The Labour Government, fearful of by-election results, public opinion polls, the media, the Opposition and some of its own backbenchers, has reduced the amount of time available for Parliamentary scrutiny and "Westminster Village" media interest, by sneakily and unnecessarily extending the Summer Recess from the end of business this Tuesday 21st July until Tuesday 13th October i.e. 3 months
Presumably there will be a splurge of Government announcements and media spin rushed out before Tuesday, which will attempt to divert attention from the Regulation of Invesigatory Powers ACt 2000 Commissioners' Annual Reports:
Chief Surveillance Commissioner, Interception of Communications Commissioner and Intelligence Service
Written answers and statements, 16 July 2009
Gordon Brown (Prime Minister, No Department; Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath, Labour)
I can announce to the House that I have arranged for the annual reports of the Chief Surveillance Commissioner, the right hon. Sir Christopher Rose, HC 704, the Interception of Communications Commissioner, the right hon. Sir Paul Kennedy, HC 901, and the Intelligence Services Commissioner, the right hon. Sir Peter Gibson, HC 902, to be laid before both Houses on Tuesday 21 July 2009.
This is the first time that publication of any of these RIPA Annual Reports has been pre-announced.
This will also be the first time that they have all been published on the same day.
N.B. these Reports are for the previous calendar year so they are already over six months out of date..
Given how short, and lacking in specific detail these reports usually are, they all should have been published in January.
Will the details of these Reports have been leaked and briefed to this weekend's newspapers, or will they have been successfully buried ?
The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) established, for the first time in the UK, a comprehensive regulatory system to govern the use of a range of investigatory techniques, some of which had been used without any statutory regulations or safeguards for decades. RIPA set out clear parameters within which these techniques could be used, and established an independent oversight regime and an independent complaints tribunal.
This publication of heavily censored Annual reports, by RIPA Commissioners who have no budget and little inclination to independently investigate complaints by members of the public, should not be mistaken for proper transparency and democratic accountability.
The Home Office is now in the process of reviewing the statutory codes of practice on covert surveillance and property interference, and on covert human intelligence sources. It has recently completed a public consultation exercise on the revised codes of practice, and on all public authorities able to use certain techniques regulated in RIPA, the ranks at which those techniques can be authorised, and the purposes for which they can be used. The Government will shortly table statutory instruments giving Parliament the opportunity to debate a range of proposed revisions to the RIPA framework, following this consultation exercise.
Spy Blog has submitted some thoughts to the Home Office in response to the Public Consultation which closed on 10tth July.
N>B. There is still time to submit your responses to the other RIPA Consultation, which closes this coming Monday 20th July 2009:
However, on past performance, this Government simply cannot be trusted to change their pre-set policies as a result of the responses they get from the public.
The previous official 12 week Public Consultation of RIPA Codes of Practice, back in 2006 was notable for the Statutory Instrument which was introduced halfway through the consultation period, and which came into legal force 3 days before the 12 week consultation period finished, making an utter mockery of the whole process.
This put into force the Government's favoured option on one of the Questions upon which the public was supposedly being consulted on (about about using Communications Traffic Data to identify dead or incapacitated people)
- Consultation on the Revised Statutory Code for Acquisition and Disclosure of Communications Data - Chapter II of Part I of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000
The consultation closes on 30 August 2006.
Date: Tue Jun 06 14:39:17 BST 2006
- Statutory Instrument 2006 No. 1878 The Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Communications Data) (Additional Functions and Amendment) Order 2006
Made 12th July 2006
Coming into force 26th July 2006
Remember that Statutory Instruments can, in theory be debated, but this is done on a "take it or leave it" basis, with no chance of making any amendments.
Backbench Members of the House of Commons have consistently failed to properly scrutinise the thousands of such Statutory Instruments, and they always get rubberstamped into law, even when their length and complexity exceeds that of many full Acts of Parliament.
I am grateful to Sir Christopher, Sir Paul and Sir Peter, and to their support staff, for their work on these reports.
How about some proper independent public scrutiny of the increasingly powerful "Database / Surveillance / Snooper / Nanny" State which has been inflicted on us, with proper resources to investigate complaints from the public, able to punish abuses by petty public officials or by private companies and to veto policy disasters in the making by senior officials and Ministers ?