According to the House of Lords calendar, on Monday, at 2.30pm Lord Strathclyde will propose a Joint Committee to review the draft Communications Data Bill:
†Draft Communications Data Bill Lord Strathclyde to move that it is expedient that a joint committee of Lords and Commons be appointed to consider and report on any draft Communications Data Bill presented to both Houses in the course of this Session and that the committee should report on any draft Bill by 30 November.
Are we about to finally see the details of what the Home Office wants to do with our data? Who knows. What is clear is that the debate up to now has been catastrophically hamstrung by the lack of information offered on what is being planned, while the arguments offered by Ministers have veered between woefully vague and very dubious.
A Joint Committee would be one important part of the scrutiny process, but it must not held in secret or receive evidence that cannot be made public. Equally, it must be able to scrutinise the technical claims being made about how data will be captured, in particular the ‘black boxes’ discussed as a means of capturing some of this data. Given the reaction from the technical community, including Oxford and Cambridge Universities, it is far from clear this is even possible, and if it is, whether it will produce anything of any value.
We also hope the Conservatives have fulfilled their pre-election commitment to submit the plans to the Information Commissioner for full pre-legislative scrutiny.
We look forward to hearing what is being proposed and the frank, public debate that proposals that will monitor every citizen using a communications device deserves.