Yvette Cooper: This is no way to protect our freedom

The Coalition Government has failed to explain how these plans are proportionate to the problem

Share
Related Topics

Opening emails, closing public courts – the Government has got itself in another fine mess. The Home Secretary, as so often when the going gets tough, has gone to ground. The Deputy Prime Minister is briefing against plans he personally signed off a few months ago. Little wonder everyone is so alarmed.

Yet this debate is too important for such incompetence. Some Government proposals go too far. Others are unjustified or unclear and more safeguards are needed. But there are also significant national security and criminal challenges to be addressed. No one wins from this debacle. Ministers need to get a grip fast, otherwise national security, liberty and confidence will all be undermined.

Three separate issues have become entangled. First, there is a problem over foreign intelligence sharing. The Government argues that complex civil case law has created an unintended loophole in the principle that each country controls its own secrets. The Intelligence and Security Select Committee has warned that other countries – particularly the US – are withholding important information for fear it could be published without their agreement as a result. Action is clearly needed to resolve the problem.

However, plans for closed court procedures are not about protecting foreign intelligence, but handling civil claims against British organisations. Even security experts agree the Green Paper is too widely drawn – proposing secret procedures to be invoked whenever "sensitive" material is at stake. The Government has failed to explain how these plans are proportionate to the problem it faces.

On greater internet surveillance, we still have little clue what the Government plans. The police and agencies need to keep up with new technology – for example to disrupt terror plots. But privacy needs to be protected. The devil is in the detail and detail comes there none. Ministers also need to recognise the wider problem. Parliament is being asked to introduce new powers to protect freedom and safety. Yet the justification is based on secret information. In the modern world, few are comfortable supporting big legal changes based on ministerial testimony alone. Government oversight plans are still too half-hearted to deliver the checks and balances we need.

None of this is easy. Labour in government rightly introduced stronger powers to deal with terrorists and stronger safeguards through the Human Rights Act. Both were criticised. But these issues are too important not to have more clarity, responsibility and leadership now. The Home Secretary and the Prime Minister must get a grip, pull the final legislation from the Queen's Speech, and start proper consultation on the detail of plans and safeguards. For the sake of our liberty and our security, they need to get it right.

Yvette Cooper is the Shadow Home Secretary

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Whitehall Editor: The spurious Tory endorsement that misfired

Oliver Wright
 

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband hasn’t ‘suddenly’ become a robust leader. He always was

Steve Richards
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence