April 27, 2015 | Pam Cowburn

General Election 2015: What do MPs think about mass surveillance?

Like the British public, the vast majority of MPs had no idea about the extent of bulk data collection by the security services when whistleblower Edward Snowden spoke out. With the election pending, what do parliamentary candidates think there needs to be done about mass surveillance?


Post Snowden, there has been little parliamentary debate and no opportunity for MPs to vote on whether current levels of surveillance are acceptable in a democracy. 

There have been individual MPs across all parties who have spoken out about surveillance - most notably Tom Watson MP, David Davis MP and Julian Huppert MP. (Disclaimer: Tom Watson and Julian Huppert are on ORG's advisory council.) But the closest we've had to a debate about surveilance took place when the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) was forced through parliament in less than a week. A number of MPs objected to way that this legislation was rushed through but the vast majority followed the whip for cross-party support. 

MPs are not immune to the effects of surveillance, despite the Wilson Doctrine that states that their communications should not be recorded by the state.  Jeremy Corbyn, who led the vote against the fast-tracking of DRIP, along with Dianne Abbott, Harriet Harman, Jack Straw, the late Bernie Grant and others, were monitored by Scotland Yard in the 1990s. More recently, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling apologised for the monitoring of confidential phone calls between 32 MPs and prisoners. 

But what do the next Government's MPs think? Are parliamentary candidates prepared to do something about surveillance if elected? The parties have published their manifestos but we think voters should be able to find out what their candidates think. With help from 89up and some fantastic people from Grit Digital, we've created a tool that will help you to find that out. We've emailed every parliamentary candidate and asked them: "How would you reform surveillance law, oversight and practice to respect the rights of law-abiding people?"

You can find their answers here. Just enter your postcode and see what responses are there. If candidates haven't responded yet, you can get a summary of their party's position from their manifesto. 

ORG is also encouraging people to contact candidates directly to encourage them to commit to reforming surveillance. This is the first election since the Snowden revelations and it's time for our MPs to realise that voters do care about surveillance. We want to know whether they are prepared to stand up to our rights if elected.