Monday June 26, 2006 David Cameron's speech.
- Sceptical about some of the new powers for government in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.
- Reiterated that the Conservatives are strongly opposed to Labour's plans for ID cards.
- Has problems with the Human Rights Act.
- Proposes a British Bill of Rights and says he wants to make the bill extremely hard to amend or repeal.
The Conservatives were strongly opposed to Labour's plans for ID cards whilst in opposition. After the 2010 election the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition announced that it would scrap the National Identy Card scheme and subsequently did so for most individuals living in the UK through the Identity Documents Act 2010. However some foreign nationals from outside the EU remain obliged to have an ID card as a proof of legal residency.
History of opposition to identity cards
2006-10-01 David Cameron MP "ID cards are wrong, they're a waste of money, and we will abolish them."
David Davis MP "The Home Secretary likes to brag about customer satisfaction with the UK Passport Agency. This first instalment of the plastic poll tax that is the ID card system will completely undermine that."
2006-06-26 David Cameron "we strongly oppose Labour's plans for ID cards. This is a measure that fails on every count. It would impose a burden on citizens and intrude upon their privacy. Yet it would do little to protect them from harm."
Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA)
During the 2010 Election Campaign, the Conservative party stated that if elected:
We will reform the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), which regulates police surveillance, so that authorisation is not needed in straightforward cases. At the same time, we will take steps to prevent the misuse of surveillance powers by local authorities.
After the election, the Conservative Home Secretary launched a review of counter terrorism legislation which amongst other things covered "use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 by local authorities, and access to communications data in general". The review was carried out by the Liberal Democrat peer and former director of public prosecutions Lord Ken Macdonald.
In January 2011, the Home Secretary announced that the key RIPA related recommendations from the review were:
- the end to the use of the most intrusive RIPA powers used by local authorities to investigate low level offences.
- a new requirement that all applications by local authorities to use any RIPA techniques are approved by a magistrate.
- a commitment to rationalise the legal basis by which communications data can be acquired and, as far as possible, to limit that to RIPA.
Conservative Statements about RIPA
2006-06-26 David Cameron "We were sceptical about some of the new powers for government in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act."
2006-05-10 Bob Spink MP (Mole Valley) (Con) brought forward a motion to increasing the sentence up to ten years for suspected paedophiles who withheld encryption keys because for a paedophile the alternative penalty, if the information was turned over, would often be five years or more and, frequently, having to go on the sex offenders list. The government said they liked the idea and that it was time to activate Part 3 of the act but that there should be a consultation first, Bob Spink agreed and withdrew the motion.
Computer Misuse Act (CMA)
The late Conservative Lord The Earl of Northesk (member of the All Party Parliamentary Internet Group) campaigned over a period of years for reform of the Computer Misuse Act 1990. In 2006 he tried to introduce the concept of recklessness and intention to the Computer Misuse Act portion of the Police and Justice Bill 2006 so that legitimate political protests that slowed down servers were not criminalised as Denial-of-service attacks. He also unsuccessfully attempted to delete a clause criminalising the release of computer tools "likely to be used" for computer offenses on the grounds that it could be used to prosecute legitimate network monitoring tools and the disclosure of software vulnerabilities.
The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, has said that the Internet must not be "stifled by government control or censorship" and that "nothing would be more fatal or self-defeating than the heavy hand of state control on the Internet, which only thrives because of the talent of individuals and of industry within an open market for ideas and innovation".
In contrast, recent media reports suggest that the Prime Minister intends to introduce compulsory measures to regulate access to online pornography. Ostensibly aimed at parents, Internet Service Providers and computer vendors would be required to ask new users whether they have children. Those who answer yes will be required to consider installing anti-pornography filters of optional strictness. The measures go further than the recommendations from Reg Bailey, head of the Mother's Union, who was asked by ministers to look into the matter.
The Conservative MP Claire Perry has previously called for compulsory age checks to access adult material and blocking of adult material except for those who ask to opt-in to access it. She has also called for the internet to be regulated like television.
In opposition, the Conservatives opposed the previous Labour Government's Intercept Modernisation Programme which would have required ISPs and other communication providers to retain logs of calls, emails and text messages.
