Commons reject Anti-Terror amendments
Bill returned to Lords; data retention powers back in
The House of Commons rejected nearly all Lords amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Bill yesterday, setting up a battle between the two.
Home Secretary David Blunkett complained of the "disembowelling" and "knee-capping" of his bill by the House of Lords earlier in the week. He made various concessions, including a review of the powers in years to come, but the next day the Lords voted in even more amendments - including the requirement for the code of practice for ISPs etc to be given Parliamentary approval before becoming law.
Yesterday, it returned to the Commons, where Mr Blunkett suceeded in getting nearly all the amendments rejected and the bill sent back to the Lords. MPs complained numerous times throughout the debate that the time restriction before a vote was taken was hampering a legitimate review of the bill, but the government is desperate to get the legislation on the books before Xmas.
The debate started at 7.50pm and the entire thing was completed by midnight.
Everything except the proposal for a committee of privy councillors to review the bill within two years and report to the Home Secretary was rejected. A significant number of backbench Labour MPs revolted but the government's huge majority assured that everything else was rejected (examples: 320 to 213; 307 to 236; 322 to 215).
That means that the law against racial hatred is still in, the sunset clauses for review are out, parliamentary and public review of aspects of the bill are out. Most importantly with regard to the Internet and mobile phones, data retention powers are back in and the Home Secretary still has the overriding power of decision over what police are allowed to do and what ISPs, mobile phone companies have to comply with.
Meanwhile, the European Parliament didn't kick up the fuss that many feared it would over a new directive to standardise the European telecoms market. It went straight through and now member states only have to rubber stamp it. This could have enormous benefits for European telcos and the Internet in general as Europe moves towards working on the same infrastructure. ®