Emergency phone and internet data laws to be passed

 

David Cameron: "The public should be worried if we didn't act"

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

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.

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Key questions answered

A stock image of audio waves

What is the emergency legislation?

The legislation is primarily aimed at the companies that provide us with telephone and internet connections. It outlines their legal obligation to retain "communications data" on their customers. This metadata includes things like logs of when calls were made, what numbers were dialled, and other information that can be used, the government says, in investigations. It does not include the content of the communications.

Will it mean the government can listen in to my calls?

Not exactly. The vast majority of people will only have data collected on things such as the time a call is made and the number that was called - not the actual contents of that communication. But the emergency law does go further - the law reinforces the ability of authorities to carry out what is known as a "legal intercept". This is when a target is identified for additional monitoring - including listening in to phone calls and other communications.

Read the full guide

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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."

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Analysis

By Nick Robinson, BBC Political Editor

Nick Robinson explains why there is a rush to bring in the new law

Critics will no doubt argue that the time for a debate about what powers will replace this law is now. To pass any new law in just a week is rare. So too is it to have the backing of all three main parties even before it is published. Read more from Nick

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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.

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Analysis

By Gordon Corera, BBC security correspondent

GCHQ listening post at Bude

There is no doubt that gathering communications data can be a powerful tool. Officials say it has played a role in almost all serious criminal cases and counter-terrorist investigations in recent years.

But the political context around its use has changed - partly but not entirely due to the Edward Snowden revelations. It has led commercial communications companies to become nervous about being seen to help government too readily and to them demanding more clarity over the law.

Overall, the new environment has led to more questions being raised about whether there is sufficient transparency, accountability and oversight.

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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.

Shami Chakrabarti Shami Chakrabarti says the emergency legislation is about "snooping on everyone"

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."

Mobile phone and computer

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.

 

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 2392.

    No consultation with Scottish Government!

    uk government could not give a fig for what Scots think - all the uk governments wants is our resources and obedience.

    Vote YES get rid of this tory / labour alliance!

    C McK

  • rate this
    +13

    Comment number 2391.

    2328.
    stevecrowther
    13 Minutes ago

    If you have nowt to hide there is not a problem i have no problem with this as i have nowt to hide the only people that complain about this must have

    -------------

    Excellent, give me your bank details and let me take a look at your health records. Thanks.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 2390.

    @2327.veryoldhoop
    What's Clegg doing there?
    ...........
    He doing what all these puppet leaders are doing, standing behind a rostrum bearing a seal, like Obama and others.

    It is the new style of totalitarian government.

    The seal here is the crown, which is the City of London.

    Their emergency is the third world war just started in Israel.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 2389.

    I like fishing and it would appear the government like it too. Seems to me the issue is how many potential terrorists v how many legitimate internet users. If the intelligence services rely on trawling all our communications it shows how poor they are at identifying real threats. Make them deliver and let the population at large live without Big Brother.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 2388.

    Statistically you are more 7 times more likely to be killed by a policeman than a terrorist. You are more likely to die by a bee sting than terrorism but lets just lets just give the government access to everything. Guilty until proven innocent right!
    Benjamin Franklin once said 'those who trade liberty for security will get and deserve neither'

 

Comments 5 of 2392

 

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  53.  
    08:03: Abuse 'under-reported' BBC Radio 4 Today

    Prof Alexis Jay - whose report looking found at least 1,400 young people in Rotherham had been abused - says a culture change across the country is essential. "There are issues around child sexual exploitation in virtually every community. There's a great deal of underreporting, as we know," she tells the Today programme. What's needed, Prof Jay argues, is an end to the "questionable attitudes" she found in Rotherham - including social workers describing the children as having made 'lifestyle choices'.

    But last month's report from Louise Casey, which found that Rotherham Council is still not fit for purpose, suggests the problem remains. "The most disappointing aspect was that having described the culture of denial that continued over 16 years, regrettably Ms Casey reported that was continuing even after the publication of my report," Prof Jay says. She agreed that was an "appalling" state of affairs.

     
  54.  
    @oflynnmep Patrick O'Flynn, UKIP MEP and economic spokesman

    tweets: Thanks so much Theresa May for keeping the migration promise so you can break it again if re-elected. We are all most grateful.

     
  55.  
    @BBCNormanS Norman Smith, BBC News assistant political editor

    tweets: Child sex exploitation is going on in "virtually every community" - Alexis Jay @bbcr4today

     
  56.  
    07:58: 'Not good enough' BBC Radio 4

    Prof Alexis Jay, who investigated child sexual abuse in Rotherham, says of David Cameron's plans to punish those who ignore evidence of wrongdoing: "It's not good enough to say, 'I knew nothing.'"