However the draft Communications Data Bill published in June 2012 by the Home Secretary contains similar but more wide ranging proposals, obliging telecoms firms to start storing details of communications sent via social media, webmail, VOIP and within online games, as well as emails and phone calls. The time, length, originator and recipient of communications will be stored but not the message content without a warrant.
Conservative MPs who oppose the bill include David Davis who has described it as "incredibly intrusive", noting that "the only people who will avoid this are the actual criminals, because there are ways around this - you use an Internet cafe, you hack into somebody's wi-fi, you use what's called proxy servers, and they are just the easy ways".
In an interview with  Dominic Raab MP said that:
"The proposals in part two of the Data Communications Act for filtering arrangements and data mining and attempt to draw inference and patterns and trends from lots of our personal information and make judgements or assumptions or pre-judgements, about every innocent citizen as well as the guilty ones, I think that is a real sobering development well beyond qualitatively anything we’ve seen until this point.
I also think there are ways in which the Bill can be salvaged. [But] I wouldn’t lose any sleep if it was canned. We could do much more with the estimated £2 billion worth of money."
The Conservatives objected to the DNA data base created by the previous Government and in particular the practice of retaining the details of people not convicted of any crime calling for a parliamentary vote on whether details of people who were innocent or not charged should be included against their wishes. Damian Green then shadow Home Affairs spokesman said:
"We do have concerns about the Government including on the database the DNA and fingerprints of completely innocent people. More than 100,000 law-abiding citizens have been added to the database since last year even though they have not been charged with a crime." "We need a proper public debate about whether we should be building up such a huge database. If the Government wants a database which has the details of everyone, not just criminals, they should be honest about it and not construct it by stealth."
The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 introduced by Home Secretary Theresa May, includes provisions for the removal of DNA and fingerprint records for some people such as those arrested but not convicted of minor offences. The bill has been criticised by some Conservatives such as Steve Baker (who served on the bill committee) for not going far enough.
Human Rights Act / British Bill Of Rights
As Leader of the Opposition, David Cameron, vowed to repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a 'Bill of Rights', arguing in 2006 that:
- "A modern British Bill of Rights needs to define the core values which give us our identity as a free nation."
- "It should spell out the fundamental duties and responsibilities of people living in this country both as citizens and foreign nationals."
- "And it should guide the judiciary and the Government in applying human rights law when the lack of responsibility of some individuals threatens the rights of others."
- "It should enshrine and protect fundamental liberties such as jury trial, equality under the law and civil rights."
- "And it should protect the fundamental rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights in clearer and more precise terms."
As part of the coalition agreement following the 2010 General Election the Conservatives agreed to "establish a commission to investigate the creation of the British Bill of Rights that incorporates and builds on all our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, ensures that these rights continue to be enshrined in British law, and protects and extends British liberties." The Commission is due to report by the end of 2012.
Conservatives MEPs normally deferred to Malcolm Harbour on IP decisions. He is pro Software Patents. Not all MEPs followed him on this issue. This issue is not black and white as Malcolm publicly says he is only in favour of Software Patents when used in industrial situations but the consensus is that his voting pattern was in favour of all software patents.
NHS National Programme for IT
Richard Bacon MP for South Norfolk called for the NPfIT to be scrapped. "The billions of pounds already spent could have been used to run 10 district general hospitals for a year," he told the Observer. "Now it is clear that patient safety and public health could be at risk. It is time to halt this programme before things get worse."
Children's Digital Rights
The Times report in Child database under threat after security fiasco 23 November 2007
- The Conservatives have demanded the immediate suspension of a new government electronic database containing personal details of all 11 million children in England.
2006-10-01 David Cameron MP
- And then perhaps the greatest challenge of all. The challenge of bringing up children in a world that often seems fraught with risk and danger. There is nothing that matters more to me than the safety and happiness of my family. Of course it's right that government should be on parents' side. But Labour take it way too far. A national database of every child. ...
Conservatives web site
- David Cameron
- Boris Johnson MP for Henley on Thames
- David Davies MP for Monmouth
- James Cleverly Not currently an MP, Lewisham East
- 2006-07-03 - July Summer Reception with leading Conservative Parliamentarians
- Where: House of Commons terrace
- When: 18:30 to 21:00
- Cost: £30