Statement on the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill

Today, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister announced emergency legislation that would grant the security services greater surveillance powers.  This legislation will be rushed through Parliament within a week, allowing no time for proper parliamentary scrutiny

The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill will allow the Home Secretary to order telephone companies and internet service providers to retain data relating to customers communications activity.  Communications companies must log information such as when and to whom telephone calls were made, and make that information available to the security services on demand.  The European Court of Justice recently struck out the EU data retention directive (which granted some of the same powers) on the grounds that it was a breach of fundamental rights.

English PEN and our Don’t Spy On Us campaign partners are extremely concerned that these new measures are being rushed through Parliament.

Jo Glanville, the Director of English PEN said:

‘It is a considerable concern that legislation concerning the privacy of every citizen in this country is being rushed through Parliament without effective scrutiny or debate. Given the length of time that we’re having to wait for urgent reform of existing legislation to protect our data following Edward Snowden’s revelations last year, this is an unacceptable development. The European Court of Justice has called for the end of untargeted surveillance – the government is now misleadingly invoking the spectre of terrorism to bypass that ruling.’

Mike Harris, the Campaign Director of the Don’t Spy On Us campaign said:

‘The European Court of Justice has said the status quo breaches human rights, so for Theresa May to claim the government is maintaining the status quo is to say it is maintaining laws that breach human rights. That’s not good enough.

‘Any incoming government in 2015 now faces a legal challenge from civil society pitting it against both courts in Strasbourg – an entirely avoidable conflict. This will do little to protect our security, but do much to undermine our liberty.’

English PEN is part of the Don’t Spy On Us campaign, a coalition of six NGOs campaigning for a surveillance system that is proportionate, transparent, and properly scrutinised by both Parliament and the judiciary.

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