     
  57.  
    07:52: 'Keeping the target' The Times
    Home Secretary Theresa May

    Today's Times' splash covers Home Secretary Theresa May's pledge to hang on to the beleaguered bid to cut net migration to the tens of thousands. "I think we will keep the target," she says. "It is important because it is about not just dealing with those coming into the system but also about making sure that those people who shouldn't live here actually leave." The precise words of the pledge in the manifesto haven't been decided yet, Mrs May says, but they will be there - in spite of the fact Downing Street isn't going to go ahead with its plans to block migrants from some European countries.

     
  58.  
    07:46: Covering the parties

    All the parties are preoccupied by how much media coverage they're getting, so they'll all be paying attention to this Total Politics blog looking at analysis from the Media Standards Trust of online political stories from mainstream news providers in recent weeks. Of 1,691 articles featuring the parties set to appear in the seven main parties, here's how many each party appeared in during 16-22 February:

    • Conservatives - 73%
    • Labour - 56%
    • Liberal Democrats - 17%
    • UKIP - 17%
    • SNP - 8.4%
    • Greens - 5%
    • Plaid Cymru - less than 1%

    The blog's authors, Stephen Cushion and Gordon Neil Ramsay, conclude: "Far from the 2015 general campaign turning into a seven-horse race, the longstanding two-party dominance of Conservative and Labour remains firmly intact."

     
  59.  
    07:38: The young vote
    Tuition fee protest

    Labour's plan to give the vote to 16 and 17-year-olds might help the party win power, YouGov president Peter Kellner has suggested. He's written an article for the Independent suggesting this reform and online voting would, together, force the parties to pay more attention to young voters. More students voting could only help Labour given the party's policy of cutting the tuition fees cap to £6,000, Mr Kellner thinks. "Extra votes from them in key marginal seats and Ed Miliband's chances of toppling David Cameron would improve significantly," he adds.

     
  60.  
    @Mike_Fabricant Michael Fabricant, Conservative MP for Lichfield

    tweets: I do agree with #Bercow: Unless there r major works on the Palace of Westminster, it will become unusable. The Palace + Tower Bridge #icons

     
  61.  
    07:33: Child sexual exploitation: Labour responds Norman Smith BBC Assistant Political Editor

    Labour say the government's planned changes to the law around child sex exploitation - including possible five-year jail sentences for public officials who fail to act on suspicions of abuse - do not go far enough.

    Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has called on the government to introduce a specific new offence of child exploitation. Labour are also calling for a new legal duty of "mandatory reporting" which would impose a legal duty to report child abuse. And the party wants compulsory sex and relationship classes in schools.

    They have also criticised the failure to tackle the growth in online child abuse. Up to 30,000 people are suspected of accessing online abuse, according to the National Crime Agency, but only 1,000 have been reported. Ms Cooper said: "We need a radical overhaul of our child protection system, but I fear this is a missed opportunity to get all the reforms we need."

     
  62.  
    @BBCNormanS Norman Smith, BBC News assistant political editor

    tweets: Labour attack PM's child exploitation summit as "missed opportunity"

     
  63.  
    07:23: 'Culture of denial' BBC Breakfast
    Anne Longfield

    Anne Longfield, who since Sunday is the new Children's Commissioner for England, says today's child sexual exploitation plans are important because a "culture of denial" has seen troubled young girls "ignored" needs to change. She's told BBC Breakfast the government's move to make CSE a crime of 'national priority' will send a clear message - but adds national strategies must filter down to those on the ground like social workers, the police and nurses in schools. "We want to see all local authorities and their partners making this the number one priority," she urges. "The firm message here is that professionals must respond."

     
  64.  
    07:16: 'Decriminalised' theft denied BBC Radio 4

    David Lammy's claim that the police are neglecting shoplifting and burglary was challenged by Matt Jukes, the Association of Chief Police Officers' national lead on acquisitive crime, on the Today programme. "We've been working hard to make property harder to steal and make stolen property harder to sell," he replies, citing the example of smart phones. Changing the technology, building in kill switches and tackling the market for stolen phones has resulted in 5,000 fewer victims in London alone last year, he says. But Mr Lammy, whose report on the issue for Policy Exchange is published today, insists the problem is bigger than it appears. "Neighbourhood policing across Britain has virtually collapsed, that's why there's so much under-reporting," he says.

     
  65.  
    @AndrewSparrow Andrew Sparrow, Guardian Politics Live blog

    tweets: Today's Guardian seat projection - Tories 275, Lab 271, SNP 51, LDs 27, Ukip 4, Greens 1

     
  66.  
    07:06: 'Decriminalised' theft BBC Radio 4 Today
    David Lammy

    Labour's David Lammy has claimed theft, burglary and shoplifting have been "de facto decriminalised". Interviewed on the Today programme after he penned a report on the topic for the think-tank Policy Exchange, the Tottenham MP said people had "stopped bothering going to the police" because of a belief they don't have the resources to tackle it. Ministers say crime has fallen by 20% under the coalition, but Mr Lammy said shoplifting was up by 5% last year. Our story's available here.

