UK & World News

  • 10 July 2014, 12:54

New 'Snooping' Law 'Needed To Keep UK Safe'

MI5 and the police will be able to read people's emails and listen to people's mobile phone conversations under emergency laws, David Cameron has said.

The Prime Minister said the measures were needed to "maintain powers to help keep us safe from those who would harm UK citizens", which was essential given the threat from unrest in Syria and Iraq.

The laws will mean internet firms and other companies will be required to store data on "who contacted whom and when" for 12 months.

And he said security services would be able to listen to phone calls or read emails, although they would need to request a warrant, which would have to be signed off by a secretary of state, to do so.

Announcing the move alongside Nick Clegg, who had been staunchly against a previously suggested "snooper's charter", he conceded the measures would only be temporary and the public would be given access to details of warrants requested for the first time.

Under plansdetailed in the Data Retention and Investigation Powers Bill:

:: Firms will have to retain phone and email detail for 12 months.

:: The number of public bodies allowed to request phone and email details will be limited - Royal Mail, pensions bodies and charities no longer given access.

:: Councils will be banned from asking for information directly from internet and phone providers.

:: A senior diplomat will oversee how information requests can be shared with other countries.

:: There will be an annual transparency report on the warrants issued and why.

:: There will be a review of theRegulation of Investigatory Powers Act, which allows councils to snoop on people.

:: All powers are only temporary and will stop at the end of 2016.

Mr Cameron said the emergency legislation, which is expected to go in front of the Commons on Tuesday, was necessary because the European Court of Justice ruled anEU directive on holding data interfered with the right to respect for private life.

He said some companies had threatened to stop co-operating because they were unsure of the law and many were poised to start deleting data that could be vital to the security services.

When asked if the measures were simply "state-sponsored phone and email hacking", Mr Cameron said the public should be more worried if the Government did not introduce the new legislation.

The Prime Minister said:"I am simply not prepared to be a prime minister who has to address the people after a terrorist incident and explain that I could have done more to prevent it."

And he stressed the powers, which have the backing of Labour, were the same as had been operating under the EU directive until it had been struck out, and which had helped to prevent terror plots.

He said: "It is the first duty of government to protect our national security and to act quickly when that security is compromised. As events in Iraq and Syria demonstrate, now is not the time to be scaling back on our ability to keep our people safe.

"The ability to access information about communications and intercept the communications of dangerous individuals is essential to fight the threat from criminals and terrorists targeting the UK."

The Government has said that Britons radicalised fighting alongside jihadists from terror group ISIS in Syria and Iraq present the biggest threat to the UK.

Mr Clegg said that "liberty and security had to go hand-in-hand" and stressed the measures were temporary and a greater debate on the powers the Government had in a "post Snowden era" was essential.

Britain's top cop Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said: "At some levels it geniunely helps us save lives, for example if we have kidnaps it's a vital thing that we need, it's also important in homicide investigations.

"If we lose it - and there's some danger that we are already losing it - then we will all be less safe."

Emma Carr, acting director of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: "It is a basic principle of a free society that you don't monitor people who are not under suspicion.

Advertisement