Joint Committee slams Home Office’s Snoopers’ Charter

At 00:01 last night, almost exactly 14 days before Christmas, the Joint Committee on the draft Communications Data Bill delivered an early present. 

The MPs and Lords that had been tasked with scrutinising the Snoopers’ Charter delivered a withering assessment in their final report.

The report concludes it pays “insufficient attention to the duty to respect the right to privacy, and goes further than it need or should.”

They slammed the Home Office for ‘fanciful and misleading’ evidence, and for failing to consult on their plans. They said the costs of the draft Bill would exceed the predicted £1.8bn by a ‘considerable margin’.

As a result of their insular and secretive policy process, the plans would create ‘sweeping’ powers that are far too broad.

The Committee also notes that the Government need to rethink how it defines the data involved in digital surveillance, creating a new hierarchy based on levels of intrusiveness.

It adds up to a damning indictment of the proposals and how they were put together. The cross-party Committee examined this draft Bill in extreme detail and with great care over the past 6 months. And they have found the Bill did not bear such scrutiny.

Two things should happen now. We think it’s time to drop these dangerous plans and for the government to go back to the drawing board. Second, we need a fundamental, public review of digital surveillance. That’s the only way we’ll arrive at reasonable, proportionate proposals.

Given what the Committee have said about the Home Office’s failures so far, and also given that such a review would involve broader question of justice and civil liberties, this review should not be run by the Home Office.

The findings of the Joint Committee echo the arguments put forward by Open Rights Group and its supporters over the past six months. A big thank you if you responded to the Committee’s call for evidence – the report notes that these submissions reflect ‘the anxiety felt by large sections of the public about intrusion by the authorities into their private lives.’ 

You can read the full Joint Committee report here.

A shorter ORG briefing is available in the ‘Our Work‘ section. More analysis of the Committee’s final report will be posted through the day. 

You can read ORG’s written submission to the Joint Committee in the ‘Our Work’ section.