David Davis comments across the papers on the Government’s emergency legislation to introduce new communications data laws


MPs raise fears over move to push surveillance bill through Commons: May dubbed ‘Mrs Snoop’ as politicians say emergency measures applied to new legislation could have ‘unintended consequences’

As published in The Guardian:

MPs have expressed concern about the rushing through of new surveillance law as “emergency” measures that allow the retention of people’s phone call, text message and internet data.

David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband all support the new data retention and investigation powers bill, after a European court struck down a directive that required internet and phone companies to keep data on communications for 12 months.

However, some senior politicians raised worries that the bill would be rushed through by home secretary Theresa May with just a single day of scrutiny in the Commons. Chris Bryant, a shadow minister, said he was “deeply suspicious of hasty emergency legislation supposedly necessitated by a court judgement from this April”.

He added in parliament: “The only reason this is an emergency that has to be dealt with in a single day in the House of Commons is because the government has spent three months making its mind up and has decided that we’re going on holiday in 10 days time. Would it not make far more sense to enable proper consideration, so that we do not have unintended consequences from this legislation, if this was considered in this House on two separate days, so that we can table amendments after second reading?”
Another shadow minister, Steve McCabe, said he thought May was turning from “protections of freedom queen” into “Mrs Snoop”.

David Davis, the Conservative former shadow home secretary, also questioned the justification for rushing through the new laws quickly.

“The case was put to the European court of justice some time ago and it took some time to come to its conclusion on April 8. If there is an emergency, this was a predictable one. There has been plenty of time to look at the clauses to relate to data retention since then. So, why if this is an emergency, is it now not then?”

Peter Wishart, the Scottish National party MP for Perth, said Scotland had not been consulted and it sounded like “snoopers’ charter, the prequel”, while David Winnick, the Labour MP for Walsall and member of the home affairs committee, said he would “not be supporting it and I think it quite wrong that such important legislation should be rushed through in one single day”.

However, dozens of MPs spoke in favour of the legislation including former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell, former home secretary Alan Johnson, former Home Office minister Hazel Blears and Sir Malcolm Rifkind, chairman of the intelligence and security committee.

Johnson said the new laws were “necessary but not sufficient” and called for the government to go further in closing loopholes in data collection that could help the police stop terrorists and other criminals committing crimes.

Mark Field, a Conservative member of the intelligence and security committee, said he was “instinctively uncomfortable” about rushed legislation and consensus among the parties, but he thought the new laws were important.

Outside the Commons, the new legislation has been labelled a “stitch-up” by civil liberties campaigners at the Open Rights Group.

Jim Killock, its executive director, said there was “no legal basis for making internet service providers retain our data so it is using the threat of terrorism as an excuse for getting this law passed”.

“Blanket surveillance needs to end. That is what the court has said,” he said.
Tom Watson, a prominent Labour MP who helped uncover the phone-hacking scandal, said it was a “secret deal between party leaders”.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “There hasn’t been a bill published and yet we find out this morning, when parliament is on one-line whip and MPs are in their constituencies, that next week they will railroad emergency legislation to put right a decision made by the European court of justice that the current legislation was beyond human rights law. Now that doesn’t seem right to me.

“There are hundreds of thousands of people out there very concerned about this particular policy issue. They’ve not seen this bill either, but it doesn’t really matter this year because there’s been a deal done between the three parties and it’ll be railroaded through. If you’re an MP you probably shouldn’t bother turning up to work next week because what you are thinking doesn’t really matter.”

However, the bill won support from Julian Huppert, a Lib Dem MP who campaigned against the so-called snooper’s charter legislation that would have extended data retention from phone calls and text messages to wider internet usage. He insisted that the new laws, which will expire in 2016, do not amount to a return of the bill that was previously vetoed by Clegg.

“As a Liberal, I care passionately about privacy and civil liberties, and that’s why we fought so hard against the ‘snooper’s charter’, which really went far, far too far – I was really pleased we managed to kill that off,” Huppert said.

“This is not doing that. This is restoring previously existing powers with some extra safeguards so they are even more constrained, but much more importantly, because this legislation will automatically delete itself in 2016, it forces something that we in the Liberal Democrats have been arguing for for a very long time which is a complete rethink of how the entire system works – how Ripa [the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act], the legislation that underpins this, works.”

