reply

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11 December 2012

Subject: Communications Data Bill

RE: Communications Data

I note that you have previously contacted me with concerns about the Data Communications Bill; I am writing today to provide you with an update.

Following the Joint Committee’s report into the Draft Communications Data Bill, Nick Clegg has stated that it is clear that we cannot proceed with this Bill and the Government has to go back to the drawing board.

There were significant concerns about the draft Bill, which is why Nick Clegg ensured that the Bill was put before the Joint Committee, precisely to allow this level of scrutiny of the proposals.

This is a very difficult issue and Liberal Democrats welcome the Committee’s thoroughness. The committee, in which Lib Dem members Julian Huppert MP and Lord Strasberger played a leading role, has highlighted a number of serious criticisms – not least on scope; proportionality; cost; checks and balances; and the need for much wider consultation. We believe that we need to reflect properly on the criticisms made by the Committee, whilst also consulting much more widely with business and other interested groups.

We do recognise, however, that the Committee was still clear that there is a problem that must be addressed to give law enforcement agencies the powers they need to fight crime. We agree with this but believe it must be done in a proportionate way that gets the balance between security and liberty right.

Any modernisation of powers, including possible new legislation, must meet the Joint Committee's concerns by having the best possible safeguards and keeping costs under control.

As a Liberal Democrat, I take issues concerning our civil liberties very seriously, and I can assure you that I will continue to follow this matter closely and will be sure to keep you updated.

I hope you find this update useful and please do not hesitate to get in touch again if you feel there is any more I can do as your parliamentary representative.