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Letter to my MP on DRIP

What follows is a copy of the email I just sent to my MP about the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill (DRIP). I urge you to send a similar email right now.

Dear Robin Walker,

I have no doubt that by now you will have heard of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill (DRIP) which your Government and the Opposition will try to rail-road through Parliament next week. I also have no doubt that you will have heard of the great deal of criticism surrounding this bill, both from your colleagues within Westminster hailing from all parties, such as David Davis MP and Tom Watson MP, and those outside of Westminster, such as Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group.

In April the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that the Data Retention Directive (DRD) was incompatible with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and therefore that the 2006 act enabling the DRD in the UK was a breach of Human Rights. This means what was, and still is, the status quo when it comes to forcing companies to store data on their customers is a breach of fundamental Human Rights. This is the same status quo which the Home Secretary has said that DRIP merely retains. I think it is clear to see why I, and others, have such a problem with DRIP.

The ECJ ruling outlined some very clear ways in which the DRD could be made compatible with Human Rights law, by saying that this cannot be done on a blanket basis and that someone independent must supervise police access. These fundamental points are missing from DRIP.

Furthermore, DRIP goes far further than just retaining the status quo. It makes sweeping amendments to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) including the expansion of what a communications service provider is, the extension of these powers to outside the UK and an open door to allow the Government to make new regulations about data retention at will, without the need to debate them fully in Parliament. I am sure you agree that such huge amendments to RIPA need to be subject to full Parliamentary scrutiny.

It is perfectly clear to everybody, including you, I am sure, Mr Walker, that the Government is using the ECJ ruling as a pretext to force through, at great speed, legislation which affects Human Rights, without proper scrutiny or deliberation. The ECJ ruling was in April, and many warned as far back as 2006 that the DRD was flawed. The UK Government has had years to prepare for the DRD being struck down. There is no reason for this emergency legislation, other than to try and sneak sweeping changes under the noses of MPs who have been allowed to go on holiday.

Wherever you stand on where the balance should be between State Security and Civil Liberties (and I would not be surprised if we stand on opposite ends of that balance), you must agree that five days in nowhere near enough time to properly debate and represent all the views on this issue.

It is for this reason that I urge you as my elected representative to vote against DRIP, and do everything you can to urge your colleagues to do the same. At the very least, could you please push for a highly amended bill, with all the sections amending RIPA removed, which serves purely as a stopgap, not for a period of two years, but for a maximum of six months. We need to have this debate now, and not pass the buck on to the next Government in 2016, who will surely pass the buck on again.

In 2015 I will get my first opportunity to vote in a General Election, and while I may feel that this Government has done devastating things to this country, you, Mr Walker, may be able to differentiate yourself from a sea of blue if you stand up for Civil Liberties and Human Rights.

Yours sincerely,
Leo McArdle