No evidence of Balance: the Joint Committee on draft Investigatory Powers Bill

The Joint Committee on the IP Bill has now been stood up, and we’ve finally got the names of the Lords appointed. Following on from an underwhelming start as I’ve previously noted I continue to be underwhelmed, maybe even dismayed, by the Lords appointed. I hope to be pleasantly surprised, but am not confident. Fundamentally, the committee appears to have a pro-authoritarian slant, and has virtually no experience with technology – not a great combination.

Before I discuss the membership in detail, I also wanted to make a point on time. The joint committee is due to report by 11 February 2016. That gives at most 7 weeks for the committee to review the draft bill, and report. This is not much time, especially with Christmas and New Year in the middle of the period. It may be sufficient, but this is definitely something to keep an eye on.

And now to the membership.

Membership Overview

From the perspective of the Lords, there are 2 Conservative, 2 Labour, 1 Crossbench, 1 Bishop(!), and 1 Liberal Democrat. 3 of the 7 have been government Ministers, and 1 was the Head of the Civil Service. None have any in-depth technical knowledge. Overall, the Lords’ contingent is definitely an ‘insiders’ group – indeed 2 are or were members of the Intelligence Services Committee. When looking at speaking history for DRIPA, the draft IP Bill, and the Anderson report, most have been silent, showing little interest in the subject. Only Lord Strasburger appears to have a pro-civil liberties stance, and only he had involvement with the previous draft Communications Data Bill.

When we include the MPs, there are 6 Conservative, 4 Labour, 1 SNP, 1 LibDem, 1 Crossbench, and 1 Bishop. A minority (1 MP+3 Lords) have spoken on DRIPA, the Anderson Report, or the IP Bill. The overall committee are less insiders (4 Lords+1 MP) than the Lords’ appointees would suggest, but there remains (in my estimation) a very authoritarian slant – I can only point at 2 (Stuart McDonald MP, Lord Strasburger) who are likely to have a more civil liberties view.

Lords Appointees

Baroness Browning (Conservative 2010, was Minister for Crime Prevention and Anti-Social Behaviour Reduction, Home Office (2011))
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Hasn’t spoken in any of the recent related debates. Expect to be pro-existing bill/authoritarian.

Lord Butler of Brockwell (Crossbench 1998, was Civil Service (Head of, 88-98), ISC 2010-15)
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Was pro-DRIPA, although against the emergency process. Spoke on Anderson report, with mixed views. Was affected by IRA Brighton bombing. Expect to be relatively authoritarian, but may bring useful civil service views.

Bishop of Chester (Bishop 2001)
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Has no relevant experience – not sure why selected. Did speak on the Anderson report. Seems generally rather pro-authoritarian, and while likes privacy, willing to give it away. Similar views in Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill.

Lord Hart of Chilton (Labour 2004, was Solicitor)
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Barely speaks in debates. Has committee experience of legislative scrutiny. Unknown views.

Lord Henley (Conservative 1977, was Minister of State, Home Office (2011-12) – Crime Prevention and Anti-Social Behaviour Reduction)
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Barely speaks at debates. Sits on Joint Committee on Human Rights, but am not sure of impact in that role. Expect to be authoritarian.

Lord Murphy of Torfaen (Labour 2015, was Sec State Wales/NI, Shadow Defence, sat on ISC 2001-08)
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Has voted for mass retention before. Hasn’t spoken in any relevant debates. Expect to be very authoritarian.

Lord Strasburger(Liberal Democrat 2011, was Private Sector, sat on Draft Communications Data Bill committee)
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Has been significantly involved in all related legislation. Pro-oversight, pro-civil liberties. Only member with experience of draft Communications Data Bill.

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