Labour will use the passage of the Data Retention Investigatory Powers Bill to call for a wider debate on the balance between liberty and security. The Labour party have tabled two amendments to strengthen the checks and balances within the temporary legislation:
1) The first amendment will ensure the review of RIPA that the Government has agreed to is included in the Bill
2) The second amendment will ensure the Intercept Commissioner publishes 6 monthly reports on the operation of the Bill
The Shadow Home Secretary called for the Government to establish a review of surveillance in a speech in March, with view to instigating a wider debate on the balance between privacy and security in a new digital age. The Labour Party secured the review of RIPA in the negotiations with the Government before the temporary legislation was announced. The amendment is intended to ensure the review looks at the wider issues around keeping the public safe online.
In the United States, President Obama commissioned an independent review of surveillance, and has set out areas for reform to protect US citizens’ privacy and civil liberties, whilst also robustly defending the purpose and work of the security and intelligence agencies. The public debate in the US is fully underway. Yet in the UK, it has barely got off the ground. That is why the Labour Party is tabling amendments to the legislation to ensure this public debate takes place.
Yvette Cooper MP, Labour's Shadow Home Secretary said: "We are tabling amendments to put extra safeguards in place, whilst making sure the police don't lose vital information they need suddenly this summer. The Government should not have left this legislation until the last minute before the summer. And they should have engaged much earlier in a serious public debate about what powers should be available to the police and security services and what safeguards are needed for privacy - as President Obama has done in the US since the Snowdon leaks last year. By ducking the debate and leaving things to the last minute they are undermining trust."
Continuing Ms Cooper said: "We agree that legislation is needed to make sure that the police and security services don't lose existing access under warrant to information they need to fight crime and keep our country safe. This data is used to stop child abuse online, to prove and disprove alibis and to prevent terrorist plots. These powers must not just disappear this summer – that is why we are supporting the legislation. But proper safeguards are needed. There must be sufficient checks and balances on how this temporary legislation is implemented. That is why we have put forward another amendment, on top of the restrictions already secured, to ensure the Intercept Commissioner publishes reports on the operation of the Bill every 6 months, until it expires in 2016. The Government has made clear that the Bill is to maintain existing capacity not to extend it, and this is an added safeguard to make sure that is the case.
Concluding Yvette Cooper Commented: "And we also need longer term reform. This legislation is just a temporary sticking plaster. The legal and oversight framework are now out of date as a result of new technology. We have called for stronger oversight and a major review of RIPA for some time. That is why we are putting down an amendment to put the independent review of the legal and operational framework on a statutory footing. It is welcome the Government have agreed to our RIPA review, but we also believe it would build confidence to underpin it in law. The police and intelligence agencies do vital work to keep us safe. But confidence in their work needs to be maintained, and that means we need a proper debate about how privacy can also be protected, and what powers, checks and balances are needed in the internet age. This temporary legislation must be not be the end of the debate about online security and liberty. It must be the beginning.”