Huppert calls for full investigation into security services
Cambridge MP Julian Huppert will call for a full investigation into the powers of the intelligence and security services when he leads a debate in Westminster Hall today (Thursday, October 31).
Julian called the debate following recent fears about spying, surveillance and data collection after the Snowden revelations, NASA’s Prism and GCHQ’s Tempora programmes.
He will tell Parliament that while the work of the security services is vital to the country’s fight against crime and terrorism at home and abroad, he is worried about what is taking place “on the edge of legality and morality”.
“There is no doubt in my mind that attacks against Britain and our allies will have been intercepted and stopped because of their tireless efforts and because of their ability to gather intelligence and track actions,” he says. “However, we must ensure that the laws and guidance available to them are clear, and that we ourselves understand the framework we expect them to operate within. President Obama put it nicely when he said that what they’re able to do doesn’t necessarily mean that is what they should be doing.
“I personally believe that the legislation we have currently recognises that sometimes it is necessary for our security and intelligence services to monitor calls and track individuals. But it also recognises that this must be done within the scope of the law and with proper judicial or ministerial oversight.
“In fact I think that the way the legislation has been drawn is already too far. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) has drawn lots of criticism for its widespread use.”
Julian will call for independent scrutiny of both RIPA and the Intelligence Services Act.
“This is not something that is hugely radical,” he says. “In America the Obama Administration has reached the realisation that there needs to be proper and competent oversight.
“There are other things that we could do in the short term that would go towards fixing the loss of trust and confidence. For example, publishing – as they do in the US – legal opinions that are used to underpin the surveillance framework; providing a clearer account of expenditure and lifting legal restrictions on British companies from publishing transparency reports about surveillance requests they receive.”
And he added that in the long term the government should look at signing up to the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance.
“We should absolutely defend the right of our intelligence and security services to go after the bad guys, to use the powers they have to protect us and make the UK and the world a safer place,” he says. “But, this should never be done at disproportionate cost to liberty and privacy which form the very foundations we’ve built our society on.”