Cameron calls for stronger surveillance powers

As published in The Yorkshire Post:

David Cameron has signalled he is ready for a fresh attempt to give further powers to the police and security services to spy on communications as the Government unveiled plans for emergency law to ensure they can continue to access phone and internet data.

The Prime Minister insisted the measures being rushed through Parliament were needed to maintain existing powers following a European Court of Justice ruling.

But he made clear his support for new rights to intercept data to cope with changing technology.
A proposal to introduce broader powers, dubbed the snoopers’ charter’ was blocked by the Liberal Democrats last year.

Mr Cameron said: “My own very strong view is that we need to ask ourselves this simple question. Do we want as a country to leave a means of communication for paedophiles, terrorists and other serious criminals to communicate with each other that in extremis we cannot intercept?
“My own view is no we don’t.”

The emergency bill proposed yesterday by the Coalition and backed in principal by Labour follows a European Court of Justice ruling which, it was claimed, could lead to communications companies deleting crucial material used to tackle terrorists and serious criminals.

However, the Government faced criticism for giving MPs so little time to debate the measure – which is expected to be passed next week – when the original ruling was made in April.

Former Shadow Home Secretary David Davis described it as “theatrical emergency”.

The Haltemprice and Howden MP said: “They should have been prepared for it. Any competent department of state would have looked at the options, looked why it might go through, what might be struck down and so on and had legislation prepared then.

“We would have then had three months up until now to consider what we should do rather than this thing that’s going through in a single day. Extraordinarily unusual.”

The Government was also accused of trying to give legal cover to practices the European Court of Justice had clearly tried to outloaw.

Dr Subhajit Basu, an expert in cyberlaw at Leeds University said: “This is not just about protecting the public, this is more like Chinese style “blanket surveillance”.

“This is a hastily drafted and ill-conceived legislation that is merely reactive and not proactive.”
He added: “The safe guarding measures which the Government claims will increase transparency and oversight’ are worth less than paper they are written on.

“We are increasingly under threat from the desire of public authorities to know more about us without giving proper justification the need to more about us.”

But despite his own previous opposition to extending surveillance powers, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg insisted the emergency is needed.

“No government embarks on emergency legislation lightly but I have been persuaded of the need to act and act fast,” he said.

Cameron’s surveillance bill makes a drama out of a non-existent crisis: Nothing justifies the data collection bill being pushed through now but it is an opportunity to ensure privacy is protected

As published in The Guardian:

There is no emergency that justifies rushing this urgent new “security” bill through parliament before its summer break but it could prove a major opportunity to bring the rise of the surveillance state under democratic control.
In order to ensure the continued access of the police and security services to the personal internet and phone-use tracking data held by the telecoms companies, they have had to concede important privacy and civil liberty safeguards.

Is there an emergency?

David Cameron says that since the European court of justice privacy ruling struck down on 8 April the EU directive that requires internet and phone companies to store their customers’ communications data for 12 months, two problems were fast approaching. He said the legal uncertainty it has created meant that companies would soon start deleting the data rather than storing it and there was a danger they would start refusing requests backed by a home secretary’s interception warrant
The former Tory shadow home secretary, David Davis, said: “I couldn’t see quite what there was of an emergency here beyond a sort of theatrical emergency.” He thinks the Home Office could have put the options before MPs any time since 8 April. The timing has also been dictated by the reactivation of a high court legal challenge to the blanket snooping powers by a British citizen backed by Liberty, the Open Rights Campaign and Privacy International, but this case is still likely to take several months more to resolve.

What is communications data and what did the ECJ say about it?
Communications data (metadata) is all the personal tracking data that is generated when we browse the web, send each other emails or texts or call each other on the phone. It is stored by the phone and internet companies for 12 months for possible access by the police and security services. It includes location data for mobile phones, which means it could be used to track your movements over the past 12 months.

The government has paid the internet companies £65m to cover their costs of storing data since the requirement was introduced in 2009 in Britain in the aftermath of the 7 July 2005 bombings in 2005. The ECJ said the blanket collections of such data was like having the state looking over your shoulder, and it was possible to build up an entire picture of an individual’s private life.

What do the police and security services use it for?

They say it has become a vital component in 95% of counter-terrororism, serious and organised crime and online child abuse investigations. Downing Street cited the examples of mobile phone evidence being used to catch the killers of Rhys Jones, to establish the network of the men who groomed young girls in Rochdale, and to make 121 arrests in a recent Europol child sex exploitation.

