Sir David Davis speaks out against ‘Snooper’s Charter’


As reported in The Guardian;

“Leading Tories back Nick Clegg’s call for complete rewrite.

No 10 concedes need to redraft parts of bill but former shadow home secretary David Davis says ‘wholesale rewrite’ required.

Leading Conservatives have backed Nick Clegg’s call to send Theresa May’s “snooper’s charter” legislation back to the drawing board as Downing Street conceded that parts of the bill would have to be rewritten.

The former Tory shadow home secretary David Davis said the chances of the draft communications data bill getting through parliament now depended on the Liberal Democrats “if they have the testosterone”.

Davis told the Guardian: “This bill needs to go straight back to the drawing board. What it requires is a wholesale rewrite.” Even then, Davis said, it would still probably not make it on to the statute book before the next general election.

Davis, who represents a significant minority of Tory backbenchers prepared to vote against the proposed legislation, said the fundamental flaw in the home secretary’s current plan to track all email and internet use was the belief that harvesting the whole population’s data would improve the security of the state.

“We need to focus this on those with suspect backgrounds and some sort of systems of warrant,” he said, conceding that something was needed to solve the problem facing the security services and the police. Davis also criticised the £1.8bn costings for the project saying they were “written on the back of an MI6 fag packet”, a reference to the Home Office architect of the plans, Charles Farr, who was previously a senior figure in the security service.

Davis’s intervention came as Downing Street confirmed that the cabinet had agreed on Tuesday that some kind of redrafting of the bill would now have to take place. “We accept the substance of the committee’s criticism and we will now look at how we can redraft the legislation to take account of those,” it said.

In a column for the Sun newspaper, May made clear she would accept the substance of MPs’ and peers’ concerns but remained determined to push through these “vitally important laws” without any further delay as they were needed to “track paedophiles and terrorists”. She wrote: “I have been absolutely clear that we need to introduce this bill in this session.”

The acknowledgement that the bill must now be rewritten followed a public warning from Clegg that it could not proceed any further in its current form.

The deputy prime minister’s open opposition is fuelled by a storm of criticism from a high-powered committee of MPs and peers who, in a report on Tuesday, described the proposed legislation as “overkill” and warned that it “tramples on the privacy of British citizens”.

The parliamentary scrutiny committee, which includes the former cabinet secretary Lord Armstrong and three former cabinet ministers, said the bill must be completely rewritten to meet their substantial concerns about its scope, ineffective safeguards, cost and lack of wider consultation.

The committee described the Home Office’s estimated price tag of £1.8bn over 10 years and much of its analysis backing its case as “fanciful and misleading”.

It also warned in its report that a “request filter” at the heart of a new tracking system of all emails, web use and social media messages was “essentially a federated database of all UK citizens’ communications data”.

A second high-powered committee of peers and MPs has also criticised May’s plans to monitor all web and mobile phone use. The intelligence and security committee (ISC), which is appointed by the prime minister rather than parliament, said her draft needed more work, more consultation and a coherent explanation of what the data would be used for and the safeguards that would be in place.

The normally cautious committee said it accepted that there was a serious problem that required action but that its concerns “must be addressed in advance of the bill being introduced”.

The bulk of the ISC report, which is based largely on private evidence taken from the security services and police, is to remain secret but a six-page summary published on Tuesday revealed detailed concerns. These include the writing into the legislation of the precise categories of communications data to be collected by internet and phone companies.

It also highlights concerns over the technical arrangements contemplated to intercept the traffic data of overseas-based internet companies such as Google and Facebook that may not co-operate with requests from the British police.”