Monday, 2 April 2012

Cambridge MP Huppert Calls For Home Secretary To Give Evidence On Surveillance


Cambridge MP Julian Huppert has called for Home Secretary, Theresa May and the Head of Security and Counter Terrorism to give public evidence after fears about the extension of state surveillance.

He has received backing for the pair to be called to address the issue and answer questions at the Parliamentary Home Affairs Select Committee.

“I will not support any plans which allow the state to view the content of private emails, telephone calls, text messages or any electronic communications without a warrant,” he said. “It would be completely wrong for the Government to revive Labour’s authoritarian plans for a centralised database to enable intelligence officers to access our personal lives.

“Government and the security services should not be given a free pass to snoop on the private lives of my constituents.

“Just last month I proposed a motion which would help guarantee our right to individual privacy on and off the internet. It detailed the five key requirements we have to protect ourselves from excessive snooping.

“What I would like to see is strong safeguards – better than we currently have under RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act) and other legislation. It is currently far too easy for people – eg at DWP – to access data on who and when we ring or text, and this has to stop.

“The Home Office wants to have access to information about not just who we text but who we tweet, who we skype to as well as who we ring. Now, this may seem to be no more objectionable than the current position but, technically, it is a complete mess. Your Internet Service Provider doesn't have a clue who you facebook, and doesn't want to either.

“No expert I've ever spoken to can see how this could possibly be done without great expense and without allowing access to the actual message that was sent - which is not legal without a warrant from the Home Secretary.

“I haven't seen the details of these proposals – not for want of asking – but it's clear to me that what we want is more safeguards, not more powers for the state to keep data.”

Julian’s concerns have been echoed by Liberal Democrats across Cambridge and the county as a whole.

Cambridge City Council Leader, Sian Reid said: "There must be no question of any Lib Dem in parliament supporting any ill-considered proposal failing to assure the public that civil liberties and citizens' privacy are genuinely protected."

"It is vital that this government doesn’t go anywhere near the path that Labour trod, with their ID cards, DNA database and Jacqui Smith's centralised communications database."

Cllr Kilian Bourke
(LD, Romsey)
Cambridgeshire Lib Dem Leader, Kilian Bourke said: "The rumours that have emerged about this proposed legislation are deeply worrying, particularly the suggestion that police would be able to access private communications without a warrant.

"The government should only ever be allowed to snoop if it has a warrant.  If the rumours are true and Theresa May wants to remove that requirement then this would clearly not be something any right-thinking Liberal Democrat could support.

"The Coalition Agreement states clearly that 'we need to restore the rights of individuals in the face of encroaching state power.'  We are sending a message to the Liberal Democrats in government that we expect them to stick unflinchingly to that principle."

Note to editors:

Julian’s amendment to his civil liberties policy at the Lib Dems’ Autumn Conference stated that the right to privacy should be supported by:

'a) ensuring that there shall be no interception of telephone calls, SMS messages, social media, internet or any other communications without named, specific and time-limited warrants;

b) guaranteeing that any communications data kept by service providers in accordance with the EU Data Retention Directive are kept securely by the service providers, and that they be only released to government bodies with strict and strengthened safeguards;

c) ensuring that service providers are not mandated by law to collect communications data by any method that would also provide access to content information, unless specifically authorised by a warrant;

d) ensuring that service providers are not mandated by law to collect third-party communications data for non-business purposes by any method;

e) renegotiating the EU Data Retention Directive and changing how it is implemented into UK law, to provide a better balance towards privacy.'