It’s March 2000 and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill is going through Parliament. Then Home Secretary Charles Clarke is defending the Bill during its second reading. Reading the views expressed by Conservatives in the debate shows up an interesting split: some MPs concerned about civil liberties but also some pressing for the powers to be made much more widely available. For Liberal Democrat MPs, the concerns are about the scale of snooping the Bill will permit and the controls over it.
But all would be fine according to Charles Clarke:
A number of suppositions have been flying around, both in the Chamber and outside, about a range of very extreme circumstances in which the powers might be used. In fact, their use is limited by the scope of the clause. There is plenty of room for argument, and some right hon. and hon. Members have referred to the precise meaning of phrases such asthe economic well-being of the United Kingdom …It is necessary to emphasise that we are talking not about some global power that has no trammels, but about a tight series of definitions which is open to discussion in Committee. That is where we start, and I think it an important point. [Hansard]
Ah well. Helped along by a subsequent change to the rules, things didn’t exactly turn out like that picture of narrow powers, tightly controlled.