The Investigatory Powers Bill Marches On

The Investigatory Powers Bill has passed its second reading in the House of Commons. With Labour and large numbers the SNP abstaining the bill passed with 266 votes for and 15 against. The bill will now move into the committee stage during which evidence from experts and interest groups will be considered.

“We are supposed to debate [the bill], and each of us will have six minutes [to comment on the bill and suggest amendments] in a speech. It’s undemocratic. We ought to have a couple of days on the floor of the House for the second reading, that’s the ‘in principle’ debate. You can’t even deal with one of the subjects in this bill – and there are probably five or six big subjects – in six minutes” – David Davis (The Inquirer)

Usually, committees are made up of a smaller number of MPs but in some cases, the whole House is involved. While the IP Bill is undoubtedly important enough to warrant such a discussion the speed at which the bill has moved so far suggests it will not be the case here. During the committee stage, amendments are discussed and voted on. Only members of the committee can vote on amendments during the committee stages. The widespread outcry over the bill means that these changes will be carefully followed.

Potential Amendments

Writing in The Guardian Keir Starmer (the next Labour leader?) used the classic politician phrase “not fit for purpose” to describe the Bill. Starmer highlights several concerns; the need for bulk powers whereby agencies collect large volumes of data including content; the requirement for ISPs to retain “internet connection records” for 12 months; whether the “double lock” is sufficient or just a rubber stamp.

Carte Blanche

The thing that the state desperately wants is to be more like Google and Facebook. They want to be sexy and popular. Google and Facebook got to where they are by having access to bulk powers and bulk datasets. They have the justification of the market, the state has something else, the state has security.

“Oh blahdee-blah blah. The security services will continue to do whatever the hell they like; this bill is just slapping an extremely thin veneer of democratic oversight on the whole thing, so that we can continue to pretend that our government doesn’t break the law with complete impunity whenever they feel like it.” –bleakTW (The Guardian)

The concept of securitization in international relations- i.e. national affairs- puts forward the argument that subjects (terrorism, child pornography, drug dealing) are made into matters of security. Securitization is a heightened version of politicization. The outcome of securitization is that certain subjects receive disproportionate amounts of attention and resources over problems which are arguably more damaging- such as poor nutrition. When something is turned into a matter of security everything else goes out the window.

The Investigatory Powers Bill is setting out the case for protecting the UK from existential threats; the primary use of the tools outside of the security services is going to be for fraud purposes. In its current form the Bill allows the Department of Work and Pensions access. Scary times ahead.

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