Cameron rushes through emergency phone and internet data retention bill

By Peter Gothard
10 Jul 2014 View Comments

After an initial announcement that came only yesterday evening, Prime Minister David Cameron held a press conference this morning to announce a new "emergency" law to force telecommunications firms to retain data for 12 months.

The Data Retention and Investigation Powers Bill is needed, said Cameron, to combat "criminals, terrorists and paedophiles", and is designed to directly replace similar legislation that was removed by the European Court of Justice in April, after it was declared unlawful.

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"It is the first duty of government to protect our national security and to act quickly when that security is compromised," said Cameron, namechecking "events in Iraq and Syria" as examples of why the UK should not now be "scaling back on our ability to keep our people safe".

He added that "no government introduces fast-track legislation lightly, but the consequences of not acting are grave", before adding that it is important to know that the government is "not introducing new powers or capabilities - that is not for this Parliament".

Home Secretary Theresa May added she believes that the government "would be negligent if it didn't make sure that the people who keep us safe have the legal powers to utilise the powers that they need."

"If they do, criminals and terrorists will go about their business unimpeded, and innocent lives will be lost," May continued.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper added that the legislation "is certainly needed", citing the use of retained mobile phone data in securing the arrest of Ian Huntley in the Soham murders as key to cracking the case.

However, Labour is thought to have accepted the legislation on condition of a review of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, which was passed in 2000 and is often attributed to what many see as excessive security service surveillance in the UK.

Not all Labour voices are in agreement. Backbencher Tom Watson asked:

"Regardless of where you stand on the decision of the European Court of Justice, 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 bill is being criticised in some quarters as being a hurriedly rehashed version of the mass-delayed Communications Data Bill, otherwise known as the "Snooper's Charter".

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