As referred to in a previous blog,
I recently contacted my MP regarding the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill; this is her response;
Dear Ms. M
Re: Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill
Thank you for your email about the Government’s introduction of emergency legislation on data retention and investigatory powers.
The Data Retention Bill is about retaining existing powers, not creating new ones. The decision to introduce the emergency legislation was influenced by two issues. Firstly, a decision by the European Court of Justice in April meant that internet and phone companies would start deleting data that the police need in order to investigate serious crimes. Secondly, a number of internet companies have started to ask the Government for clarification of the legal framework that allows security agencies to find out what terrorists and serious criminals are saying to each other, which is called “legal interception”.
Both of these left the UK Government with an urgent decision and a need to bring forward emergency legislation to maintain existing capabilities. The legislation will stop at the end of 2016 so the next parliament will have to debate these issues again and re-evaluate the need for and shape of the legislation.
The Lib Dems have made sure the law is much tighter than it was previously. Under this legislation the number of public bodies that are able to access personal data will be reduced and internet companies will, for the first time, have to publish annual transparency reports so we know how many requests for data are made, by whom and for what purposes.
The Liberal Democrats have insured that oversight will be strengthened through a new Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board and the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation will carry out a review of our communications data and intercept laws before May 2015.
The Liberal Democrats and I care passionately about civil liberties. In Government we have scrapped ID cards, ended 28-day detention without charge, curtailed stop and search powers and ended routine child detention for immigration purposes. We also vetoed the Data Communications Bill, the so-called “Snoopers’ Charter” last year. We have continued our work in this area by influencing the emergency data retention legislation to ensure appropriate safeguards are in place.
I completely understand your concerns about the speed with which the legislation passed through Parliament, however, it was important that the legislation went through before Summer recess so existing investigations are not jeopardised over the next few months. The police say that the majority of prosecutions involve the use of this sort of data and that it would be much harder, and in some cases impossible, to prosecute some serious cases without access to communications metadata. The emergency legislation is simply a response to recent developments that have put at risk existing capabilities that are crucial to the investigation of crime in the UK and will help preserve our national security.
I do recognise that many people are concerned about the civil liberties implications of this legislation, but I hope I have reassured you that it gives no new powers to access information and introduces a number of new protections on who can access information, as a result of the Lib Dems’ involvement. Thank you again for your email, and please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can help with any other matter.
Jenny Willott MP