David Winnick MP

David Winnick MP (Labour) MP for Walsall North

Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill

My right hon. Friend Mr Straw said that the security services are far better than they were many years ago. That is because over many years and particularly in the ’70s and ’80s, there were campaigns both inside and outside the House for proper scrutiny of the security services, so I think we can take some credit for the improvement.

As to the Bill before us, the European Court of Justice set out in what I consider to be a wise decision 10 principles that have already been mentioned and need to be emphasised. What it did not do was say that the data retention carried out under the 2006 EU directive was wrong in itself. That it was necessary to have such data retention was not in question. What the Court did say was that certain circumstances should be recognised when directives are given to internet companies and that these needed to be related to a particular threat to public security, a particular time and a particular geographical area. In my view, that is absolutely right.

What the Government have done is to say, “Well, we do not agree with it, and to show that, we are going to bring in a Bill that simply legislates on the basis of the very factors that the ECJ said were wrong.” I see no reason to disagree with the ECJ. I see no reason why the 10 principles set out by the Court should not be enshrined in British legislation, but that is not happening. What will happen if this Bill is passed is that we will carry on as normal, regardless of the ECJ. It would be just the same, except for certain words being added and the sort of extension that can be seen in clause 4. What sort of reaction to the ECJ is that? It is understandable why so many of us—yes, a minority, but a significant number—have such reservations. I hope that further consideration will be given to what is happening.

The very fact that this measure is being rushed through in one day denies the opportunity—certainly for the Home Affairs Committee and for other appropriate Committees, too—to scrutinise it properly. If there were ever a measure that required detailed scrutiny by the relevant Committees, it is this one, yet any scrutiny that takes place will be post-legislation. That is not a wise course for us to follow.

To me, if not to others, this makes a mockery of what Parliament should be doing. When Labour was in office, the Conservative party was highly critical of its legislation on various matters—pre-charge detention, identity cards and so forth—and claimed that it would be the champion

of civil liberties. There is not much evidence of that in any way, shape or form. The Home Secretary ought to recognise that there must be quite a lot of disappointment —not among Labour Members, because we did not expect any better, but among those people in the country who thought that a Conservative Government would follow a path that really respected civil liberties.

In a forceful speech, my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary said that we needed to establish the right balance between civil liberties and security. I could not agree more. None of us who are critical minimise for one moment the acute terrorist threat to our country. We recognise the need for the security services. We recognise that there are evil people who want to do the maximum damage to others in this country. We would have no illusions even if there had been no 7/7, and the crimes and atrocities that that were committed nine years ago had not occurred. However, I do not believe that we have arrived at the right balance, although I hope that we shall do so in due course.

Freedom of Information

A leading opponent of the controversial bid to exempt MP's from the Freedom of Information Act. The Guardian reports in MPs back 'squalid' curbs on FoI 18 May 2007

"I believe it is wrong. I believe it is against the interest of parliament. I believe we are in danger of bringing ourselves into disrepute."
"The House of Commons should set an example to the country of honesty and integrity, not find some squalid little way in order to get out of the law."

Co-sponsor of Early Day Motion 80 Freedom of Information Act 2000 14 May 2013 That this House notes that the Government is proposing to make it easier for public authorities to refuse Freedom of Information requests on cost grounds in order to prevent disproportionate use of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 by some requesters; expresses concern that requests by those making moderate use of the legislation will also be more easily refused under the proposals; is particularly concerned at the proposal that the time which authorities spend considering whether to release information should be taken into account when calculating whether the cost limit has been reached; further notes that this proposal was expressly rejected by the Justice Committee in its post-legislative review of the Act; believes that this proposal will penalise requests raising new or complex issues which will inevitably require substantial time to consider; observes that the Government's objective will in any case be achieved following recent decisions of an Upper Tribunal that requests which involve a disproportionate, manifestly unjustified, inappropriate or improper use of the Act can be refused as vexatious; and calls on the Government not to proceed with its proposals.

Signed Early Day Motion 2699 Freedom of Information 10 December 2006

That this House welcomes the finding of the Constitutional Affairs Committee (HC991) that the Freedom of Information Act has `already brought about the release of significant new information and....this information is being used in a constructive and positive way' and the committee's conclusion that it sees `no need to change' the Act's charging arrangements; views with concern reports that the Government is considering changing these arrangements to permit an application fee to be charged for all requests or to allow authorities to refuse, on cost grounds, a significant proportion of requests which they currently must answer; and considers that such changes could undermine the Act's benefits of increased openness, accountability and trust in the work of public authorities.

Identity cards

House of Commons debate Identity Cards 16 January 2006

May I suggest to my right hon. Friend, in the friendliest way possible, that it might be useful if the Cabinet looked again at the whole issue of identity cards in view of the growing concern about not only the cost, but the database, about which, unlike other databases that he has mentioned, the Information Commissioner has issued a very clear warning over privacy and civil liberties? As regards the previous question, is it not a fact that the last leader of the Tory party was very keen on identity cards?


2007-05-18 - The Guardian - MPs back 'squalid' curbs on FoI
Author: Hélène Mulholland
Summary: MPs today backed a controversial bid to exempt themselves from the Freedom of Information Act - a move described by opponents as "squalid". ... Senior Labour MP David Winnick (Walsall North), a leading opponent, condemned the proposed changes as a "squalid" measure. "I believe it is wrong. I believe it is against the interest of parliament. I believe we are in danger of bringing ourselves into disrepute." "The House of Commons should set an example to the country of honesty and integrity, not find some squalid little way in order to get out of the law."
2005-10-18 - BBC - ID card vote: rebel Labour MPs
Summary: Twenty-one Labour MPs voted against the government on the introduction of ID cards, slashing the government's majority to 32. David Winnick was one of those MPs.
2005-06-29 - BBC - MPs narrowly back ID cards plan
Summary: Ministers have won a Commons vote over their controversial ID cards plan but their majority was cut from 67 to 31. ... During the debate, Labour MP David Winnick said he questioned ministers' judgement in bringing the bill forward and whether they had considered all its implications.
2004-11-25 - The Guardian - Ministers hope to win ID cards fight with help of Tory splits
Author: Patrick Wintour
Summary: ID cards are seen as the blockbuster bill for the coming session, with the Liberal Democrats and some Labour libertarians deeply opposed. ... MPs including Neil Gerrard, Mick Clapham, Lynne Jones and David Winnick have recently criticised aspects of the bill, and as many as 40 Labour MPs have expressed doubts about it.