Lords Gang Up to Try to Force Snooper’s Charter into Law

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Rights campaigners are up in arms after a cross-party group of four Lords made a last-minute bid to insert the so-called ‘Snooper’s Charter’ into an existing Bill passing through the upper House.

The charter, or draft Communications Bill, was originally ditched in November last year after opposition from the Liberal Democrats – the junior partners in the coalition government.

However, the alliance of former defense secretary Lord King, Lib Dem counter-terrorism expert Lord Carlile, former Labour defense minister Lord West and former Met commissioner Lord Blair are trying to bring it back.

The proposed amendments will insert the most contentious parts of the charter into the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill making its way through the Lords and due to be debated again on Monday, according to the Guardian.

This will ensure it can’t be scrutinized again by the House of Commons.

The amendments, unsurprisingly welcomed by intelligence chiefs, will apparently give new powers to the home secretary to force telecoms providers to retain communications data for at least a year , and hand it over to the authorities if asked.

The Communications Bill was already heavily criticized by a joint committee of members of the Lords and Commons.

It claimed “the draft Bill pays insufficient attention to the duty to respect the right to privacy, and goes much further than it need or should for the purpose of providing necessary and justifiable official access to communications data.”

The cost of implementing the Bill is also expected to exceed £1.8bn by “a considerable margin,” it claimed.

The Lords’ amendments are expected to be opposed by Labour, given that legislators are still waiting to hear the outcomes of an Intelligence and Security Committee and a report from the UK Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson.

Anderson tweeted on Thursday to express surprise at the Lords’ move to sneak in the amendments.

“Communications Data Bill revisited (minus safeguards)?” he noted diplomatically.

Open Rights Group executive director, Jim Killock, urged as many Lords as possible to attend Monday’s debate to express their concerns about the amendments.

“Laying 18 pages of clauses before the Lords to insert the Snoopers' Charter into an already complicated bill is an abuse of procedure,” he said in a statement.

“The Lords cannot have time to properly consider the bill, and would deny the Commons the opportunity to consider the clauses as well.”

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