Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Why The Data Retention And Investigatory Powers Bill IS Compatible With Human Rights

As a party we care deeply about human rights. Left to their own devices, the Conservatives would have pulled us out of the European Convention. Thanks to the Liberal Democrats, we have stopped that from happening.

So I am concerned by some suggestions that the emergency legislation we published on Thursday isn’t compliant with ECHR. This is simply not true.

As many of you will know, in April this year the European Court of Justice overturned the EU Data Retention Directive. They did so on the basis that this particular directive was incompatible with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which requires that EU law is consistent with the European Convention on Human Rights. The reason was that the Directive lacked any safeguards – it allowed Member States to compel phone and internet companies to store data, but said nothing about how that data should be accessed or for what purposes.

I want to be crystal clear about this: the court was talking about the EU directive, NOT our own domestic laws. The UK implements the directive in part using a pre-existing framework of checks and balances under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA). While that Act has rightly come in for criticism in some regards, not least by the Lib Dems, the basic framework for accessing data that it sets out IS compliant with ECHR.

Where the court ruling is relevant to the UK situation, we are making changes to change our system. These changes are set out in the regulations that accompany the Bill, which can be read here.

A more user-friendly summary of these changes is set out in the factsheet below.

Finally I would like to re-iterate what I said in my article last week: the Bill does not extend existing powers. It maintains the status quo for a finite period, and in the meantime ensures there will be a root and branch review of RIPA, with new legislation in 2016. Failure to act now mean the deletion of large amounts of data over the next few weeks. Far from rolling back human rights. Last weeks package secured by the Lib Dems actually advances our civil liberties.

You can read my article here.

Best wishes,

Norman