Cameron has achieved his goal of placing the UK population under mass surveillance as the much criticised Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill has been passed through the House of Commons. One of the most repressive pieces of legislation in recent times is now to be debated in the House of Lords, and the government believes it will receive Royal assent by the end of the week.
The process for getting a bill to the stage of Royal assent usually takes weeks or months, but this bill has been rushed through before the summer recess, even though the government has had since April (when the European Court of Justice ruled that the government’s requirements of communication providers in place at the time were illegal and against basic human rights) to bring the draft bill before Parliament.
The UK is one of a small number of European states which have introduced such repressive and draconian legislation. Other European countries have rejected such legislation as unconstitutional, including Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Cyrus, the Czech Republic, Romania, and Slovenia.
Cameron and his cronies have been determined to bring in mass surveillance legislation, and their previous attempts of getting the communications data bill through Parliament have failed – primarily because the bill was worded in such a way that it would have given security services (and government) unprecedented uncontrolled surveillance powers over the population .
The new legislation is not required. Security services (which include the police) already have the power to investigate personal communications provided they have grounds to do so and have obtained a warrant.
What the new bill does is remove the checks and balances in place – allowing security services to do as they please with minimal (or highly biased in favour of the government) accountability.
The bill was passed by a margin of 498 to 31 votes by MPs – which is a clear demonstration that MPs give little or no regard to the views of the community they are supposed to represent. Instead, they have complied with government manipulation and the agendas of whichever party they belong to. As happens often in these situations, many MPs may not have read the bill in full, instead relying on the usual rhetoric and scare mongering of government to come to a decision.
Hardly the democratic process we are informed exists within the UK.
You may be wondering why the introduction of this bill (which is championed as helping against terrorism by the government) is the subject of such strong opposition – especially if someone has nothing to hide.
Firstly is the way it was introduced and rushed through the House of Commons in one week, even though the government had plenty of time or introduce it much sooner for proper debate. Rushing extremely important legislation of this kind is counterproductive. It does not give interested parties enough time to fully analyse the implications of the proposed legislation – especially grey areas like those discovered in the communications data bill some time after it was first proposed.
Secondly, the government usually employ such tactics where there is something they don’t want others to notice until it is too late. We have seen this many times with the current government who introduce retrospective or stealth legislation which is subsequently found to be illegal.
Thirdly, this kind of legislation is a stepping stone for the government to do as it pleases without any checks and balances. It can also lead to further more repressive legislation when public concerns and opposition has subsided. In effect, it can be part of a longer term strategy for the government to bring in measures which place the population under near total control.
Despite the very simplistic explanation by the government for introducing this new legislation, the bill has been criticised for the lack of control over security services (government) it will be responsible for as time passes.
The implications of the bill are of such concern that the UN commissioner on human rights, Navi Pillay, has criticised both its method of implementation and content.
In Geneva on Wednesday, Pillay said “To me it’s difficult to see how the UK can now justify rushing through wide-reaching emergency legislation which may not fully address the concerns raised by the court, at time when there are proceedings ongoing by the UK’s own investigative powers tribunal on these very issues.” (source: The Guardian)
The commissioner made her remarks as she released a UN report laying out the obligations on countries to safeguard the right to privacy in the digital age. The report identifies gaps in the way countries protect the right to privacy with respect to their digital surveillance practices.
The veteran Labour MP David Winnick said the speed of the moves made a “mockery of parliamentary democracy”, while the former shadow Cabinet member Tom Watson denounced “democratic banditry resonant of a rogue state”.
But its decision to delay the necessary legislation to the final week before the Commons rises for its summer recess was criticised by the shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper.
“This is not the way this kind of legislation should be done. The last-minute nature of it does undermine trust in the Government’s intentions but also in the vital work the police and agencies need to do,” Ms Cooper said. (Source: The Independent).
Even members of Cameron’s own Conservative party have been highly critical of the bill. The senior Tory David Davis, who voted against the second reading, argued that “crashing this Bill through the Commons in a single day” left the Government vulnerable to a legal challenge.
This is a dangerous situation for the future of UK citizens and the introduction of this legislation will have serious ramifications for everyone in the future.
The tactic of presenting the bill the last week of the current parliamentary session and giving the House of Commons one day to debate it is highly irregular, and it stinks of deviance.
There was no need for this bill to be rushed at all. The security services have the power to investigate their suspicions already, so waiting until Parliament reconvened would not have been a major problem – although the government would have you believe it was. But as we know, Cameron and his government are extremely devious and vary rarely do we get the full picture until their deviance is exposed.
Enjoy your relative freedom while you can – because it won’t be around for much longer.
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