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 Post subject: ORG blog: (Lack of) Consultation on Comms Data Bill
PostPosted: Thu, 07 Mar 2013 10:12:21 +0000 
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March 06, 2013 | Ed Paton Williams

Background on the Communications Data Bill

Open Rights Group is asking organisations and individuals to ask the Home Office for a consultation on communications data and the Communications Data Bill. This briefing lays out some background to the Communications Data Bill and why a new consultation is needed.

“Before re-drafted legislation is introduced there should be a new round of consultation with technical experts, industry, law enforcement bodies, public authorities and civil liberties groups … Meaningful consultation can take place only once there is clarity as to the real aims of the Home Office, and clarity as to the expected use of the powers under the Bill.” - Joint Committee on the Draft Communications Data Bill's Report, 11th December 20121

Open Rights Group has made a call for organisations and individuals to contact the Home Office to ask for a consultation on communications data and the Communications Data Bill. This document sets out where the draft Communications Data Bill came from, provides some background of the key issues and outlines why a new consultation is necessary.

Organisations and individuals who want to ask the Home Office for a consultation can use this form to contact the Home Office.

...

The Need for a new Consultation on Communications Data

The Home Office responded to the Joint Committee’s report by saying,“The Home Office has considered the Joint Committee’s recommendations carefully and accepts the substance of them all. In light of this the Bill is currently being re-drafted and the Home Office plans to engage with interested parties on our proposals in the coming weeks.”

Unfortunately, the Home Office has not carried out the consultation proposed by the Joint Committee. The Home Office is proceeding with re-drafting the Communications Data Bill but has not released details of what measures the new Bill will contain or the date when it will be published. It has not carried out a rigorous and extensive and public consultation on the Bill from a range of sources outside the Department following the publication of the Joint Committee's report.

It is important that the Joint Committee’s recommendations are taken on board by the Home Office. As the Joint Committee pointed out, the gap between the last consultation on communications data in 2009 and the publication of the draft Communications Data Bill is too long. As a result, the voices of a number of key stakeholders – not least the general public – are not being heard or taken into account.

Open Rights Group would like people and organisations with an interest in communications data and the Communications Data Bill to be consulted by the Home Office. If you have a view as to whether there should be a new Home Office consultation on communications data and the Communications Data Bill, we ask that you contact the Home Office to inform them of your view.


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 Post subject: Re: ORG blog: (Lack of) Consultation on Comms Data Bill
PostPosted: Thu, 07 Mar 2013 10:15:30 +0000 
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It's worth a quick note to your MP about this. Said MP may pay some attention, but will probably also pass your letter directly to the Home Office. While no single letter will change the Home Office approach, receiving enough of them may help.

Why not take 3 minutes to write a paragraph to your MP about this now, using WriteToThem?

http://www.writetothem.com

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 Post subject: Re: ORG blog: (Lack of) Consultation on Comms Data Bill
PostPosted: Thu, 18 Apr 2013 21:34:52 +0000 

Joined: Thu, 18 Apr 2013 21:05:01 +0000
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Hi - forgive my newness here, but I hope this forum can help!

I wondered if the OP or anyone could update me/the people on the status of the CDB: I confess that not being able to devote my entire life to all the political changes being presented lately :roll: I have not been following all comings-and-goings of this particular bill, however I have been prompted by 38Degrees to contact my MP...(https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/page/sp ... -email-mps)

I realised when I attempted to draft a letter, however, that I was not sufficiently informed of the status of the Bill to ask poignant questions and make fully informed comments: after some searching I have so far discovered that the Bill received a circumspect roasting from a Joint Committee late last year (http://www.parliament.uk/draft-communications-bill/) but the only information I have managed to find on the outcome of those "recommendations" is from the above post (perhaps I'm not looking in the right places)! Are we still in the dark as to what concessions the Home Office might make in a re-draft?

I would also be grateful if someone could explain to me how this fits in with the Queen's Speech next month? How can I ask my MP to oppose the inclusion of something which could be anything from a mouse to a mongoose? Or do you think that should be my argument? And how can HM the Queen be asked to present this as a tangible concept??

Sorry...hope I'm not the only one confused so any responses might be useful to others!? Thanks!


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 Post subject: Re: ORG blog: (Lack of) Consultation on Comms Data Bill
PostPosted: Fri, 19 Apr 2013 09:06:00 +0000 
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Cheesefinger wrote:
Are we still in the dark as to what concessions the Home Office might make in a re-draft?

In a word - yes.

Cheesefinger wrote:
I would also be grateful if someone could explain to me how this fits in with the Queen's Speech next month?

There's speculation that a revised bill will be in the Speech, but no-one knows for sure - perhaps not even the Home Office.

Cheesefinger wrote:
How can I ask my MP to oppose the inclusion of something which could be anything from a mouse to a mongoose? Or do you think that should be my argument? And how can HM the Queen be asked to present this as a tangible concept??

Sorry...hope I'm not the only one confused so any responses might be useful to others!? Thanks!

It's certainly a challenge! However, the fundamentals of what the Home Office wants have not changed in almost 10 years since it first started pushing the Labour government to legislate. Put your opposition to those fundamental issues in your letter, and you'll be on firm ground.

Specifically:

1. The Home Office always opposes the idea that surveillance of who you're communicating with should only be allowed after a warrant has been issued by an independent judge. If the police suspect you of a crime, they must get a search warrant before they can search your house. The same should be true of searching the record of your communications. Ask your MP to push for legislation to have all communications data requests (including those made under RIPA) approved by an independent judge.

