Committee says no to draft Communications Data Bill

The draft Communications Data Bill has today been roundly criticised by the committee of MPs and Peers, who make clear that the draft Bill is not fit for purpose and unacceptable in its current form. The report makes clear tinkering and minor changes are nowhere near enough – this draft bill is unacceptable to Parliament and if there is to be legislation, it is back to the drawing board for the Home Office.

Big Brother Watch gave oral evidence twice and submitted three pieces of written evidence. One of those submissions outlined the steps that could be taken, both with and without legislation, and we are pleased the committee has recognised this, urging the Home Office to do more to improve existing legal channels and for much more evidence on the problem to be produced. Consultation with industry and civil liberties groups, badly lacking before the draft bill, is an essential part of any legislation and the committee makes clear that they share this view.

Lord Blencathra, who chairs the joint committee scrutinising the Bill, said:The breadth of the draft Bill as it stands appears to be overkill and is much wider than the specific needs identified by the law enforcement agencies. We urge the Government to reconsider its zeal to future-proof legislation and concentrate on getting the immediate necessities right.”

The report is highly critical of the evidence presented, saying: “We are of the strong view that the 25% data gap is an unhelpful and potentially misleading figure,” while highlighting “the figure for estimated benefits is even less reliable than that for costs, and the estimated net benefit figure is fanciful and misleading.”

The report uses the word ‘misleading’ on numerous occasions, while highlighting that the lack of consulation, detailed evidence and the fact that presently the information available is not used to best effect.

Nick Pickles, Big Brother Watch director, said: “The committee has exposed weak evidence, misleading statements and fanciful figures and unanimously rejected this draft Bill’s proposal to monitor everyone’s emails, web visits and social media messages. The complexity and sensitivity of the subject required a radically different process and a totally different bill. There are challenges, but they can be solved in a proportionate way that protects privacy, is based on what is technically possible and focuses on maximising the effectiveness of data already held.

“After such a damming report, Parliament cannot support the draft Bill and it is now essential that if proposals are brought forward, they are comprehensively re-written and based upon the clear evidence and proper consultation that this draft Bill fundamentally lacked.”

Julian Huppert, one of the MPs who sat on the Joint Committee, made clear how he saw the report:Our cross-party, cross-house committee has unanimously agreed that ‘‘the draft Bill pays insufficient attention to the duty to respect the right to privacy, and goes much further than it need or should’, that the costs proposed are ‘not robust’ and likely to ‘cost considerably more than the current estimates’. On the flip side, the Home Office’s claimed benefits are ‘fanciful and misleading’. The whole scheme ‘could actually reduce the amount of communications data available in the United Kingdom’ and uses the language of RIPA that is ‘out of date and should not be used as the basis of new legislation’

“After this damning report, it is clear that the Bill as it is cannot proceed, and is dead in the water – if the Home Office want to update any powers, they need to start again, consult properly, and only produce something that is proportionate, workable and affordable. There is no prospect of them getting the broad powers they have asked for in this Bill.”

The committee is clear – the draft Bill must not become a bill, and tinkering around the edges is not good enough. It’s back to the drawing board for the Home Office.


  1. Karen Heath
    11th December 2012

    We can only hope that the adhoc subcommittee currently debating the equally scary provisions of part 6 of the draft local audit bill pays equal respect to matters of privacy as outline in both the Information Commissioner’s response to the consultation on the draft bill and that of Liberty. Moreover, this is something this body should be taking up now before it is too late. Hundreds of thousands of abortive fraud investigation, prompted in the majority of cases simply because in all good faith somebody put their oldest disregard for council tax purposes child on the electoral register are not something to be sneezed away.

  2. Mr Gaga
    11th December 2012

    If we all start copying in David Cameron and our local MP on every email I think they’ll soon get the message. I’ve just sent DC my secret Santa list

    • John Name
      19th February 2013

      Haha, very good!

  3. george2osborne0
    12th December 2012

    Is Lord Blencathra any relation to Lord Saddleback?

  4. Links 12/12/2012: Linux 3.7 is Out, OpenMandriva | Techrights
    12th December 2012

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  5. Common Sense
    12th December 2012

    It’s obvious, the answer is crystal clear, we DON’T log everyones comms data, instead we get an official warrant signed by a judge (not the damn home secretary of all people!) to engage in logging a person’s comms data NOT a warrant to READ someones data once collected by dragnet surveillance that’s NOT how it is supposed to happen!

    • Guest
      29th March 2013

      Agreed, none of the three main parties care for their manifestos and run horse and coaches through their promises every time.

      UKIP are also a disgrace.

      In February 2006 French and Spanish MEPs sought to scrap the Shetland Box – a protected fishing zone for British boats. Although the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems all voted to protect the Shetland Box, UKIP voted to scrap it. That is appalling.

      In March 2006, for reasons passing understanding, UKIP opposed legislation to protect the names of regional food products such as Newcastle Brown Ale and Stilton cheese. Labour, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives backed it. Is that the action of a party that supports British identity?

      Vote Pirate Party.

  6. billybloggs
    13th December 2012

    will send DC that link to the sex toy site so he can buy his wife a prezzie

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  11. Owain12
    3rd April 2013

    The irony is a pretty thick on this website. On the one hand we have the authors saying government control needs to be reigned in to protect privacy and on the other hand they are saying government control needs to be increased to protect privacy.

  12. Everything You Need To Know About The Data Communication Bill | JamesPerry
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    […] The draft for the bill was dropped after stern opposition from the Lib Dems and in particular Nick Clegg, the Joint Committee condemned the proposals, suggesting it needed revising. Julian Huppert, who sat on the Joint Committee stated that “the draft Bill pays insufficient attention to the duty to respect the right to privacy, and goes much further than it need or should and the costs proposed are not robust and likely to cost considerably more than the current estimates”. //… […]