Julian Huppert writes to Theresa May over Snoopers’ Charter allegation: “I would expect you to issue a public correction and an apology at the earliest opportunity”

Julian Huppert MPRemember when the Tories were, briefly, a party which stuck up for individuals’ privacy? It happened, honestly – when they were in opposition. But now, in government, home secretary Theresa May is happy to push the traditional authoritarian measures beloved by Tories and Labour alike.

And so it was, again, today that she pushed forward the Snoopers’ Charter (aka the little-loved Data Communications Bill), noting, accurately, that it would already be law if it weren’t for those pesky Lib Dems. Fair enough: it’s an honest argument. Lib Dems believe in civil liberties, Tories tend not to.

But Theresa May went well beyond honest debate, alleging that Lib Dem opposition to the state’s right to track your every internet move was a direct threat to children’s lives. Hold on a moment, points out Lib Dem Home Affairs spokesman Julian Huppert in a letter to Mrs May published this evening (see below), that’s just not true and you owe the party an apology.

We won’t get one, of course – Theresa won’t get to be Tory leader by owning up to the truth that it’s her own inertia which is the real problem.

Dear Theresa,

We disagree on the Communications Data Bill.

The Liberal Democrat position is clear: we do not think that the proposal to store a record of every citizen’s internet browsing for 12 months is compatible with our basic civil liberties. We also do not think it is right to force UK companies to keep track of everything people do on Google, Facebook or other websites. You appear determined to push ahead with the scheme at all costs, regardless of widespread public concern. I’m more than happy to continue to have that debate as we approach the general election.

But there are limits. I was utterly dismayed by the suggestion in your conference speech today that my party has put children’s lives at risk.

That is an extraordinary claim, and one which must be backed with compelling evidence. Instead, you cited figures from the National Crime Agency which were entirely misleading. You said:

“Over a six-month period, the National Crime Agency estimates that it had to drop at least twenty cases as a result of missing communications data. Thirteen of these were threat-to-life cases, in which a child was judged to be at risk of imminent harm […] The solution to this crisis of national security was the Communications Data Bill. But two years ago, it was torpedoed by the Liberal Democrats.”

The National Crime Agency cases you cite were, I understand, unable to proceed because it was not possible to connect the IP address used for the communication to a particular device. ‘IP matching’ is a genuine problem, and as you know, Liberal Democrats have supported and continue to support action to solve it. Following our vetoing of the Communications Data Bill, we supported including proposals to resolve this problem in the Queen’s Speech.

Since then, nothing has happened. No such proposals have been brought forward by your department.

Responsibility for the lack of data in the cases you cite, and the risk thereby caused to individuals, including children, therefore lies exclusively at your door. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the Liberal Democrats.

I realise that your conference speeches are not subject to the same levels of accuracy as statements in the House of Commons, but nonetheless I would expect you to issue a public correction and an apology at the earliest opportunity.



* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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  • Brilliant stuff !

  • Conor McGovern 30th Sep '14 - 10:45pm

    Well done Julian. not that Theresa May will take any notice. She’s in thrall to the same interests as the rest of the British political elite.

  • It’s time to start wrapping up the coalition. There is nothing left that Lib Dems can constructively agree on with the Tories.

  • The opening sentence — “Remember when the Tories were, briefly, a party which stuck up for individuals’ privacy? “.

    No, I do not remember any such time. The Tories have always been a bunch of censorious, interfering monsters.

    Tories have traditionally told people who they should sleep with and what religion they should follow.
    They pass regulations requiring bureaucrats to ask a thousand questions to prevent the poor receiving benefits. Fail to answer the questions correctly and it is not just your privacy that has been invaded but your income is removed whilst you are “sanctioned”. There is not much privacy in the food bank.

  • Great – so now pin her down during ministerial questions. Let us remember that Theresa May was the minister who allowed her own department to run wild to such an extent she was not even aware that she was breaking the pledge not to detain child refugees.

  • Well said!

  • Anthony Vaughan 1st Oct '14 - 8:32am

    Fantastic letter!

    Theresa May has a habbit of selecting the evidence to suit her needs and aims! JohnTilley is right, the Tories maje it so difficult to support vulnerable people. Food banks are feeding the most vulnerable in society and May et al do not care about the consequences!

    To them, they would only be happy when they can see and hear everything we do. It’s like reading Orwells 1984 when i listen to the Tories make their conference speeches.

  • Typical spy on the people but exclude yourselves, erm where iv heard of that before? RUSSIA , CHINA , North KOREA Yea sounds like a Tory / Labour plan

  • Nigel Jones 1st Oct '14 - 11:40am

    Well done Julian. This is yet another indication of the potential Julian has for leading our party. I hope we have his election in Cambridge as our number one target next May, along with that of Tim Farron.
    It is also among the indications of how our leadership have not taken the Conservatives to task enough in the public domain in the last 2 years (since the Budget of 2012); we were too afraid to risk the coalition. We now have the difficult task in a very short period of time of telling the public what we really stand for and in circumstances where so many people, including the media, are giving us much less serious attention.

  • The Tories have never ever been interested in civil liberties or personal freedom. They are obsessed with the alleged evils of The Human Rights Charter. They banned films, books and raves in the 80s and 90s. Introduced Clause 28. Still regularly try to restrict what people can see on the internet. Have been known to use anti-terrorism laws to in catchment area disputes. Introduced pre-crime at royal events to stop protesters. Kettling. . Imprisoning people for saying stupid things on face book or picking up a pair of gloves and putting them back down in a riot. And so on.

    The only time the Tories were briefly in favour of freedom was when the Lib Dem leadership. convinced themselves they were because it was convent to do so when forming the coalition. The Tories meanwhile carried on being the old establishment vested interest protectionists and curtain twitchers they always have been and will always be,

  • Julian Tisi 1st Oct '14 - 3:45pm

    Fantastic letter! Thanks Julian

  • David Pollard 3rd Oct '14 - 12:53pm

    Its very sad that Teresa May has rejoined the Nasty Party

  • Peter Chegwyn 3rd Oct '14 - 1:33pm

    Did she ever leave?

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