‘Emergency’ Data Retention: What I told my MP

The European Court of Justice ruled in April that blanket data retention, which the government requires of ISPs, is illegal and ignores the fundamental rights to privacy and data protection. However, rather than take the time to debate and redraft the law, they are pushing through a new Bill in record time: released today and put before Parliament on Monday.

It’s incredibly disappointing to see the UK Government so determined to ignore a ruling on human rights. Since we have had a year of revelations as to how GCHQ ignore the right to privacy I find it particularly galling that David Cameron wants to push forward with legislation like this, directly in the face of our human rights and the international outrage over Internet snooping.

That’s why I wrote to my MP about this issue as soon as our action went live. I’ve kept my email pretty brief and emphasised the way this Bill is circumventing the democratic process. I know not every MP thinks the same as me on digital issues like the Snowden leaks or the importance of anonymity. But I believe they should all care about doing their job as Members of Parliament, to scrutinise and debate and question.

If you’d like to write to your MP with a letter like mine and ask them to stop this rushed legislation, here are the 4 key points I’ve used: 

  1. Emergency legislation should only be for a genuine national emergency. We are not currently in an emergency so Parliament should take its time.
  2. The only threat is that of legal action as the Government wishes to continue with blanket data retention which the CJEU recently ruled incompatible with human rights.
  3. The UK has an obligation to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights, which we have signed onto and which we should uphold as an example internationally.
  4. It doesn’t matter whether you agree or not with the contents of the Bill. This hasn’t undergone the proper scrutiny and all MPs should care about being given the opportunity to have their say.

Here’s my letter:

Dear Anne Main MP,

I’m writing to you about the emergency data retention legislation the Government have announced today.

I know that you are a Conservative MP and may well agree, or be whipped into agreeing with the contents of this Bill. However, I would urge you to push back on the timeframe on this legislation. Emergency legislation should be when we are under a genuine viable threat.

As I see it, the only threat is the Government failing to comply with a European Court of Justice ruling that existing Data Retention laws are incompatible with human rights – and facing a lawsuit as a consequence. There are big questions being discussed about the balance of privacy, security, data laws, and the purposes and needs of our police and security services. I would welcome these being aired in public, through a proper process of debates and scrutiny in which you and all MPs are involved. Please stand back against this legislation being rushed through in a day.

Thank you very much.

Ruth Coustick-Deal