Government wins support for data laws

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MPs have overwhelmingly endorsed proposed new laws being rushed through parliament to allow police and security services to continue to access people's phone and internet records.

The House voted by 498 to 31 to progress the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill at second reading on 15 July 2014.

The bill - which requires internet and phone and companies to retain customers' communications data - was drafted in response to a European Court of Justice ruling that an EU directive obliging firms to store data for up to two years infringed human rights.

Home Secretary Theresa May insisted that maintaining existing capabilities to store such data was vital to protecting national security, and urged MPs to support the bill.

"If we delay we face the appalling prospect police operations will go dark, that trails will go cold, that terrorist plots will go undetected. If that happens, innocent lives may be lost," she warned.

She stressed that the bill only preserves the status quo and "does not extend or create any new powers, rights to access, or obligations on communications companies that go beyond those that already exist".

The legislation is supported by the three main parties, but it is opposed by civil liberties campaigners.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said that although Labour supported the bill it was a "short-term sticking plaster", and insisted a much wider debate is needed on the balance between civil liberties and safety.

"We have to make sure that debate happens and reforms are brought forward in a sustainable way," she said: "Today must be the start and not the end of that debate."

Opponents of the bill included Conservative former shadow home secretary David Davis, who warned that the government has "left itself open" to legal challenge.

"I don't like taking lessons from the European Court of Justice but I'm afraid in this they are absolutely correct. These measures are just not proportionate," he said.

The MP for Haltemprice and Howden added: "The government has not listened and accordingly has left itself open I think to legal challenge, so while this may be law by the end of the week, it may be junk by the end of the year."

But Jack Straw, a former Labour home secretary, stressed that the police must be able to access everybody's data record as the police could not anticipate who is or is not a suspect.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Conservative chair of the joint Intelligence and Security Committee, said his committee was "satisfied" the new measures do not extend the powers available to the government to collect communications data. He welcomed Labour's support for the bill.

Opponents of the legislation are unhappy that the bill was being pushed through in one day, but their attempt to block the timetable for proceedings was defeated earlier in the day.

MPs went on to scrutinise the legislation in a committee of the whole House, before passing the bill at third reading. It will now be sent to the Lords for further scrutiny.

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