2nd March 2016
Yesterday the government put the Investigatory Powers Bill before parliament.
(Note it is not a “draft” Bill – that was the last one. This is now the Bill (which is, in turn, a draft Act).)
The parliament webpage for the Bill is here and it is worth bookmarking, as website will track the passage of the Bill and will provide links to the debates and other materials.
The Bill itself is here and the “explanatory notes” are here. (The explanatory notes are to explain the Bill – but they are not part of the Bill, will not become law, and will not bind any court.)
It is a long and complex Bill – many of the clauses are highly technical even before you try and fit the clauses together. (In this way, writing legislation or any other complicated legal document is lot like coding.)
It looks like government is seeking to rush the Bill through at speed. Of course, such disregard for parliament is contrary to this government’s lofty assertions about “parliamentary sovereignty”. There is a serious question as whether parliament can properly scrutinise the Bill.
In this post, I do not even try to scrutinise the Bill. I am going to do something far more trivial but which may (or may not) show something telling about the Bill.
You will see that “Part 1” of the Bill is called “General Privacy Provisions”.
From a liberal perspective, this is an encouraging signal.
A search for “privacy” in the Bill, however, reveals that other than in clause 1(3)(a) – in the image above – there are no mentions of “privacy” anywhere else in the Bill, other than in titles.
Of the fourteen mentions of “privacy” overall:
one is the title of Part 1;
one is the title of Part 1 in the contents page;
nine are mentions of the title of Part 1 in the headers;
one is at clause 1(3)(a); and
two are in mentions of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (S.I. 2003/2426).
So “privacy” is mentioned more often in the headers to pages than in the Bill itself, and it is only once used anywhere in the Bill when it is not in a title.
It is almost as if some bright spark at the Home Office thought that privacy concerns could be addressed by simply adding “privacy” to the title of Part 1 of the Bill.
Of course, this is not a complete way of assessing how privacy is addressed in the Bill – privacy points can be covered without necessarily using the word, and a search for “privacy” in the (non-binding) explanatory notes is an instructive exercise.
But, as far as Part 1 of the Bill is concerned, the motto could well be “Privacy is Surveillance” – as one famous political observer would have put it.
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