This week House of Commons debated the Lords’ amendments to the Investigatory Powers Bill.
The Bill, occasionally denigrated as a ‘Snoopers charter’, is of major importance not just for the prevention of terrorism, but also because of its potential impact on the protection of data and press freedom.
The Lords’ wanted to change the legislation so that newspapers, independent of the Royal Charter and its regulator IMPRESS, would be financially penalised even if an allegation against them proved false. They wanted to force all newspapers to pay both sides of the legal costs for court actions brought against them alleging the interception of communications (hacking) and the use of information gleaned from it.
Whilst such measures may seem a helpful deterrent to media conglomerates who might be tempted to undertake such practices they hold very different consequences for smaller local and regional outlets.
I’ve always been impressed by the quality of the local press which serves our communities in ways that the national and international press cannot. They are focussed on our neighbourhoods and, quite apart from their role as a source of local news, are able to create a sense of community cohesion that is sadly missing in many parts of society.
Forcing irretrievable legal costs onto smaller media outlets, when they’ve done nothing wrong, is not only unfair it could force them out of business.
We do need deterrents to prevent a repeat of the News of the World scandals but there must be a happy medium. To be sure, we must not punish the innocent for the sins of others and it is for this reason that I voted against the Lord’s amendment.
We have a particularly vibrant press in Bracknell and I want it to remain a strong, local voice for residents.
- Adam Afriyie is the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Ghana.
- He has a strong background in science, technology and innovation.
- He is currently Chairman of the Fintech APPG, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) and President of the Conservative Technology Forum (CTF).
- He was Shadow Minister for Science from 2007-2010 and has a background in the information services and technology sector.
- He is Patron of the Parliamentary Space Committee (PSC) and was Chair of the PSC between 2010 and 2015.