The problem is that the police and security services are not the only people able to access this powerful personal data. Nearly 600 public bodies can currently do so, including local authorities and the Royal Mail. They can access it for a wide range of purposes that go far beyond tackling serious crime and terrorism, including the extremely broad “economic wellbeing” of the country and a catch-all “any other purpose the secretary of state prescribes”.

So what is the response to the ECJ ruling that has been agreed by the parties?

In the short-term they have agreed to rush through parliament in three days next week the five-clause emergency data retention and investigation powers (Drip) bill as a stop-gap. Importantly it will include a “sunset clause”, so will expire on 31 December 2016.

In the meantime, the parties will try to thrash out a longer term agreement on what should be done to ensure the laws are updated to reflect rapid changes in technology while ensuring that civil liberties are no longer regarded as a luxury.

What will the bill do?

On communications data it will introduce some of the safeguards spelled out by the ECJ ruling. The court set out 10 principles on how to ensure that such blanket surveillance became proportionate to the threat, targeted and not open to misuse.

The detail of the bill appears to go only a short way in this direction. It will reproduce the specific list of purposes in the 2009 regulations but make clear that “economic wellbeing of the country” has to be linked to a specific national security threat and can’t just be discovering what a rival international company are bidding for a particular contract. It also more sharply defines the types of data that can be kept and makes clear that in some cases the storage orders on the companies may be shorter than the current 12 months.

However the bill also makes clear for the first time that email forms part of the information that the companies will be required to hand over.

In addition to this, regulations are expected by Monday that will scale back the 600 public bodies who can currently ask for the data. An unknown number will be axed from the list. Local authorities will have to go through a single central authority before they can ask for data to pursue fly tippers or parking offenders.

More controversially, the bill will also clarify part of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (Ripa) – the foundation stone of the surveillance state – to reassure overseas companies, particularly US ones such as Google, Twitter and Facebook, that UK jurisdictional powers apply to providers outside the country. Downing St insists this “extra-territoriality” clause is not an obscure backdoor to provide legal cover for the Prism and Tempura data harvesting programmes revealed by Edward Snowden.

But it is the longer-term measures that could prove crucial in unblocking the standoff between the state and privacy campaigners.

Those measures that could prove crucial in the longer term include:
* The “tip to toe” review of Ripa, the foundation stone of the surveillance state, to be completed by 2016, could prove particularly potent in ensuring that such state snooping in the name of counter-terrorism and serious crime is brought strictly under control.

It will issue an interim report before the general election on whether there are sufficient privacy safeguards in the post-Snowden age and whether there should be a major shakeup of the oversight regime for the security services.

* The creation of a US-style privacy and civil liberties board to ensure that civil liberties are a foundation stone of counter-terrorism legislation, rather than an afterthought. Bolstered by annual transparency reports from the state agencies, it could be the alarm system that the current oversight regime has failed to provide. It will effectively be a major expansion of the current one-man role of David Anderson, the counter-terror watchdog.

This is a major package, albeit rushed, that will shape how we live and work in the digital world. It may just “safeguard the existing position” – these powers have been in use in Britain since 2009 – but it also provides an opportunity to introduce some civil liberties elements that up until now were missing.

SNOOP LAWS ‘A STITCH UP’; Fury over dash to pass legislation But PM says phone clamp vital

As published in The Daily Mirror:

Campaigners reacted with fury yesterday after David Cameron announced emergency laws to ensure security services can continue to access phone and internet records.
At a joint news conference with Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg he said urgent action was needed to protect the public from “criminals and terrorists” after the European Court of Justice torpedoed existing powers.
Labour’s Ed Miliband is backing the new laws which will go through in just two days next week.
But Labour MP Tom Watson hit out at the “stitch-up” between the three party leaders.
And civil liberties campaigner Shami Chakrabarti said: “This isn’t snooping on suspects but on everyone.” The boss of Liberty also condemned the “deal struck in private”, saying: “No privacy for us and no scrutiny for them.”
The Law Society talked of a march towards a “surveillance society”.
But Mr Cameron warned of dire consequences if the changes were not made. He said: “I am not prepared to be a PM who has to address the people after a terrorist incident and explain that I could have done more to prevent it.”
Mr Clegg insisted the package was completely different from the “Snooper Charters” granting much wider powers, which he has blocked. The laws will require firms to store data on “who contacted whom and when” for 12 months. Security services will also be able to listen to calls or read emails with the permission of a secretary of state.
Mr Cameron said firms were weeks away from deleting records after the Euro decision that holding data interfered with respect for private life. But senior Tory David Davis accused the coalition of staging a “theatrical emergency”, since the ruling was in April.
At a meeting yesterday Mr Miliband’s decision to back the laws was questioned by Shadow Cabinet ministers including policy chief Jon Cruddas.
And in the Commons Shadow Minister Steve McCabe branded Home Secretary Teresa May “Mrs Snoop”.

