Senior politicians unite to issue call for data bill


Watch Allegra Stratton's full BBC Newsnight report on the significance of this united call for further monitoring powers

Senior politicians from across the political divide have united to call for UK security services to be given greater internet monitoring powers.

In a letter to The Times newspaper three former Labour home secretaries, three senior Tories and one Liberal Democrat urge changes.

They say "coalition niceties" must not hinder counter terror efforts.

A bill allowing the monitoring of all UK citizens' internet use was dropped after Liberal Democrat opposition.

However, following the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich there have been calls for the Communications Data Bill, dubbed the "snoopers' charter" by opponents, which was shelved in May to be revived.

Start Quote

Coalition niceties and party politics must not get in the way of giving our security services the capabilities they need to stay one step ahead of those that seek to destroy our society”

End Quote Quote from letter issued by Jack Straw, David Blunkett, Alan Johnson, Lord Baker, Lord King, and Lord Carlile

The letter was signed by former Labour home secretaries Jack Straw, David Blunkett and Alan Johnson, along with former Conservative home secretary Lord Baker and defence secretary Lord King, and Liberal Democrat Lord Carlile, who until 2011 was the independent reviewer of government anti-terror laws.

In issuing the letter Mr Straw teamed up with Ben Wallace, the MP for Wyre and Preston North and parliamentary aide to minister without portfolio Ken Clarke. As a parliamentary aide Mr Wallace must not differ from the government position.

The letter, which was passed to Newsnight and which will be published in The Times on Friday, puts renewed pressure on the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, whose party claimed a month ago they would not allow the bill to become law while the Liberal Democrats were in government.

It also shows support amongst backers of the bill is undiminished, despite claims British security services used information gathered on UK citizens by Prism - the US secret intelligence programme revealed last week.

Instead, referring to the recent murder of Drummer Rigby, they write: "When such a threat reveals itself, government has a duty to ensure they can do all they can to counter it."

Without Liberal Democrat support in parliament, the Conservatives alone could not get the bill on to the statute book, but this letter is the first sign that Labour politicians are prepared to combine in principle with the Conservative party to help ensure the security services are given the new powers.

In an attack on Liberal Democrat opposition, they write: "Coalition niceties and party politics must not get in the way of giving our security services the capabilities they need to stay one step ahead of those that seek to destroy our society."

They also accuse the Liberal Democrats of siding with the interests of large communications companies, writing: "We find it odd that many critics of the Bill prefer to champion the rights of corporations over democratically accountable law enforcement agencies."

Speculation is mounting in Westminster that to avoid complicated votes in parliament, measures will be brought forward by Home Secretary Theresa May that are not presented in a formal bill, but instead use other means of achieving the same ends.

People on laptops The shelved Communications Data Bill would allow access to all Britons' web browsing history

The Communications Data Bill would have given police and security services access, without a warrant, to details of all online communication in the UK - such as the time, duration, originator and recipient, and the location of the device from which it was made.

It would also give access to some details of Britons' web browsing history and details of messages sent on social media. The police would have to get a warrant from the home secretary to be able to access the actual content of conversations and messages.

In April, Mr Clegg told his weekly LBC radio phone-in: "What people have dubbed the snoopers' charter - I have to be clear with you, that's not going to happen."

"In other words the idea that the government will pass a law which means there will be a record kept of every website you visit, who you communicate with on social media sites, that's not going to happen. It's certainly not going to happen with Liberal Democrats in government."

"We all committed ourselves at the beginning of this coalition to learn the lessons from the past, when Labour overdid it, trying to constantly keep tabs on everyone. We have a commitment in this Coalition Agreement to end the storage of internet information unless there is a very good reason to do so."

But in the letter the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat grandees say: "Far from being a 'snoopers' charter', as critics allege, the draft bill, seeks to match our crime fighting capabilities to the advances in technologies.

"The proposed Communications Data Bill does not want access to the content of our communications but does want to ensure that enough data is available in the aftermath of an attack to help investigators establish 'who, where and when' were involved in planning or supporting it."

