I wrote to my MP to ask him to oppose the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill, which the government is rushing through after the European Court of Justice ruled that UK spooks were illegally accessing our data.
Here is what he had to say:
Dear Mr Butt,
Thank you for writing to me regarding the Government’s emergency legislation on communication data and interception.
As a result of a recent judgement by the European Court of Justice, the police and intelligence agencies are in danger of losing vital information which is used in 95% of serious and organised crime investigations as well as counter terror investigations and online child abuse.
In order to prevent this, UK legislation needs to change to be compliant with EU law. If these changes are not made, the police are likely to suddenly lose vital evidence this summer.
I share your concerns about the rushed nature of these proposals, but as a former criminal barrister I know how crippling the loss of this evidence would be in prosecuting dangerous or violent offenders.
Given the limited Parliamentary time available to discuss the emergency legislation Labour has ensured that the Government’s legislation is temporary and that it will expire in 2016. This will require the Government and Parliament to properly consult on and consider longer term proposals next year.
I think it is important to remember that this is not the Snooper’s Charter that the Government previously tried to push through Parliament and which I opposed. No extension of powers will be introduced in this temporary legislation. This legislation is designed solely to protect existing capabilities in compliance with the European Court of Justice’s ruling and in fact Labour has now been able to secure safeguards that have not previously existed.
We have also now secured agreement to our proposal for a major independent review of the legal framework governing data access and interception (the RIPA review we called for earlier this year) in light of the huge changes in technology. In the wake of the Snowdon leaks and the concerns raised about whether the legal framework has failed to keep up with new technology, there is a clear need for wider public debate about the right balance between security and privacy online, a review of powers and stronger oversight.
I think it is important that legislation is subject to full parliamentary debate and scrutiny and I am very disappointed that the Government has waited until the last possible moment to introduce these temporary measures. However, I will support these proposals as I believe it would be far too damaging in the fight against serious crime and terrorism if the police and intelligence services were to suddenly lose existing capabilities.
I will be sure to keep your comments and concerns in mind when I scrutinise the details of the Government’s plans in Parliament next week.
Thanks again for your e-mail. I really appreciate the time you have taken to share your views on this important issue.
Labour MP for Hammersmith