New Tory government pushes ahead with Snooper's Charter

News by Doug Drinkwater

The controversial 'Snooper's Charter' surveillance law could be fast-tracked now that the Conservative political party has formed a majority government in the House of Commons.

The law, which is officially known as the Draft Communications Data Bill, is expected to force UK internet service providers (ISPs) into keeping huge amounts of data on customers, and make this information available if requested by government and intelligence agencies.

The last government tried to push the bill through in 2013, but this was subsequently blocked at the House of Commons by the Liberal Democrats, who were part of the coalition government at the time. There were later attempts to sneak the changes through, via amendments to the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, although this was also defeated, this time at the House of Lords.

However, after last week's UK General Election saw the Conservative party win a clear, if small, parliamentary majority (of 12 MPs), the bill looks to be firmly back on the agenda.

“David Cameron has already said, and I've said, that a Conservative government would be giving the security agencies and law enforcement agencies the powers that they need to ensure they're keeping up to date as people communicate with communications data,” Theresa May, Home Secretary, told the BBC when confirming the intent to revisit the legislation.

“We were prevented from bringing in that legislation into the last government because of the coalition with the Liberal Democrats and we are determined to bring that through, because we believe that is necessary to maintain the capabilities for our law enforcement agencies such that they can continue to do the excellent job, day in and day out, of keeping us safe and secure.”

Protestors have already taken to Reddit to complain about the proposed move. In a post entitled 'Oppose the "Snooper's Charter"', users of the social media platform have urged others to tweet, using the "OpposeCDB" hashtag, and send emails to their parliamentary representatives urging them to block the law at the House of Commons. They've also published the email details of Tory backbencher David Davis, a fierce critic of the Data Communications Data Bill, and urged users to get in contact with him.

Open Rights Group's executive director, Jim Killock, said he hopes other party MPs in Parliament would work together to block any such legislation.

“The Snooper's Charter is discredited, intrusive and treats us all as suspects. We hope that MPs from all parties, who care about civil liberties, will oppose any further attempt to reintroduce this fundamental threat to our freedoms."

Jon Baines, chairman of NADPO (National Association of Data Protection and Freedom of Information Officers), told

“It was notable that Theresa May said only hours after the election that the Snooper's Charter (the draft Communications Data Bill) had been one of the measures the Conservatives had been denied by the Lib Dems in coalition. And back in September last year she said it had been "outrageously irresponsible" of the Lib Dems to block it.

“Last week the French legislature moved towards introducing extensive communications surveillance powers on the back of the Charlie Hebdo murders, and it seems likely that a law to introduce similar ones will be quickly revived by the new Westminster administration. Whether they can do this with such a small majority will no doubt depend on whether they can get Labour on side. If they do, it will rush through, but if they don't, there are some Tories who might rebel.”

He added:  “I hope what does emerge is a debate about effectiveness and proportionality. Is the amassing of data on millions of citizens actually going to produce results which can justify the inherent intrusion into the privacy of those citizens?”

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

Video and interviews