Allegra Stratton Article written by Allegra Stratton Allegra Stratton Political editor, BBC Newsnight

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  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Right wing politicians and left wing politicians alike want the people to believe that surveillance vs privacy is a right wing vs left wing issue. It's not. It's a people vs politicians issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    "We must not let terrorism change the way we lead our lives"??????
    Why should we trust these untrustworthy politicians. They have all lied to us in the past. Their job in life is to lie, obfuscate, steal, cheat and take candy from babies. Between thousands of CCTV cameras, credit card tracking etc. they already have enough information - no more!

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    The whole News International hacking scandal was one day after another of illegal, questionable, unnecessary and gratuitous intrusions into the lives of anybody that took the passing fancy of the editor - from A List Stars to Dead Children. These were the same people who bragged about being able to say who would be in the next Government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    71. AlErgic
    And no comments about the article that would have taken quite some time to read before dismissing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    So Clegg has pledged it won't happen on his watch has he? We know what value to put on his pledges. Hand up anyone who seriously believes that we aren't already being monitored anyway. They don't need any more powers, they just need to learn to use the ones they already have.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    Instead of infringing on people's right to privacy, a more effective form of deterring terrorism would be to get our troops out of Afghanistan now. Why are we still there when it wasn't our country that suffered from 9/11 in the first place. WE CANNOT WIN IN AFGANISTAN POLITICAN'S PLEASE TAKE NOTE!

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    I post as a Cyber Security Expert.

    The idea is bunkum. Its a typical solution designed by politicians who don't have a clue or idea about cost vs risk. They don't understand or are prepared to accept that crossing a road, for example has risk.

    They have been lobbied by powerful US companies who say you can monitor the internet. Of course you can, but only with BILLIONS of spend.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    If UKIP renamed themselves UKIP Libertarian and made it clear they were a libertarian party first and foremost, then they would clear up in the next election. Farage is shooting himself in the foot here, he could wipe out the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives on these issues.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    Its a dangerous move to prevent few terror activities,imagine how vulnerable people will be when the data that collected is leaked or hacked or used illegally by the security agencies or the people who work on there behalf use it illegally,they can know each and every users internet behaviors and can use them to black mail them,already no of companies are collecting users data

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    This is typical of politicians, they see an incident like the Rigby murder and instantly use it as a ploy to push through extremely unpopular policies. We all know they want to control the internet like they want to control everything else and this is just a cynical attempt to push through this snoopers bill under the guise of 'safety'. Forget it, I'd rather die on my feet than live on my knees.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    I remember hearing someone say "imagine if Hitler had this technology".

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    GW Bush said there were Internets. Best use the other one, eh ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    How much tax-payers money will be wasted on this? We could save a packet if we simply deported the likely culprits sooner, rather than 8 years later.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    "Coalition niceties and party politics must not get in the way of giving our security services the capabilities they need to stay one step ahead of those that seek to destroy our society."

    Which I read as :- Coalition and security services seek to destroy our society.

    Beware the damage politicians will cause on society is far greater than any 'terror' attack.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    Politicians take note... we the British people don't want this! We're the people who survived the bombs of the Blitz and the collapse of the largest empire the world has ever seen, only to come out stronger than ever, a few lousy terrorists can't faze us. For once listen to your people rather than trying to grab as much power as you think you can get away with.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    And the government propagandists will arrive to try to manipulate clear public opinion in 3...2...1...

    I look forward to the march on Parliament in response to this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    Jack Straw is a creep.. a power freak who was behind the British ID card system.. oh how that man loves the idea of Big Brother.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    Given what we saw last week with an overwhelming majority of commenters here appalled by what was exposed. DC and WH contradicting each other. Politicians on both sides of the Atlantic confirming their duplicity. I am surprised at this.

    It`s almost as if there is a conspiracy under way to seize even more info ´legitimately`.

    It now certain that they are not listening.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    The government is using the death of drummer Lee Rigby as an excuse. Having access and spying on the whole of the UK would not have prevented this. They failed to stop these people when they knew about them. Everyone will just start using data encryption on emails and net traffic then we will be back at square one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    and now having equipted them with all modern technology knowledge scientific old and new mathematics etc. thought hold on maybe better get that off them a bit quick.


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