Scottish PEN condemns the government’s decision to introduce the Investigatory Powers Bill (IP Bill) after less than three weeks since the joint committee released its report.March 4, 2016
Scottish PEN condemns the government’s decision to introduce the Investigatory Powers Bill (IP Bill) after less than three weeks since the joint committee released its report. The impact of this decision is evident in the superficial nature of the changes contained within the legislation.
This is a piece of legislation defined by haste, curtailing any attempt to facilitate dialogue, improve public engagement or strengthen protections for civil liberties. The draft legislation was widely criticised for its lack of clarity, its misunderstanding of key technical concepts and its vague wording; none of these have been addressed in the legislation published on Tuesday. Key aspects such as the requirement for telecommunications providers to hold Internet Connection Records for 12-months and the hacking of phones and other devices have, in fact, been expanded.
The impact of mass surveillance and bulk data collection on freedom of expression has been identified in a recent Pen International survey that found that of 700 writers, 1 in 3 writers in ‘Free’ countries had avoided writing or speaking on a particular topic following the Snowden revelations. Any legislation that threatens to undermine our fundamental freedom demands a thorough and inclusive debate and it does our democracy a disservice by hurrying it through Parliament in this manner. This is highlighted by David Allen Green who stated “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.”
Scottish PEN believes that this revised legislation undermines the UK’s commitment to civil liberties and a robust, open and deliberate legislative process. We echo Shami Chakrabarti‘s words: “[The] Government must return to the drawing board and give this vital, complex task appropriate time. Anything else would show dangerous contempt for parliament, democracy and our country’s security.”
Jenni Calder, Membership Secretary and Former President, Scottish PEN
Fiona Graham, Vice-President, Scottish PEN
Carl MacDougall, Vice-President, Scottish PEN
David Manderson, Committee Member, Scottish PEN
Christina Neuwirth, Scottish PEN
Liz Niven, Writers in Exile Committee, Scottish PEN
Jean Rafferty, Convener, Writers at Risk Committee, Scottish PEN
Mario Relich, Secretary, Scottish PEN
Nik Williams, Scottish PEN