POLITICS

MPs Have Just Five Hours To Debate 900-Page 'Snoopers' Charter'

Big Brother Watch: surveillance Bill moving 'too fast'

14/03/2016 17:22 GMT | Updated 14/03/2016 22:02 GMT
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MPs will tomorrow debate  Theresa May's legislation dubbed the ‘snoopers’ charter’

The Government risks undermining civil liberties by trying to push through its ‘snoopers’ charter’ with little scrutiny from MPs, a pressure group has warned.

Big Brother Watch has voiced concerns that MPs will tomorrow spend just an afternoon debating a 245-page Investigatory Powers Bill, which will hand the authorities vast surveillance powers.

As well as the Bill itself, MPs have had to wrestle with a further 700 pages of supplementary documents that explain the legislation in detail - much of it complex legalese that many will struggle to understand it.

Renate Samson, chief executive of the civil liberties group, told The Huffington Post UK the expectation the Bill will be on the statute books by the end of the year is “too fast”.

Big Brother Watch
How Big Brother Watch's home page opens - underlining how the Government will "know you are on this website" as a result of the IP Bill

Labour MPs will abstain in the vote, Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham said today, calling for “a presumption of privacy”.

The Bill will get its second reading in the House of Commons in its first significant test.  

The refreshed legislation will allow the police to look into all of everyone's internet browsing history - despite May suggesting people’s privacy would get increased protection.

The draft Bill in an earlier form had been criticised by three parliamentary committees for handing far-reaching powers to the state and being so incomprehensible even its authors could not explain it.

Samson said the group had attempted to distill the 900 pages into a 30-page briefing for MPs against the belief: “If you don’t understand what it means how can you vote for it?”

The crib sheets explain what terms including "bulk personal dataset" and "equipment interference" mean, and she warns how protection of some freedoms on the face of the Bill appears watered-down in the supporting documents.

She said: “MPs will probably get four or five hours, which the Government will say is standard. But this Bill is massive.

“MPs have had a document for two weeks that three weeks ago the three parliamentary committees said needed significant changes. It’s staggering. The Government says it needs to expedite the Bill but it is being moved through too fast. Security is vital but so it our freedom.

“We would split the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act from the Bill and debate most of it at a time when there is not a Budget this week and a EU referendum and a London mayoral election coming up.”

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