David Davis comments on Snoopers’ Charter


As in The Telegraph;

“A survey using Freedom Of Information laws found that 25 police forces made 506,720 requests for people’s “communications data” over the past three years.

There were big disparities between force areas, with people in Merseyside are six times more likely to be spied on than those in neighbouring Lancashire.

A breakdown shows that the number of requests for phone or email records – but not the content of calls or emails – increased from 158,677 in 2009/10 to 178,985 in 2011/12.

Including estimates for the forces which failed to reply to the FOI survey, the figures suggest that as many as 250,000 requests are being made every year.

Campaigners Big Brother Watch, which carried the survey, said the evidence suggested the police and other agencies do not need more “snooping powers”.

A newly drafted Communications Bill is due to be published in the summer, which is likely to propose more powers to spy on people.

Emma Carr, deputy director of Big Brother Watch, urged ministers to order a “comprehensive investigation of how current powers are operating” before bringing in new ones later this year.

She said: “The research makes clear that between police forces there are significant inconsistencies in the way that communications data is being used.

“It emphasises how it impossible to form a measured view of how the current system is operating given the huge discrepancies in the way forces are recording how they use communications data.”

Merseyside made 36 requests for every 1,000 residents living in the county – compared with the Metropolitan Police, which put in 21 requests, Lancashire (6 requests) and Hampshire (0.8 requests).

David Davis MP, the former Tory shadow home secretary who quit the front bench in protest over the Labour government’s treatment of civil liberties, said: “It is frankly not good enough that the government is considering introducing a snoopers’ charter without even being able to tell us what they have used communications data for in the past – and indeed not even be able to tell us how many times they have done so.

“The Government should come clean with parliament and tell us exactly how the powers they currently have been used in the past, and tell us for example, whether they have been using it across the country for traffic offences.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “This legislation is vital to help catch paedophiles, terrorists and other serious criminals. Communications data includes time, duration and dialling numbers of a phone call, or an email address. It does not include the content of any phone call or email.

“The cross-party Joint Committee which scrutinised the Bill reported that it was impressed with the thoroughness with which each and every application for communications data is considered.

“The police and other requesting authorities are subject to rigorous independent inspections by the Interception of Communications Commissioner (IoCC). The IoCC also publishes annual statistics on communications data requests and releases.”