Julian Huppert, the Lib Dem MP for Cambridge has a slot at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on Wednesday and he’s looking for suggestions about what he should ask. Well Julian, here’s mine:
“Does the Prime Minister think that a Government security organisation which gives out its Chief Executive’s mobile phone number to a stranger who calls up their switchboard shouldn’t, on the whole, be given free access to every citizen’s e mail and internet records for the past year and trusted not to use that data inappropriately?”
I ask this, because while you and I might think the answer to that question is self evidently ‘no’, 4 members of the House of Lords think it’s a resounding yes. And for that reason Lords Blair, King, West and (unlikely though it seems given his recent pronouncements, the Lib Dem) Lord Carlile are this evening proposing a series of amendments in the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill, which will result in the Snoopers Charter becoming law.
Their justification for this being because… the police and security forces have asked for it. To quote Lord Carlile:
“We have taken the view that if the head of the security service and the current Metropolitan police commissioner argue that these powers are needed urgently to retain communications data due to changes in technology, then we needed to act now rather than wait for reports that we do not know when they will be completed. We have got to give parliament an opportunity to provide these powers without delay and before the general election”.
Which is strange because I’m pretty sure Parliament has had the chance to review this since the last general election. That a Parliamentary Committee found the proposed bill wanting. Indeed the Chair of the joint Parliamentary Committee that reviewed the original Bill has written to Lord King stating
“My committee savaged the draft bill and we found fault with nearly just about every component of it”.
… yet these members of the House of Lords thought fit to effectively cut and paste large chunks or the original Snoopers Charter into the Bill. And never mind the fact that no majority in favour of these proposals exists in the (democratically elected) Commons. Because these 4 unelected Lords (including of course, a former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police) want the powers that be to have them.
Which makes me wonder if Julian Huppert doesn’t like my first suggestion for his PMQ slot, perhaps he should be asking the Prime Minister when the Upper House will consist of a democratically elected reforming and reviewing body, rather than a collection of establishment figures who think they know best?