This week the British government, with the collusion of the so-called opposition, will be attempting to railroad the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill (DRIP) through Parliament as emergency legislation. This is deeply illiberal legislation and I’ve written about it this morning to my MP, Stephen Williams.

My email is reproduced below.

Dear Mr Williams

I am writing to you as your constituent to express my deep concerns about the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers (DRIP) Bill due to be rushed through both Houses of Parliament this week.

Firstly, it is my understanding that the government is describing it as emergency legislation. This is a misnomer: there is no emergency at least as far as the alleged terrorist threat is concerned; according to the MI5 website (https://www.mi5.gov.uk/home/the-threats/terrorism/threat-levels.html#history), the terrorism threat level has remained the same for the last 4 years! In the light of that information, 4 years seems like a tardy response to a so-called emergency. Any legislation – including alleged emergency legislation needs proper scrutiny by MPs, peers and civil society. It would appear that the UK has learned nothing from the idiocies that came in the wake of earlier ’emergency’ legislation, such as the Official Secrets Act of 1911, which dogged the rest of the 20th century.

Secondly, the European Court of Justice recently ruled blanket data retention – as implemented by the European Data Retention Directive and the respective domestic legislation enacted as a consequence thereof – incompatible with human rights legislation. Any new legislation should comply with that judgement. DRIP is just an attempt by the UK government to sidestep that ruling. If enacted, I fully foresee civil society groups fighting DRIP all the way through the UK courts and all the way up to the ECJ. Furthermore, the latter ruling against DRIP would have the unintended consequence of giving the UK’s large tribe of Eurosceptics and Europhobes yet more ammunition to stir up anti-European sentiment.

Thirdly, the UK has an obligation to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights, of which it is a signatory and which the UK we should uphold as an example internationally, particularly as the UK was a prime mover for its initial drafting.

Fourthly, I understand that the Prime Minister has promised a review of RIPA as a concession to get MPs to approve the legislation; this is an inadequate sop to the back benches and as such should be rejected.

Finally, I would like to mention the fact that I am nearly 60 years old. In all that time I have never been convicted of any criminal act, arrested or detained by the police, i.e. I’m of previous good character. Blanket surveillance of the communications of the entire UK population makes them every single member of the population a suspect: it throws doubt on their previous good characters. Blanket communications surveillance has not failed to stop foolish young people disappearing off to the Middle East as jihadists; it has to the best of my knowledge likewise failed to stop some serious crimes being committed. If the police and/or security services wish to search my home, they need a warrant. They should require the same to interfere with my communications.

I trust you will look seriously upon my concerns.

Yours sincerely
Steve Woods

I would urge you to contact your MP today on DRIP. You can find his/her identity (if unknown) via the excellent WriteToThem. In addition, the Open Rights Group provides some excellent guidance for your letter.

DRIP is a most appropriate acronym. It’s the sound made by falling water: falling water causes erosion and this Bill seriously erodes civil liberties, as well as showing utter contempt for the European Court of Justice.

Meanwhile Paul Bernal calls the government’s course of action a “shabby process for a shady law“.

Quite.