Liblink: Paddy Ashdown says Snoopers’ Charter breaches the Coalition Deal

Writing in today’s Times, former leader Paddy Ashdown, a key ally of Nick Clegg, has condemned Government’s proposals to increase internet surveillance and warned that we must not “part company with our principles.”

He wrote:

The Government claims that it will have unfettered access only to “data” (ie, sender, recipient, time and duration) rather than content, so this does not constitute “a communications interception”. That is sophistry.

It is one of our rights as free citizens to talk to whom we wish, when we wish and wherever we wish without the State knowing about it, unless there is good cause for it to do so. It is not just the content of our communication that is private. It is the fact that it occurred at all, when and for how long. In the case of an e-mail, it would plainly reveal the whole thing from the sender through to the signature at the end.

The “content” cannot be separated from the context. For this reason it is difficult to see how these proposals do not run counter to the coalition agreement, which states: “We will end the storage of e-mail and internet records without good reason.”

The danger is not diminished because there will be no centralised state database of the sort that Labour proposed. That is largely an irrelevance. These proposals bring into existence a series of statutorily required databases held by others, in a form dictated by the State, to which the State will have unfettered access.

These dangers are not dealt with by hedging the proposals around with safeguards; or by making them subject to supervision by the Interception of Communications Commissioner. The principles here are much too big to be protected by safeguards and supervision.

You can read the article in full here (£)

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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4 Comments

  • Great stuff, the Tories need to be aware there is no option but retreating from these ideas…

  • Nick (not Clegg) 12th Apr '12 - 11:44pm

    Excellent stuff by Paddy, but why is it left to him to say this? When is the current LibDem Leader going to show some leadership ?

  • Claire Tyler 13th Apr '12 - 9:09am

    I completely agree with Paddy. As they stand these proposals are quite unacceptable. They go to the very heart of what it means to be a liberal democrat and the values we hold dear. We simply must stick to the spirit of the coalition agreement if we are to hold our heads up high.

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