Cameron seeks to rush through communications data law

The government plans to bring in legislation to force phone and internet companies to keep records of calls, texts and internet use.

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The government plans to bring in legislation to force phone and internet companies to keep records of calls, texts and internet use.

The new law would oblige telecoms firms to keep the data for 12 months and would only be valid until 2016, according to the BBC. Prime Minister David Cameron is set to argue today that without new legislation, the data could be destroyed within weeks by companies fearing legal challenges, the report adds.

Yet MPs and civil liberties campaigners are saying that the vote will take place with parliamentary representatives not having the chance to read, let alone seriously debate the bill.

Home secretary Theresa May is due to make a statement to the House of Commons at 11.15am today and the government is expected to try to push legislation through Parliament next week.

The government says that the ‘emergency’ legislation is necessary after the European Court of Justice (ECJ) struck down the EU ‘Data Retention Directive’ in April, which permitted the retention of communications data for six to ten months. The ECJ ruled that the directive was disproportionate and represented an invasion of privacy.

Labour is understood to support the legislation, following all-party talks which agreed that the law would not be used to extend existing rights and would include various ‘safeguards’.

These include a review of the controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), annual transparency reports on how the powers are used, the creation of an oversight board to examine the impact of the law on privacy, and a ‘sunset clause’ which ensures that the powers expire in 2016.

However Labour MP Tom Watson has criticised the move. In a blog post he said: “Regardless of where you stand on the decision of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), can you honestly say that you want a key decision about how your personal data is stored to be made by a stitch-up behind closed doors and clouded in secrecy?

“None of your MPs have even read this legislation, let alone been able to scrutinise it. The very fact that the government is even considering this form of action, strongly suggests that it has an expectation that the few people on the Liberal Democrat and Labour front benches who have seen this legislation are willing to be complicit.”

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