It’s not looking good for the Snooping Bill. The legislation is currently being re-written after serious concerns were raised with the first draft, but I’ve got hold of a letter from privacy campaigners which accuses the government of failing to hold the public consultation that was one of the conditions laid down in the damning report that killed off the first draft. The letter, from Big Brother Watch, Liberty, Open Rights Group and Privacy International, expresses fears that meetings between the organisations and Home Office ministers could be used as evidence that ministers have been consulting on the new legislation. It says:
‘In evidence to the Joint Committee it became clear that your officials regarded discussions with some organisations as consultative when those organisations did not. We would like to take this opportunity to make clear that it would be inaccurate to describe any meetings with our organisations thus far as consultative on the detail of any future legislation.’
The organisations claim that they have never been given ‘any detail of what the “new” Bill will include, only assurances that the draft bill had been significantly re-written’ and that ‘lacking any substantive detail of what the revised bill will include, we do not consider the meeting consultative’.
If the Home Office cannot prove that it really has carried out proper consultation on the rewritten legislation, chances are it will fail to make it into the Commons again, because, as I explained last week, Nick Clegg continues to insist that he will veto the Bill if it doesn’t meet all the conditions laid out by the Joint Committee on the Draft Communications Data Bill.
The Home Office insists that it has consulted extensively on the plans. A spokesperson tells Coffee House:
‘This legislation is vital to help catch pedophiles, terrorists and other serious criminals. The government is determined to legislate to ensure that law enforcement and intelligence agencies continue to have the access to the communications data they need.
‘Few bills have been subject to as much scrutiny and consultation. In addition to full pre-legislative scrutiny, which gave the public and experts the chance to feed in their views, all key groups with an interest have been consulted and Parliament will be able to debate the revised bill.’