     
  67.  
    @YouGov YouGov, pollsters

    tweets: Update: Cons lead at 3 - Latest YouGov / Sun results 2nd Mar - Con 35%, Lab 32%, LD 7%, UKIP 15%, GRN 6%; APP -18

     
  68.  
    06:56: Sturgeon on inequality

    Nicola Sturgeon will use a speech later to try and shift the Scottish debate onto social mobility issues. The Scottish first minister will claim that recent research from the OECD suggests a more equal society could have boosted Britain's GDP by nearly £100bn in 2010. "We want to see economic growth that is inclusive, innovative and fairly distributed," she's expected to say. Scottish Labour agree that inequality is a big issue, but insist they have a plan to tackle it. Here's the story.

     
  69.  
    06:54: Hull bound?

    On the subject of relocating Parliament, how about Hull? That's a suggestion BBC2's Daily Politics looked at on Monday.

     
  70.  
    06:53: Crumbling parliament
    Palace of Westminster

    The Palace of Westminster, which hasn't had a major renovation since its construction in the mid-19th century, will have to be "abandoned" if nothing's done, John Bercow warned last night. At a Hansard Society event in parliament, the Speaker said taxpayers would have to brace themselves for a £3bn bill - and MPs and peers might have to temporarily find somewhere else to hold their debates. "If we were to decant, should we consider all options including, almost certainly, a regional option?" Mr Bercow pondered. "We should." Our story on his comments is here.

     
  71.  
    @BarrySheerman Barry Sheerman, Labour MP for Huddersfield

    tweets: Will be interesting how media deals with child abuse revelations in Oxfordshire compared to Rotherham @BBCr4today

     
  72.  
    06:47: 'Girls let down'

    Today's summit coincides with what is expected to be a damning report on child sex abuse in Oxfordshire. Lead investigator into that case Det Ch Insp Simon Morton said has told the BBC police "completely let the girls down". Read more.

     
  73.  
    06:42: Analysis: child sex abuse Alison Holt Social Affairs Editor, BBC News

    David Cameron will talk about classifying child sexual abuse as a national threat. The idea is to push it up the agenda because one of the issues that comes up time and again is that other policing priorities have tended to be placed before protecting vulnerable teenagers.

    It's also about educating professionals because it appears that in the past they sometimes put what was happening to these girls down to lifestyle choice. These are teenagers who are difficult to communicate with, stroppy when someone asks if they need help, but point being made is that they are still children. They need the professionals to stick with them to get their trust.

     
  74.  
    06:40: A sin-bin for MPs

    Labour's focus today is about repairing politics as a whole, not just Parliament. Shadow leader of the House Angela Eagle is outlining plans for political reform which she says are essential if politicians are to "restore faith in our political process". Today's package includes previously advertised plans to give the vote to 16 and 17-year-olds, press ahead with devolution and replace the Lords with a Senate of the Nations and Regions. But it also includes new proposals to send rowdy MPs who are misbehaving in the Commons chamber into a rugby-style sin-bin. "Sometimes MPs take it too far and it turns the public off," Ms Eagle explains.

     
  75.  
    06:29: Front pages
  76.  
    06:24: Child sexual exploitation
    Rochdale skyline

    David Cameron is in Downing Street today with a raft of senior cabinet figures holding a summit on child sexual exploitation. Representatives from local areas like Rochdale, as well as victims and child protection experts, will size up the government's new package of measures, which includes:

    • Tougher penalties for senior public sector workers who fail to protect children
    • A new national whistleblowing helpline
    • The prioritisation of child sexual abuse by police chiefs

    "We owe it to our children, and to the children who survive horrific sexual abuse, to do better," Mr Cameron says. Here's the full story.

     
  77.  
    06:23: Control order row

    The issue of Syria - and specifically whether the government's decisions on counter-terrorism might have made it easier for would-be jihadists to travel there - was the subject of an urgent Commons question on Monday. Yvette Coooper, shadow home secretary, pressed her opposite number Theresa May on the issue, but Mrs May was adamant that she had taken the right decisions, including scrapping control orders, to keep the UK safe.

     
  78.  
    06:20: Round the houses

    Yesterday, housing was the big focus, with David Cameron announcing a plan for 200,000 new starter homes. For his part, Ed Miliband was unimpressed and said Labour would go further - he accused Mr Cameron of presiding over the slowest rate of house building since the 1920s.

     
  79.  
    06:13: Good morning

    Hello and welcome to a fresh Tuesday's political coverage. Victoria King and Alex Stevenson will bring you all the action, reaction and analysis in text and you'll be able to watch and listen to all the main BBC political programmes, from Today and Breakfast through to Newsnight and Today in Parliament. Don't forget you can get in touch by emailing politics@bbc.co.uk or via social media @bbcpolitics. Here's how Monday unfolded.

     

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