'Oh, so that's who Richard Morris is..." Lord Hattersley on The Daily Politics

'An influential activist' - The Guardian

'Iain Dale, without the self loathing' - Matthew Fox in The New Statesman

You are a tinker...' - Tim Farron

Friday 11 May 2012

A Conference Call with Great George Street that didn't involve any shouting

Weds night saw another conference call for bloggers concerning the Communications Capability Development Programme (CCDP, aka Online Snooping Charter), following the announcement of a draft bill in the Queens speech.

On the receiving end this time were Julian Huppert MP, member of the Home Affairs Committee and a SpAd who asked to remain unnamed and off the record, which of course I will respect.

In marked contrast to the last such call the tone this time was of understanding, of reassurance and very clear. Julian (and the SpAD) were  excellent and it seemed clear to me that all the concerns that so many of us have been raising about CCDP have been heard and understood. I do still have one major concern which I will address in a moment, but to summarise the main points Julian made:

1. The draft proposals have not only not been seen by Julian, he suspects they have not even been written, such is the extent to the revisions that are being made following the explosion of outrage when this news was first leaked.
2. Unless the legislation is brought to a stage that acceptable to the Lib Dems - and he is fully aware of the motion passed at Conference - then it will not pass. The whips are also realistic about this. I asked if he could guarantee that the conference motion would be adhered to in full - and he very honestly said that this would be his aim, but that he could not guarantee every dotted i and crossed t would be in the new legislation - but unless there was considerable overlap between LD policy and the legislation, it would not pass. I found this a convincing and honourable line to take - especially as Julian has yet to see any draft.
3. The consultation process will be detailed, open and thorough. Julian knows a lot about this area - but was frank enough to say numerous times that he wanted people with more expertise to feed into him what he needed to know. One slight concern was Julians willingness to take on board the advice of big internet giants like Facebook and Google - but to panic about this now would I think be jumping the gun.

One phrase I especially liked was 'crowdsourcing policy development' on this one - a phrase in keeping with both the subject matter of the legislation and spirit of the call.

4. Julian was clear that we will almost certainly not like the draft legislation - it will be RIPA plus. His advice was, when you see it, don't panic - fight it. They have to show their hand first. If, after modification the legislation isn't a tightening in RIPA powers, it shall not pass.

Others have raised some concerns with technical misunderstandings that Julian may have - but I prefer to accept that he is firmly on the side of the angels, and the fight is in good hands. 

(I couldn't make the Nick Clegg conference call today but reading twitter and some blogs suggests Nick may be less clear on the issues - which is a worry). 

So - my one concern.

When we saw the Brown proposals on tuition fees - we didn't like them. We compromised on a much better deal and in doing so were given 'ownership' of the legislation  - with disastrous results.

Ditto on Lansley NHS reforms. 

The process here - Tories launch draft legislation, we hate it, amend it, pass law that becomes 'owned' by the Lib Dems - is identical. And I do not want us to in any way own a #snooperscharter. 

I know the Spads think a lot about presentation. They might want to start thinking about this now. Thanks

But I don't want to sound mean spirited. It was a good call.

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