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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Labour's mea culpa on civil liberties

Has the penny finally dropped for senior Labour MPs? It certainly looks that way with Yvette Cooper admitting that the previous Labour government did not do enough to keep the state’s surveillance powers in check.

The Guardian says that the shadow home secretary has criticised the governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown for being “too reluctant to introduce checks and balances as strong as new terrorism powers”.

She added that Both the Labour and Conservative parties also ignored the inadequacy of laws governing interception of communications, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa), for too long.

Cooper told the Guardian that better protection of civil liberties would become a policy if she is elected as Labour’s leader next month. She said she would make it a priority to “break up concentrations of power” and launch a review of privacy in relation to private sector companies that hold a huge amount of personal data.

“With growing extremism and radicalisation, strong powers are needed to tackle terrorism, but they always need to be balanced with strong checks and balances on state power. Too often they aren’t,” she said. “The introduction of new powers should always be proportionate and follow the evidence – neither of which was true of Labour’s attempt to bring in 90-day and 42-day pre-charge detention.”

Her other plans to safeguard liberty include judicial authorisation for interception warrants and communications data warrants, extra safeguards over passport seizures, and replacing a raft of surveillance watchdogs with a single intelligence commissioner. She would also like to introduce a “suspicion threshold” for the exercise of some schedule 7 detention powers, which were used to hold David Miranda, the partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald, at Heathrow shortly after the Edward Snowden revelations about mass surveillance.

I always welcome Damoscene conversions, but it does smack of too little too late. Was she saying these things in Government? And where are the other Labour candidates on this?

As ever it is what they do in power that counts not what they say when trying to get elected. If Yvette Cooper's proposals become official Labour policy then I will sit up and take notice.
> Was she saying these things in Government?
She wasn't even saying them as shadow home affairs minister during the five years of opposition to the coalition.
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