SNP Abstention on IPBill

And my knee jerk moment.

Having been out all afternoon, I got back to the interwebs to an avalanche of Tweets about the SNP doing that thing we most abhor. They were getting ready to ABSTAIN and ABSTAIN they did.

Calming myself down a notch or ten I went and read Joanna Cherry’s (QC MP) speech in full, twice.

It’s long but worth it. It’s over here . Scroll down till you find her and keep scrolling, she took a number of interventions.

What I picked up from her speech, which might be seen in print easier than by listening to it, was that there appears to be a wish on the SNP’s behalf to overhaul the legislation massively and by that I mean the current legislation and more obviously they want quite a number of amendments to the draft bill. Looking backwards and forward simultaneously if you will.

I’m no political pundit or lawyer, but it seems to me that by abstaining they are giving the chance for the bill to move to the Public Committee stage and showing full willing in shaping that legislation. The optimist in me thinks, oh, we might end up with something better than we have now. The realist in me says the amendments won’t make it through and the SNP will simply vote against at the next stage (which she explicitly stated).

This I think is important given that at Public Committee stage these things happen:

Evidence-taking powers

Public Bill Committees have the power to receive written evidence from outside organisations and members of the public, and to take oral evidence from interested parties, in the same way as Select Committees do, as part of their consideration of the Bill.

Written evidence

Anyone can submit written evidence to a Public Bill Committee. The written evidence that the Committee decides to publish will be available on the internet as soon as possible after the Committee has started sitting, and will also be printed in hard copy at the end of the Committee’s deliberations.

Oral evidence

Public Bill Committees normally take oral evidence at the start of proceedings, starting with evidence from the relevant Minister or Ministers and Departmental officials.

Further witnesses may also be called, in a programme which will be agreed by the Committee at its first meeting. These are likely to include related agencies, interested non-governmental organisations and lobby groups and even individuals with an interest.

I may be naive I may be wrong (it’s known to happen), but isn’t opening up this debate to the public in public a good idea? I think it is. By the way, if you want to have a say, pop over here and you can find out how.

Before you go, have a read of some extracts from Joanna’s speech and see if you read the same things into it as I did.

Joanna Cherry

Joanna Cherry 2

Joanne Cherry 3

Did you?

Two more thoughts. Then I’ll stop I promise.

  1. The letter in the Guardian from 200 top lawyers stated:

If the law is not fit for purpose, unnecessary and expensive litigation will follow, and further reform will be required. We urge members of the Commons and the Lords to ensure that the future investigatory powers legislation meets these international standards. Such a law could lead the world.

Full piece here

2. @CostainMcCade  Tweeted at me to say

“Without Tory rebels Bill cannot be defeated – wasn’t going to happen at this stage.”

The question now is, can we get over the idea of the SNP abstaining if it is to try and improve on the legislation that’s both behind and in front of them?

My own answer is yes.


  1. No disagreeing or yelling here!

    I think – and on this I think we probably agree – that abstaining at second reading is a rational and defensible position. At second reading vote is on the *principle* of the Bill. Detailed, clause by clause scrutiny happens in Committee. By abstaining at second reading the SNP and Labour are saying that they accept that, in principle, such a Bill is a good idea. They may disagree with various of the details and will do so on committee. And if, after committee stage, they don’t think they can support the Bill they can vote against it at when it returns to the whole house.

    Of course, the reason that it is hard to simply oppose the while Bill is that it is clearer and has more safeguards than RIPA. I think almost anyone would have to say it’s an improvement.

    Liked by 2 people

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