Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Protection of Freedoms Bill

Part of Resource Extraction (Transparency and Reporting) – in the House of Commons at 8:22 pm on 1st March 2011.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Nicola Blackwood Nicola Blackwood Conservative, Oxford West and Abingdon 8:22 pm, 1st March 2011

I cannot imagine why the Government’s understanding where surveillance systems are held and who holds them could in any way limit the improvement of justice in this country.

I also welcome the proposals in part 3 to insert judicial oversight in relation to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. This is an excellent start in reforming the confusing jumble of legislation dealing with access to communications data. However, we have some way to go before we have a system which tightly defines the reasons for which access can be granted—a particularly vague example of which is

“the economic well-being of the United Kingdom”— and which offers a straightforward legislative framework so that not only the bodies that use surveillance powers but the citizens who may be subject to them can clearly understand their rights and responsibilities.

I could go on and welcome the permanent reduction of pre-charge detention to 14 days, the reinstatement of the right to trial by jury and the progressive proposals on stop and search without suspicion, but the point is clear. In large part, the Bill returns the state’s powers to common-sense levels and signals a significant step forward for the civil libertarians among us. The Bill is the answer to the calls of many in this country, including those who had felt, under the previous Government, that state abuse of power had reached a new low, that they had become guilty until proven innocent or that they were being forced to make a false choice between democracy and security. Of course there is a difficult balance to strike between liberty and security, and any adjustments need to be made with the utmost care, but there can be no doubt that in the past decade that balance had tilted much too far in the direction of security and away from civil liberties. That is why I support the Bill and hope that it will mark the end of the Government-sponsored fallacy that absolute security can be achieved by the unacceptable erosion of civil liberties.