Emergency phone and internet data laws to be passed: Emergency powers to ensure police and security services can continue to access phone and internet records are being rushed through Parliament.

As posted on BBC News Politics:

Prime Minister David Cameron has secured the backing of all three main parties for the highly unusual move.

He said urgent action was needed to protect the public from “criminals and terrorists” after the European Court of Justice struck down existing powers.

But civil liberties campaigners have warned it will invade people’s privacy.

Mr Cameron defended the move in a joint news conference with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, saying it was about maintaining existing capabilities – not introducing new snooping laws.

But it will make legally clear the requirements include companies based abroad, whose phone and internet services are used in the UK. A former senior diplomat will also be appointed to work with other nations to speed up the “lawful and justified” transfer of data across borders.

Mr Cameron also said he had reached an agreement with Labour leader Ed Miliband for a wider review of the surveillance powers needed by the security services, to report after the next election.

Mr Cameron said: “We face real and credible threats to our security from serious and organised crime, from the activity of paedophiles, from the collapse of Syria, the growth of Isis in Iraq and al Shabab in East Africa.

“I am simply not prepared to be a prime minister who has to address the people after a terrorist incident and explain that I could have done more to prevent it.”

He added: “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.”

In return for agreeing to back the legislation, Labour and the Lib Dems highlighted new moves to “increase transparency and oversight”, including:

• The creation of a new Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to scrutinise the impact of the law on privacy and civil liberties
• Annual government transparency reports on how these powers are used
• The appointment of a senior former diplomat to lead discussions with the US government and internet firms to establish a new international agreement for sharing data between legal jurisdictions
• A restriction on the number of public bodies, including Royal Mail, able to ask for communications data under the controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA)
• Termination clause ensuring these powers expire at the end of 2016
• A wider review of the powers needed by government during the next parliament

Mr Cameron stressed that the data being retained does not include the content of messages and phone calls – just when and who the companies’ customers called, texted and emailed.

But the emergency Data Retention and Investigation Powers Bill would also “clarify” the law on bugging of suspects’ phones by the police and security services, when the home secretary issues a warrant, after concerns service providers were turning down requests.

“Some companies are already saying they can no longer work with us unless UK law is clarified immediately,” said Mr Cameron.

“Sometimes in the dangerous world in which we live we need our security services to listen to someone’s phone and read their emails to identify and disrupt a terrorist plot.”

The government says it was forced to act after the European Court struck down an EU directive in April requiring phone and internet companies to retain communications data on the grounds that it infringed human rights.

Emergency legislation was needed, the government argues, because service providers were being threatened with legal action by campaigners if they did not start destroying data, some of which could prove vital to criminal investigations and court cases.

But Conservative MP and former shadow home secretary David Davis, a longstanding campaigner on civil liberties, accused the government of staging a “theatrical emergency,” adding that ministers had “plenty of time” to come up with a response to April’s court ruling rather than rushing it through Parliament without proper scrutiny.

“This is complicated law, it needs to be got right,” he told BBC Radio 4′s The World at One.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of campaign group Liberty, said: “We are told this is a paedophile and jihadi ‘emergency’, but the court judgment they seek to ignore was handed down over three months ago and this isn’t snooping on suspects but on everyone.”

David Cameron believes existing surveillance powers do not go far enough and he repeated his promise to push ahead with plans for a giant database of all websites visited by UK citizens, dubbed a “snooper’s charter” by critics, if he wins the next election.

Nick Clegg blocked attempts by this government to pass the “snooper’s charter” – but he said he had been convinced of the need for the more limited powers contained in the emergency Data Retention and Investigation Powers Bill.

The legislation contains what Mr Clegg described as a “poisoned pill” which will mean the powers cease at the end of 2016, in an effort to ensure the next parliament takes a more considered look at the issue.

