A year ago this week, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper gave a speech outlining the Labour Party’s new approach to security policy. She argued that we need to strike a careful balance between liberty and security, and that security decisions should be based on proportionality and evidence.
I attended that speech, and wrote afterwards about how impressed I was by the principles governing Ms Cooper’s approach. Labour’s acquiescence last week to the Data Retention and Invesigatory Powers (DRIP) Bill ‘stitch-up‘ has made me feel pretty stupid in my praise. It seems that at the first real test, Ms Cooper and her Labour colleagues have found it politically expedient to cast those principles aside.
Considering the significant extension of surveillance and data retention powers embedded into DRIP, Cooper’s remarks about the aborted Communications Data Bill seem quite ridiculous:
Theresa May’s draft Communications Data Bill was far too widely drawn, with far too much power concentrated in the hands of the Home Secretary. It was clearly disproportionate without any proper checks and balances as the Joint Committee powerfully pointed out.
The Home Office has continually refused to set out what powers it believes are really needed and why – making it impossible to have a sensible debate about what is justified and proportionate or what safeguards are needed.
However at the same time Nick Clegg’s apparent refusal to contemplate any change despite rapidly changing technology has raised huge alarm among senior police officers investigating online child abuse, serious crimes and terrorism.
Neither approach is helping the police or the public, liberty or security.
We have said clearly that action is needed to help the police keep up with changing technology, but that the draft Communications Data Bill was the wrong approach. And we wait to see what the Government will bring forward next.
We will apply the same principles, on evidence, proportionality, valuing liberty and security, privacy and the fight against crime, and seeking strong checks and balances too.
My emphasis. Yvette Cooper could not say these words today (at least not with a straight face). What evidence has been presented to parliament that these new surveillance measures will actually help fight crime? How can we possibly be confident in the proportionality of a law that has been rushed through parliament with no time for debate? What concesssions have been made to valuing liberty and security. What checks and balances are written into the Bill?