Parliament should reject the introduction of the Communications Data Bill into the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill
Amendments to the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill have been tabled that seek to introduce the extensive powers contained in the Draft Communications Data Bill into the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill.
Inserting the clauses contained in the Draft Communications Data Bill into an already complex Bill that is itself proceeding through Parliament via a fast-tracked process is ill-judged. The Lords cannot have time to properly consider the substantial powers contained in the amendments to the Bill, and would deny the Commons the opportunity to properly consider the powers as well.
The Draft Communications Data Bill was scrutinised by a Joint Parliamentary Committee in 2012 who concluded that there “should be a new round of consultation with technical experts, industry, law enforcement bodies, public authorities and civil liberties groups”. At the time industry was critical of the level of consultation and there has since been no adequate consultation since.
The Committee also had substantial concerns around the wholesale collection and analysis of communications data, oversight regime, definitions of communications data and robustness of cost estimates, and these have not been addressed and would require considerable changes to the current drafting. Introducing as amendments to a Bill that is being fast-tracked through Parliament, without acknowledging the need for further debate and substantial change, is deeply regrettable.
The Government established a review into investigatory powers led by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson QC. Rather than seeking to pre-empt this and the recommendations of the parliamentary Joint Committee by bringing in substantial legislation by the backdoor, we urge Parliament to reject this attempt to insert complex legislation into an existing Bill at the last minute.