Monday, 26 January 2015

Watching the government do its work

For the first time I have been watching, and engaging with, live coverage of legislation happening.

The debate in The Lords on the Counter Terrorism and Security bill.

They have added the whole of the Communications Data Bill as an amendment at a late stage in the Lords.

The debate was horrid to watch. I was screaming at the screen!

There are an amazing set of comments. Almost all are without any technical clue as to the serious implications. There are emotive statements like "talking to police after 7/7" - well that applies to any police on any motorway accident. So let's look at how many people terrorists kill. Fuck all!

There seemed to be no attempt to try and determine objective tests for any of this, and then apply them - it was nearly all "we feel this is a good/bad idea".

Good points on the fact that the French had the data as proposed, and did nothing. Others using the French incident to justify this amendment. Some suggest that UK would have noticed if it had happened here. Even if they would, this is data to which the UK already has access with no need for new laws.

Several points on tracking locations of mobile phones, something which we have now, and is covered by existing laws, does not need these amendments let alone this new bill, and is unlikely to go away for any reason. Indeed LTE (4G) improves this. Why these points were raised is unclear.

The fact that there is a sunset clause was mention, but they admitted that realistically it would just be extended. The fact that the work involved in setting up all of this extra monitoring and providing access would probably take until the sunset clause, was not raised.

It was amusing that someone sensibly questioned the meaning of "communication" and "message", asking if a "tinder match" counted as a message! A later comment from someone else thanks someone for explaining tinder to her during the debate, with some amusement. This is, however, a very important point, and shows that differentiating the envelope from the content is really not easy.

A few of the Lords and Ladies have clue and should be commended. Many are clueless. So many empty seats, it is scary. Making a list of "sane" Lords and Ladies is good though. I need to have dinner with them some time. Stras, Lane-Fox and Jones are on my "nice list". Some others too.

I am not sure how to conclude this post - but I am unsure that the way we run the country is actually sensible, sorry.

The fact that the steaming was iffy is a clue how important this is...

What gets me is how the hell should I need to be watching this - something is wrong if I cannot trust the powers that be to do the right thing!

We won this one, finally. Of course, this is the problem - to preserve freedoms we have to win every such stupid debate. To lose freedoms we only have to lose one debate and a law gets passed.

Do watch it. Scary...

Video [here] and debate on this starts 15:09. (thanks Dave)
Transcript [here].


  1. We won? Thank god!
    It's on my list to watch a bit later!

  2. You can watch a recording of the meeting here:

    The topic of the Counter Terrorism & Security Bill starts around 15:09.

  3. It seems to me that our democracy is fundamentally broken if a change to the bill doesn't make it go back through the people's representative house

  4. It's not much of a democracy until people actually get a say in the laws that are proposed. Voting red, blue, yellow, green, purple or whatever appears to be largely irrelevant. The government will always try and do whatever it wants. Every single change to legislation that a party wants to make should be fully stated in their manifesto in advance of them being elected.

    Or if the 5 year parliamentary cycle is too long then there could be a legislative cycle, every 1-2 years, where the government puts forward the exact diffs of laws they want to change. There is then a referendum to vote on which bills are approved with those approved changes then being committed. I believe they do something similar in Switzerland, though I also believe their cabinet members need masters-level qualifications on their portfolio subjects.

    Or just abolish party politics entirely and the constant bickering that goes with it. It's not constructive, a party's default position is basically "you're wrong because you're blue and I'm red". A new lot come in and systematically undo anything the previous lot did. A constant coalition, keeping the loonies/idiots on both sites in check, with voters approving the actual laws that govern them and any changes to priorities in spending.

    Another concern is that the people in the cabinet (and politicians in general) are simply not qualified on the subject that they are selected to represent. I've never been able to decide if being a politician is classed as sales or unskilled labour. I doubt too many of their advisors, advisors advisors etc, are particularly highly qualified either. Otherwise there would be no way these amendments would have ever see the light of day! Unfortunately you have mostly thick/apathetic people, governing mostly thick/apathetic people.

    Thankfully there is a secondary house to filter such things. But again the qualifications of those in the Lords (academic, business or even just living in the real world) are hugely lacking.