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Snoopers’ Charter: Theresa May to push huge new spying powers through Parliament, despite major report concluding they are not needed

Report echoed widespread criticism of Communications Data Bill, but home secretary already pushing to have legislative powers instituted in autumn

Andrew Griffin
Thursday 11 June 2015 16:50 BST
Theresa May was kept on as Home Secretary by David Cameron in his post-election Cabinet reshuffle (EPA)
Theresa May was kept on as Home Secretary by David Cameron in his post-election Cabinet reshuffle (EPA) (EPA)

The Government is still looking to push major new spying powers into law, despite a report it commissioned advising that they weren’t needed.

Theresa May has already said that the Government will push the legislation through in autumn so that it can be enacted before the end of the year, just hours after the critical report was published.

One of the headline parts of the Snoopers’ Charter is that it will require phone networks and internet service to providers to hold communications between their customers, and then give access to that data to intelligence agencies. But the Anderson Report warned such powers weren’t necessary.

The report echoes previous criticisms that the proposed legislation is far too wide-ranging and puts too much power in the hands of the home secretary — instead recommending that the decision to look through people’s private messages should be made by a judge. The report says that “there should be no question of progressing proposals for the compulsory retention of third party data before a compelling operational case for it has been made out (as it has not been to date)” — directly contradicting the May’s argument for the legislation.

Responding to Anderson’s recommendations, Yvette Cooper said she agreed with his criticisms and asked Theresa may to confirm that “she will accept that recommendation, and will not include that proposal in the legislation in the Autumn”.

Justifying her proposals, Theresa May said: "I've said many times before that it is not possible to debate the balance between privacy and security, including the rights and wrongs of intrusive powers and the oversight arrangements that govern them without also considering the threats that we face as a country.

"Those threats remain considerable and they are evolving.

"In the face of such threats we have a duty to ensure that the agencies whose job it is to keep us safe have the powers they need to do the job."

May also lashed out at calling the proposal the “Snoopers’ Charter”, a name encouraged by the Liberal Democrats, who opposed the bill and eventually led it to be thrown out. "There was never any proposal for a Snoopers’ Charter," she said in the House of Commons.

The Draft Communications Bill, as May would prefer it to be called, will be brought forward after the summer recess and then scrutinised by a joint committee of Parliament.

May said that the new powers must be put into place before December 2016, when temporary powers put into place will expire. That argument mirrors one made in the US recently, that said its government should expedite the passing of new surveillance powers because the short-term — which led to the passing of much reduced powers, in the Freedom Act.

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