A group of four peers (including, sigh, Alex Carlile) are trying to pull a fast one with Parliamentary procedure by tabling at the last minute a long and complicated set of amendments (18 pages long!) that would introduce the Snoopers’ Charter.
These amendments will be debated in the House of Lords on Monday, 25 January.
Stopping the plans in the Lords is vital because if they were to get to the Commons… well, not only does the Conservative Home Secretary Theresa May want the Snoopers’ Charter, but the Labour Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has attacked Theresa May for having failed to introduce the Snoopers’ Charter so far. With Labour and Tory MPs between them making up 560 of Parliament’s 650 MPs there’s a major risk that if it gets to the Commons it would get voted through, even with rebellions by some of the civil liberties minded backbenchers.
What will happen in the Lords is a debate on Monday (Committee Stage – normally with no votes) and then, depending on how that goes, possibly a further debate and votes in about a couple of weeks (Report Stage).
So it’s really important that there is a strong show of opposition in the Committee Stage to head off any momentum building up behind this. Remember if it gets to the Commons, both Labour and Tories back the idea and they have 560 of the 650 MPs.
The Electronic Freedom Foundation have produced a really simple tool that makes it really easy to send tweets to peers (of whom there are a very large number on Twitter), and it serves up a random selection of three at a time to spread the lobbying around.
(Not on Twitter? You can use WriteToThem to send a peer an email really easily. If you’re a Lib Dem member, I’d suggest picking one or more Lib Dem peers as polite pressure from party members is often very effective. You can find all their names on the party’s website.)
In addition to the civil liberties problems with the amendments, there are two others which may help persuade peers who are less keen on our civil liberties. First, when Parliament scrutinised the costs for the Snoopers’ Charter it called the Home Office’s estimated £1.8 billion as “fancifully and misleading” and that the costs would be much higher. Second, 18 pages of detailed amendments being submitted at the last minute is an extremely bad way of making law.
For more background on the issue see the Open Rights Group’s briefing and once you’ve lobbied some peers, please do share this with others who may also be willing to take a few minutes today to lobby too.