2. The Home Office has spent over £400m on trying to push through this legislation just since the start of this parliament, but has no exact data on how the current RIPA system is used, and for what purposes. There are over 500,000 communications data requests under RIPA per year, but a wilful ignorance on the part of the Home Office about who's making the requests and for what purpose. Since the Home Office claims the current system is inadequate, the onus is on it to show how it falls short, and what exact measures are needed to fix it. Instead it's making a huge power-grab based on anecdote. Ask your MP to insist that the Home Office produces concrete data on how the existing RIPA powers are used before it presents any new legislation.

3. The existing RIPA powers have never been reviewed by parliament (a process called "post-legislative scrutiny"). Ask you MP to insist on post-legislative scrutiny of RIPA by parliament before any new laws to extend RIPA are proposed.

4. The committee that examined the Comms Data Bill said: "Before re-drafted legislation is introduced there should be a new round of consultation with technical experts, industry, law enforcement bodies, public authorities and civil liberties groups. This consultation should be on the basis of the narrower, more clearly defined set of proposals on definitions, narrower clause 1 powers and stronger safeguards which are recommended in this report. The United Kingdom and overseas CSPs should be given a clear understanding of the exact nature of the gap which the draft Bill aims to address so that those companies can be clear about why the legislation is necessary." (paragraph 58). That consultation isn't happening. Ask your MP to insist that it does.

Only my suggestions - but I hope it's enough for one letter!

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 Post subject: Re: ORG blog: (Lack of) Consultation on Comms Data Bill
PostPosted: Fri, 19 Apr 2013 19:56:23 +0000 

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Thanks for getting back on that Andrew, a massive help - I will think on along those lines...

If I can come back to your original thread post - and perhaps this question should be sent directly to ORG (please let me know if so), remembering that you started by highlighting the ORG campaign for individuals to contact the Home Office: While the Joint Committee recommendations aren't of course binding (more's the pity) nor limit how the Home Office might consult, I note that the Joint Committee specifically did not recommend a fully public consultation; my point being there was no suggestion from the Committee to invite opinions from the general public.

That being the case, my question would be: while the public may view that the Home Office should consider individual public views (as indeed I do, and as was - I believe - the case for e.g. the *ahem* "reform" of Legal Aid), given the recommendation of the Joint Committee on consultation, would the Home Office in reality feel in any way obligated to consider submissions from the general public if those were delivered uninvited; if not, could the energies of opponents be better spent in other ways?

I would be interested in your (and other) views on that, if you feel that it is a relevant question here (if not I will retract the question & direct to ORG! :) ).

Thanks - Gaz (Cheesefinger).


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 Post subject: Re: ORG blog: (Lack of) Consultation on Comms Data Bill
PostPosted: Sun, 21 Apr 2013 16:11:47 +0000 
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Cheesefinger wrote:
... I note that the Joint Committee specifically did not recommend a fully public consultation; my point being there was no suggestion from the Committee to invite opinions from the general public.

Agreed. A full public consultation would take a year, and hence kill any possibility of the bill passing into law before the 2015 election. I suspect that the pro-unfettered-surveillance members of the committee therefore refused to allow a demand for a full public consultation into the report. However, the demand for restricted consultation was still useful, and the Home Office has not meaningfully complied with it.

Cheesefinger wrote:
That being the case, my question would be: while the public may view that the Home Office should consider individual public views (as indeed I do, and as was - I believe - the case for e.g. the *ahem* "reform" of Legal Aid), given the recommendation of the Joint Committee on consultation, would the Home Office in reality feel in any way obligated to consider submissions from the general public if those were delivered uninvited; if not, could the energies of opponents be better spent in other ways?

If your time is limited, I suggest writing to your MP. If we can sway enough MPs to oppose the current proposals, they will never becone law, no matter what the Home Office wants.

After you've done that, making an unsolicited response to the Home Office is a much lower priority. It could be worth it if you have some expertise in a relevant area (e.g. you're a telecoms engineer, IT network specialist or Human Rights Lawyer :-). A big enough pile of letters from people with relevant credentials pointing out problems with Home Office plans may help sway them - although they've been completely unwavering in the face of massed opposition for over 5 years, so don't hold your breath.

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 Post subject: Re: ORG blog: (Lack of) Consultation on Comms Data Bill
PostPosted: Sun, 21 Apr 2013 22:31:45 +0000 

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Indeed, it does all seem rather bleak in the face of total obstinance :cry: but I suppose we must at least try.

Sadly I'm just one of the peasants whose opinions "don't matter"; I suppose if enough of the many write in to object that could be an embarrassing statistic to ignore if/when it comes out.

But I will at least write to my MP (a Tory boy, unfortunately) and do my best with words, for whatever that might be worth!

Thanks for all your help - I'll keep watching the forum.


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 Post subject: Re: ORG blog: (Lack of) Consultation on Comms Data Bill
PostPosted: Mon, 22 Apr 2013 10:36:36 +0000 
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Cheesefinger wrote:
Sadly I'm just one of the peasants whose opinions "don't matter"; I suppose if enough of the many write in to object that could be an embarrassing statistic to ignore if/when it comes out.

True - but always be careful that such responses cannot be dismissed as "part of an organised campaign". The Home Office has form on this:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2003 ... manrights1

In the STAND case, the organisation simply provided a channel to send responses to the Home Office. There was no template letter. In fact, a few ID card *supporters* responded to the Home Office via STAND. The moral - if you write to the Home Office, don't give them any pretext for labelling your response as "part of a campaign by organisation X".

Cheesefinger wrote:
But I will at least write to my MP (a Tory boy, unfortunately) and do my best with words, for whatever that might be worth!

Several Tory MPs are very sound on this issue - David Davis and Dominic Raab spring to mind, and there are others. If yours isn't one of them, your letter may help get him/her on-side.

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