The spectre of the Communications Data Bill is again evoked. These reports mirror renewed commitments yesterday to new counter-terrorism measures for the EU and in France.
The Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill completed its fast-track progress through the House of Commons earlier this week, after a handful of days’ debate and only six weeks after its publication in late November. In a departure from ordinary procedure, the Bill will have its Second Reading in the House of Lords on Tuesday.
A quick consideration of its contents illustrates the seriousness and breadth of the proposals it contains:
- The Bill will introduce a power for the Secretary of State to exclude a UK citizen from returning to the UK, except on conditions stipulated by the Minister. Early announcements by the Prime Minister promised a new “exile” for terrorist suspects travelling overseas to Syria and Iraq; after the publication of the Bill and likely consideration of legal advice, Ministers now seek “managed return” (Chapter 2) (See further below).
- The Government proposes that police and immigration authorities should have new powers to seize passports at ports and airports (Chapter 1) (See further below) .
- The Bill makes new provision for the extension of TPIMs orders under the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act, including to reintroduce old ‘control-order’ powers of relocation formerly criticised as a form of “internal exile”, permitting the Secretary of State to move a person suspected of involvement in terrorist activity to a place of her choosing up to 200 miles from their home (Clause 12). The Bill will provide that the ordinary civil standard of proof that must apply when a TPIMs order is made by the Secretary of State – she must be satisfied on the balance of probabilities that a person is more likely than not to be involved in terrorism related activity (Clause 16).
- It also adds to the controversial surveillance powers in the Data Retention and Investigation Powers Act 2014 (DRIPA), requiring internet service providers to collect and retain additional data about their users, including communications data and/or other relevant data which can be used to identify the user of a particular IP address any particular time (Clause 17). It appears that the power to inspect goods is to be amended to permit the interception of mail without a warrant (Clause 35).
- It would introduce a new Privacy and Civil Liberties Board to assist in the oversight of surveillance and counter-terrorism legislation. However, even after debate in the House of Commons, it is far from clear what the functions or membership of this body will be, how it will relate to the work of the Independent Reviewer and whether it will add any value to the existing limited provisions for the scrutiny of Government work in counter-terrorism and national security (Clause 36).
- Finally, the Bill will introduce broad new powers – principally in secondary legislation – which will permit the Secretary of State to direct a range of public bodies, including schools, universities and local authorities, to take steps to “prevent people from being drawn into terrorism” (Part 5).
Yet, even before Paris rightly dominated the headlines, the Bill’s progress attracted little public or press attention. Briefings of organisations like JUSTICE rarely spark the excitement of the mainstream press. Given the support in principle of the official opposition for many of these measures, there seems little political excitement for journalists to report.
The full report is on the UK Human Rights Blog.
We should be more disturbed by this. Given the rise of claims – perhaps by rabid conspiracy theorists, perhaps not – that the Charlie Hebdo atrocity was a ‘false flag’ attack, carried out by a Western security service in order to lay the blame on somebody else, perhaps we should all be hawkish about our governments’ responses to these incidents.
In the UK, considering its silence, it seems the Labour Party may be complicit. Let’s have a statement of Labour’s position on this, please.
Are our politicians creating the perception of a problem, simply so they can ‘solve’ it with more draconian powers that severely limit the freedoms of their own people, rather than actually fighting terrorism?
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