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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Why Labour cannot be trusted with our civil liberties

Labour's record on civil liberties has not been a good one. Whether it is their support for identity cards, their attempt to bring in a 90 day and then 42 day pre-charge detention regime, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 that gave extraordinary surveillance powers to local councils and other authorities, and of course their attempt to monitor and store details of our private communications.

Of course there are some that would say that all this came in a different era, when Tony Blair was in charge and when they were in government. And it is true that being in government means making difficult decisions. But it seems that the Corbin era has not seen any change and that not only are Labour continuing to support the erosion of our liberties but they are failing in their duty as an opposition to properly scrutinise the proposals they support.

Thus, as the Guardian reports, on Monday 64 Labour peers backed an expansion of state surveillance powers, within hours of a ruling by top judges that the spying agencies unlawfully scooped up personal confidential information on a massive scale for more than a decade:

The Labour peers voted with the government to ensure that major new powers are handed to the security services to get access to records tracking every citizen’s web use for the past 12 months.

The Liberal Democrat attempt to delete the powers to order the collection and storage of the new internet connection records from the investigatory powers bill in the House of Lords was voted down by 75 to 292.

It was notable that neither the former Labour home secretary Lord Blunkett nor the new shadow attorney general, and former Liberty director, Lady Chakrabarti, took part in the vote. The 64 Labour peers who voted with the government included frontbench spokespersons, Lady Hayter and Lord Rosser and the party’s chief whip, Lord Bassam.

The vote came just hours after the ruling by the investigatory powers tribunal, the only court to hear complaints against MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, that the security services had until 2015 secretly and illegally collected huge volumes of confidential data of millions of British citizens without adequate or safeguards.

Of course the Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott, made all the right noises describing the bill as "draconian” and saying that the ruling demonstrates why it needs amending but actions speak louder than words:

The Lib Dem Lord Paddick said: “Labour’s decision not to back us in opposing this huge intrusion into our privacy shows once and for all that they cannot claim to be the party of civil liberties, regardless of who sits on their benches.

“Internet connection records are ill-conceived and disproportionate and no doubt this fight will continue in the courts.”

Jim Killock, the Director of the Open Rights Group also strongly criticised the Labour peers. He said: “Labour did not table any serious amendments to this draconian legislation in the House of Lords. Labour is simply failing to hold the government to account.

“The Labour Lords had an opportunity to improve the IP bill and make it closer to becoming a surveillance law fit for a democracy not a dictatorship. They could have called for proposals to record UK citizens’ web browsing history to be scrapped or demanded that the police need independent authorisation to access our data.”

I think that those comments speak volumes about Corbin's Labour party.
Was Chakrabarti recruited just to silence her to opposing any Labour future strategy on this issue?. Just a thought.
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