MPs to sue Government over data act

David Davis (pictured) and Tom Watson are applying for a judicial review

David Davis (pictured) and Tom Watson are applying for a judicial review

First published in National News © by

Two MPs are to sue the Government over the introduction last week of the controversial Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (Drip), which gives police and security services access to people's phone and internet records.

Conservative former shadow home secretary David Davis and Labour backbencher Tom Watson are applying for a judicial review of the Act, which was rushed through Parliament in just three days with the backing of all three major party leaders.

Backed by civil rights group Liberty, they will ask for a declaration from the High Court in London that the Act is not compatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to a private life.

The MPs have written to the Home Office giving them seven days' notice of their intention to seek judicial review next week. If successful, the case - which could be heard in the autumn or early next year - would not strike down the Act but would require the Government to take action to ensure it is compatible with human rights law.

Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said that the accelerated passage of Drip through Parliament was necessary because of an emergency created by a ruling in April by the European Court of Justice, which they said would have the effect of denying police and security services access to vital data about phone and email communications.

They insisted that the Act would simply maintain existing powers, which required communications companies to retain data for 12 months for possible investigation, but do not allow police or security agencies to access the content of calls or emails without a warrant.

Announcing the plan to seek judicial review, Mr Davis said: "Last week was a constitutional scandal. A piece of fundamental legislation was put through without proper scrutiny - without any real scrutiny.

"We were told it was simply reinstating the policy, but that is disingenuous. It was reinstating a policy which had been struck down by European law, without doing anything to make right the flaws which led to it being struck down, and it was reinstating policy which had fallen into very serious disrepute."

Mr Watson said that the deal between the three party leaders to rush Drip through Parliament amounted to "effectively making secret law, because most MPs didn't have the capacity or time to properly understand or scrutinise the legislation".

"We've been left with no option but to take the legal route," he said.

"The fact that the state at any time can find out almost your exact whereabouts, if you are carrying a mobile phone, I think is disproportionate and breaches the fundamental right to privacy."

Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti said that, in striking down the EU directive upon which previous data retention powers were based, the ECJ had suggested 10 safeguards which might improve the law - including measures to limit the period for which records are kept or to exempt specific professions, such as lawyers and MPs, from surveillance of this kind.

She said it was particularly appropriate that MPs were leading the legal fight, as their communications can be expected to include sensitive details relating to constituents' private lives.

Describing the passage of Drip as "a complete disgrace", she said "In response to a three-month-old ECJ decision, the Government stitched up a private deal between three party leaders and allowed Parliament only three days to scrutinise this so-called emergency legislation.

"The fightback begins this week."

Mr Cameron's official spokesman told a regular Westminster media briefing: "We will respond to any proceedings in that area in the usual way.

"Clearly, it is now an Act of Parliament and we will respond to anything in that area on that basis."

Martyn Thomas from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) said: "In principle, the proposals are important for national security and law enforcement. It is essential that any intrusion into a citizen's private affairs is minimal, proportionate to the benefits to society as a whole, and properly controlled and supervised.

"Hasty legislation has often proved to be badly flawed."

Comments (5)

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2:17pm Tue 22 Jul 14

Thecynic says...

The best of luck in overturning this intrusive and disproportionate piece of legislation.
The best of luck in overturning this intrusive and disproportionate piece of legislation. Thecynic
  • Score: 49

6:20pm Tue 22 Jul 14

hippyjohn says...

the ruling in April did not curtail their powers, It protected the rights of those they are supposed to be protecting
the ruling in April did not curtail their powers, It protected the rights of those they are supposed to be protecting hippyjohn
  • Score: 2

6:40pm Tue 22 Jul 14

jenkinsroy says...

This is only to cover up the investigation being do on the
House member in the child **** thing by this I mean
Get it in law before to case work start on the m.p.
Who May and I say May be or NOT be involved?
This law will let the government accidental delete the information
At its file source before the investigators can read them
That is why it must go through now before the holidays
All you M.P. against this bill will have a fight on your hand
To stop this one? Too much at stake here in the
House of Commons and the House of Lords
Good look to you all
You will see the true side of this
Government as you try to kick this bill out.
I FOR ONE WILL BE WATCHING THE OUT COME
This is only to cover up the investigation being do on the House member in the child **** thing by this I mean Get it in law before to case work start on the m.p. Who May and I say May be or NOT be involved? This law will let the government accidental delete the information At its file source before the investigators can read them That is why it must go through now before the holidays All you M.P. against this bill will have a fight on your hand To stop this one? Too much at stake here in the House of Commons and the House of Lords Good look to you all You will see the true side of this Government as you try to kick this bill out. I FOR ONE WILL BE WATCHING THE OUT COME jenkinsroy
  • Score: 3

8:49pm Tue 22 Jul 14

Devils Advocate says...

Is this as it seems? That three powerful individuals can put through a motion that becomes law, that fundamentally takes away any citizens right to privacy? Does that mean, if my mate asks me how I voted in the secret ballot of the General election, then they will know my view and vote? Will this then be tallied by those three? This, coupled by the very quiet agreements being engineered with the USA in the transatlantic trading discussions could mean that the fundamental rights of the ordinary British citizen are, at last, heading straight back to how they were at the start of the twentieth century. ABSOLUTELY NON-EXISTENT!
Is this as it seems? That three powerful individuals can put through a motion that becomes law, that fundamentally takes away any citizens right to privacy? Does that mean, if my mate asks me how I voted in the secret ballot of the General election, then they will know my view and vote? Will this then be tallied by those three? This, coupled by the very quiet agreements being engineered with the USA in the transatlantic trading discussions could mean that the fundamental rights of the ordinary British citizen are, at last, heading straight back to how they were at the start of the twentieth century. ABSOLUTELY NON-EXISTENT! Devils Advocate
  • Score: 4

11:53pm Tue 22 Jul 14

stevo!! says...

Well, if Ethiopian farmers can sue the British Government, why can't its own MPs?
Well, if Ethiopian farmers can sue the British Government, why can't its own MPs? stevo!!
  • Score: 1
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