Editorial: We should not sacrifice civil liberties in a panic

Mr Clegg cuts a lonely figure in resisting what he calls a snoopers’ charter

Share

In the wake of a terrorist murder, the pressure is on politicians to promise some new law that will prevent such an outrage from recurring. Following the sickening murder of Lee Rigby in the streets of Woolwich, the Prime Minister David Cameron has been quick to announce the formation of a new task force on extremism and terrorism – TERFOR – charged mainly with monitoring radical clerics.

All to the good. For too long certain so-called hate preachers have been allowed to peddle a vile mishmash of anti-Western, anti-semitic, extreme homophobic and misogynist ideas among often unsuspecting congregations, even on university campuses, under the guise of religious instruction. The more closely monitored these men are the better.

But the danger is that, in the rush to silence hate preachers, we allow our leaders to hurl civil liberties into the dustbin. Witness the  hue and cry after the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, forced the Coalition Government to drop the Data Communications Bill  from the Queen’s Speech. The Bill obliged  internet and phone providers to store all  communications for a year and gave police rights to see details of these communications without needing permission.

Back in April, Mr Clegg assured listeners to his LBC radio show that plans to store details of online activity in this fashion were unworkable, and were “not going to happen” while Lib Dems formed part of the Government. Now he finds his objections to parts of the law hung round his neck. Lord Carlile, a former terrorism law watchdog and a member of his own party, writes that he told Mr Clegg earlier this month that his opposition would “come to haunt him”, adding that the murder of Lee Rigby “is an illustration of exactly what I said”.

Lord Carlile is not alone in demanding due penance from Mr Clegg and immediate re-introduction of the Bill. The Home Secretary Theresa May and two Labour former home secretaries, Alan Johnson and John Reid, demand the same. Mr Johnson says Ms May should make prompt passage of the Bill a resigning issue “if the Cabinet do not support her in this central part of what the security services do.” The Mayor of London Boris Johnson has also increased pressure on the Prime Minister, calling arguments for the law “compelling”.

Against this formidable phalanx of Tory and Labour heavyweights, Mr Clegg cuts a lonely figure in holding out against what he and others have called a snoopers’ charter. Yet it is worth remembering that a cross-party panel of Lords and MPs demanded revisions to the bill last December on the grounds  that it gave too many sweeping powers to the Home Secretary and went “much further than it  needed or should”.

The Liberal Democrat peer Lord Strasburger warned that the net result of the Bill might well be a “honeypot for casual hackers, blackmailers and criminals from around the world”. At the same time, the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has told this newspaper that he does not believe that the Bill’s provisions would have made any difference to what happened in Woolwich.

The fact is that the security services, MI5 and MI6, already receive increased resources to deal with would-be bombers, which explains why the terrible events of  7 July 2005, when 52 people perished in the attacks on London, have not been repeated.

It may be unfashionable to say so, but Britain is already countering the threat of violent jihadists with some success. For that reason alone, we should continue to question calls to further extend police powers.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Freight Forward Senior Operator

£22000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This logistics firm are looking...

Recruitment Genius: Lead Marketing Specialist

£34500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A lead marketing specialist is required ...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician - 2nd / 3rd Line

£26000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Technician is req...

Recruitment Genius: Folder Gluer Operator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: There will be a number of exciting opportuniti...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The message displayed on the monitor of a Piraeus Bank ATM in Athens. The Bank of Greece has recommended imposing restrictions on bank withdrawals  

Get off your high horses, lefties – Big Government, not 'austerity', has brought Greece to its knees

Kristian Niemietz
A church in South Carolina burns after a fire breaks out on June 30, 2015  

America knows who has been burning black churches, but it refuses to say

Robert Lee Mitchell III
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map