Emergency surveillance law to be brought in with cross-party support

Reposted from The Guardian

… and do we think that these regulations won’t be used against the ordinary citizen. 

David Cameron

David Cameron is to explain why the emergency legislation is needed at a press conference with Nick Clegg. Photograph: Amer Ghazzal/Barcroft Media

Controversial emergency laws will be introduced into the Commons next Monday to reinforce the powers of security services to require phone companies to keep records of their customers’ calls.

The move follows private talks over the past week and the laws will have the support of Labour and the Liberal Democrats on the basis that there will be a sunset clause and a new board to oversee the functioning of the powers.

Details are due to be announced at a Downing Street press conference on Thursday morning.

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, modelled on a similar US body and including external experts, will be required to check on how the powers are used.

I’ll be explaining today why emergency legislation is needed to maintain powers to help keep us safe from those who would harm UK citizens.

There will also be annual transparency reports setting out how frequently the police and security services are using the legislation. There will also be a new high-level diplomat appointed to smooth relations with the US over surveillance.

The laws will die in 2016, requiring fresh legislation after the election. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act will be reviewed between now and 2016 to make recommendations for how it could be reformed and updated. Liberal Democrats insist the new legislation does not represent an extension of existing surveillance powers or the introduction of the snooper’s charter sought by the Home Office and long opposed by the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg.

There will be no power to look at the content of phone calls, only location, date and the phone numbers.

The government sources say they have been forced to act due to European court of justice ruling in April saying the current laws invaded individual privacy.

The government says if there had been no new powers there would have been no obligation on phone companies to keep phone records if there was a UK court challenge to the retention of data.

Backbench MPs will ask why the new powers are being rushed through the Commons when the European court of justice ruling was passed in April and the Home Office has refused to discuss the implications of the ruling.

The prime minister, David Cameron, said on Thursday: “It is the first duty of government to protect our national security and to act quickly when that security is compromised. As events in Iraq and Syria demonstrate, now is not the time to be scaling back on our ability to keep our people safe. The ability to access information about communications and intercept the communications of dangerous individuals is essential to fight the threat from criminals and terrorists targeting the UK.

“No government introduces fast track legislation lightly. But the consequences of not acting are grave.

“I want to be very clear that we are not introducing new powers or capabilities – that is not for this parliament. This is about restoring two vital measures ensuring that our law enforcement and intelligence agencies maintain the right tools to keep us all safe.”

Clegg said: “We know the consequences of not acting are serious, but this urgency will not be used as an excuse for more powers, or for a ‘snooper’s charter’.

“I believe that successive governments have neglected civil liberties in the pursuit of greater security. We will be the first government in many decades to increase transparency and oversight, and make significant progress in defence of liberty.

“But liberty and security must go hand in hand. We can’t enjoy our freedom if we’re unable to keep ourselves safe.”

A Liberal Democrat source said: “We must ensure our country and its citizens are safe, but as Liberal Democrats we will also do so in a way that improves, not erodes our civil liberties, and rolls back, not increases unchecked intrusion into our lives.

“We know the consequences of not acting are serious, but absolutely adamant this urgency will not be used as an excuse for more powers, or for a ‘snooper’s charter’. We have blocked a ‘snooper’s charter’ before, and will continue to do so.

“No government takes a decision to introduce emergency legislation lightly. We are taking this decision to maintain the current abilities of police and security agencies not increase them.

Nick Clegg has been determined to use the urgency behind this legislation to make sure this government becomes the first in many decades to increase transparency and oversight, and make significant progress in defence of liberty.

“Nick Clegg and Norman Baker, with the help of Julian Huppert, have delivered cross-party support for a number steps to strengthen oversight and transparency.”

Number 10 said the ECJ rulings had struck down regulations to retain communications data for law enforcement purposes for up to 12 months.

Unless they have a business reason to hold this data, internet and phone companies will start deleting it, which has serious consequences for investigations, which can take many months and which rely on retrospectively accessing data for evidential purposes.

Ministers added that some companies had already been calling for a clearer legal framework

Labour backbencher Tom Watson described the move as a “stitch-up”. He said: “There has been a deal and it had been railroaded through so my advice to MPs is there is no point turning up for work next week because there has been a political deal.” He said he had not seen the detail of the legislation, and promised to vote against the timetable.

He added: “The government was aware of this ECJ riling six weeks ago and what they are doing is railroading this through. No one in civil society has got a chance to be consulted.” The shadow cabinet had not seen the proposals until this morning, he added.

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13 Responses to Emergency surveillance law to be brought in with cross-party support

  1. Methusalada says:

    Reblogged this on Methusalada and commented:
    Be sore afraid people of the UK , a flea’s bite is rarely felt but can be sickening. A wasp’s sting is always painful . A joint political order can be more deadly than a venomous snake than most people are aware of. It creeps up silently & within 48 hours , your dead or dormant .


  2. beastrabban says:

    Reblogged this on Beastrabban’s Weblog and commented:
    This looks simply like more salami tactics to the extension of the political establishment’s surveillance culture. We have seen increasing demands for increased powers of surveillance from the government and the security forces since Bush and Blair began the War on Terror. Various Tory journalists then argued against them. In their opinion, there was absolutely no need. They pointed to relatively restrained legislation put in place to protect the public and provide for the interrogation of suspects when the IRA were a real threat in mainland Britain, quite apart from the atrocities committed by paramilitaries on both sides of the sectarian divide in Ulster. Now, however, they are arguing that we are under such a terrible threat that only the gradual, draconian curtailment of our civil liberties will protect us. I don’t believe this. And if the situation is so serious that in requires rushed legislation like this, then it should be laid in the public domain so that the voting public know and understand how serious the threat is.
    But I don’t think they have that information. And I don’t believe that Islamist militants are the sole object of this legislation. This is a government that distrusts and despises the electorate and particularly the working class. Ultimately, it’s an attack on the freedom of British citizens on the pretext of protecting us from terrorism.


  3. jaypot2012 says:

    The slimy, greasy toads are only after information about how people are going to vote, when they are going to strike, if they are going to have demonstrations, if they are going to walk out, if there is going to be a revolution etc.
    So fine, do your worst, we never used to have computers and mobile phones – we’ll do things the old fashioned way if we need to.
    I for one will never stop writing or saying that this unelected coalition is a bunch of criminals that need to be stood in front of a tribunal for crimes against mankind. Either that or they should all be stood against a wall and shot!
    And where is Labour again whilst all this is going on?


  4. jaypot2012 says:

    Reblogged this on Jay's Journal and commented:
    I shall never be silenced and I shall never silence anyone…


  5. The more BuzzPhrases Cameron used, the less credibility he had and when he got to ‘The Paedophiles…”, he was busted.This isn’t about our safety, it’s about suppressing our dissent


    • You’ve hit the nail on the head Colin, besides if he’s worried about the paedophiles…where are the missing child abuse files given to the Home Office…talk about the elephant in the room. D’you know what winds me up? Him and his sort must think we sailed up the Thames on a water biscuit and that we can’t see what the slimy toads are up to.


  6. MrChekaMan says:

    Of course-yes, there *are* real threats from terrorists and sex offenders. But if the threats are so big we need these laws, then we should be shown the evidence of this. If there is not such evidence, then this is just an attempt to spy on ordinary people.


    • Of course we should, but we won’t. Nick Clegg talks about the “poison pill” inserted into the legislation (a thinly veiled attempt by him to say oh look what a good boy I am…please vote for me) which means that it is time limited to 2016; but I think the realists amongst us would agree that by then the ConDems will have used it several times by whether legitimately or not, then and will say… look how successful it’s been…lets keep it in place.


  7. Whenever there is this kind of legislation with such poor, or lack of, “evidence” of genuine requirement I am always reminded of the the story… (shortened for brevity)

    There was a man on a bus ripping up a newspaper and throwing the bits out of the window.
    When asked what he was doing he said, it keeps the Tigers away….
    Upon being told, there are no Tigers in London, he remarked “There you go, see how well it works.”


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