The Lib Dem leader said successive governments had “neglected civil liberties as they claim to pursue greater security”, but added: “I wouldn’t be standing here today if I didn’t believe there is an urgent challenge facing us.

“No government embarks on emergency legislation lightly but I have been persuaded of the need to act and act fast.”

The bill will be pushed through Parliament in seven days – a process that normally takes several months.

MPs will be given a chance to debate it in an extended Commons sitting on Tuesday, but Labour’s Tom Watson said they would not get time to properly consider the plans and he branded it a “stitch-up”.

But Mr Watson was one of the few MPs to voice doubts about the legislation in the Commons earlier, where Home Secretary Theresa May accused the Labour MP of finding a “conspiracy at all costs”.

Labour leader Ed Miliband and shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper confirmed that Labour would support the emergency legislation, telling the party’s MPs in a letter: “Serious criminal investigations and counter terrorism intelligence operations must not be jeopardised.

‘Lateness of legislation’

“That is why we are supporting this emergency legislation which we accept is designed solely to protect existing capabilities.”

But Ms Cooper said: “There will be serious concern in Parliament and across the country at the lateness of this legislative proposal and the short time to consider something so important.”

The Open Rights Group, which has been pushing service providers to start destroying data following the European Court ruling, criticised the government for using the threat of terrorism to push through an “emergency law” that it says has no legal basis.

Executive Director Jim Killock said: “Not only will the proposed legislation infringe our right to privacy, it will also set a dangerous precedent where the government simply re-legislates every time it disagrees with a decision by the CJEU.

“The ruling still stands and these new plans may actually increase the amount of our personal data that is retained by ISPs, further infringing on our right to privacy.

“Blanket surveillance needs to end. That is what the court has said.”

Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has accused the UK government of a “lack of prior consultation”, adding that the legislation could affect Scots law and matters devolved to the Scottish government.

May’s statement goes down so well, MPs seek encore; sketch

As published in The Independent:

Theresa May’s Commons statement went down well yesterday with her own backbenchers. So much so that many of them asked her questions she had already answered. It would have saved time if they had devised a composite: “Does my Right Honourable Friend agree that thanks to the ‘Government’s laser-like focus on keeping British families safe’ (Julian Smith), she has produced a “replacement of pre-existing powers to ensure that criminals do not slip through the net and escape justice” (Andrew Jones), and that “if there is a choice between their children being blown up on the Tube or those people’s conversations being listened to, it is a no-brainer” (Edward Leigh).

Not everyone agreed with the new spirit of cross-party front-bench consensus, of course. The lone Tory dissident, David Davis, complained that Ms May was “rushing through” a Bill whose need had been long foreseen. And Labour’s Tom Watson predicted that it would be seen as “a last-minute deal between elites”. But even this had to be balanced against the Tory Philip Hollobone’s praise for Ms May’s protection of “the civil liberties of those of us who do not want to be blown up”. Doubtless unintentionally, he made it sound as though not wanting to be blown up were a minority interest, like Morris dancing or stamp collecting.

Earlier, David Cameron and Nick Clegg saw journalists together as part of a rare emergency intra-coalition truce. A feature of these high-octane security press conferences in coalition is that both men have to speak in turn, so Clegg can translate basically the same answer into Libdemese. So, for example, Clegg emphasised that “this has. Nothing. To do with. The so-called snooper’s charter” (which he had blocked).

They agreed the Bill was now needed to maintain checks on “terrorists, paedophiles and criminals”, as Cameron repeatedly put it. But there seemed to be differences on what both men kept calling – bafflingly for those who may have temporarily forgotten the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (Ripa) – “the ripper review”. Post-Snowden revelations, the Lib Dems and Labour seem to want the two-year review to lead, as Yvette Cooper put it, to “safeguards … needed to make sure people’s privacy is protected in an internet age.” Whereas Ms May wants a “wider review about the powers we need against the threat context we have.” Powers, in other words, to maintain the blanket year-long internet trail known to critics as the “snooper’s charter”.

Ms May’s last question was asked by the Tory (Colonel) Bob Stewart. Except, actually, it wasn’t a question at all but a portentous declaration that “I believe we have a duty to pass this fast-track legislation quickly”. Yes Bob. That’s the general idea. Or is a second-reading debate on Tuesday and all done by Thursday not fast enough for you?