Author Topic: UK government to rush through emergency surveillance legislation  (Read 150 times)

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The  government will announce that it is rushing through emergency legislation underpinning the state's right to keep personal data held by internet and phone companies.

Labour is expected to accept the bill on the basis that it will simply restore what the government believed to be the law before the European Court of Justice ruled in April that an EU directive on privacy retention had over-reached its powers and amounted to an invasion of privacy.

But, as part of the deal, the opposition has won agreement that ministers will launch a review of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act passed in 2000. The act is seen as the source of excessive surveillance by the security services.

It is likely that the legislation will be passed through the Commons next week, but the Labour backbench MP Tom Watson said it would be an outrage for such a fundamental potential threat to civil liberties to be announced to the Commons on Thursday when few MPs are likely to be present.

The government has been prompted to act due to a high court challenge to its continued collection and retention of personal data from internet and phone companies, in spite of the ECJ ruling. The judicial review claim in the London high court against the home secretary, Theresa May, is challenging regulations from 2009 under which the British government requires internet and phone companies to retain personal communications data for 12 months and allows the police and security services to access it.

The urgent legislation is expected to be introduced as an independent bill or as amendments to the serious crime bill now going through parliament.

Watson said: "Regardless of where you stand on the decision of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), can you honestly say that you want a key decision about how your personal data is stored to be made by a stitch-up behind closed doors and clouded in secrecy? None of your MPs have even read this legislation, let alone been able to scrutinise it.

"The very fact that the government is even considering this form of action, strongly suggests that it has an expectation that the few people on the Liberal Democrat and Labour front benches who have seen this legislation are willing to be complicit."

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