UK parliament hears first details of snooping bill from Teresa May

Security

by Jimmy Nicholls| 10 July 2014

Not since press regulation charter has a coalition scheme been so well received.

The UK Government is set to rush through emergency snooping legislation before the summer recess, strengthening the police's ability to monitor telecoms data.

The move follows a recent European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling that struck down a provision allowing service providers to keep communications data for up to a year for use by spy agencies and police.

Prime minister David Cameron said: "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."

Home secretary Teresa May emphasised in a speech to the House of Commons that the data collected concerns the "who, where, when and how" of communications, rather than the content.

She added that the legislation will be accompanied by moves to increase transparency and oversight "within obvious boundaries", with a sunset clause also guaranteeing the bill's expiration in 2016.

"I believe that successive governments have neglected civil liberties in the pursuit of greater security," said deputy prime minister Nick Clegg.

"We will be the first government in many decades to increase transparency and oversight, and make significant progress in defence of liberty."

Labour leader Ed Miliband and shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper have pledged to support the bill, having been giving a private briefing by home secretary Teresa May before its announcement in parliament.

Responding to May in parliament, Cooper broadly praised the bill, but added that there needed to be a wider discussion on the use of data snooping in police investigations.

In contrast to their front bench several backbench Labour MPs expressed dismay at the announcement, with Tom Watson criticising the lack of time to scrutinise the bill before the session in parliament.

"No matter what you think about this issue, if you care about democracy, make sure your MP does not walk through the chamber and vote for legislation nobody has had the chance to debate and question," he said.

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