Matthew Offord MP

Communications Data Bill

Matthew Offord wrote this response to a constituent's letter:

Thank you for contacting me about the draft communications data bill.
Communications data is vital for the police in their fight against crime, including serious offences such as child abuse, drug dealing and terrorism. I believe the measures in the Draft Bill are necessary to protect the public and investigate crime – and that is the only reason for which they should be used.
I have studied the draft Communications Data Bill carefully because it is imperative that we get the balance right between upholding civil liberties and the right to privacy and protecting the public by maintaining the ability of the intelligence and law enforcement agencies to access vital communications data in an ever more dangerous world.
I know some argue that it is not clear that these laws will catch any more criminals. Communications data has played a role in 95 per cent of all serious organised crime investigations and every major Security Service counter-terrorism operation over the last decade. As the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police has said recently, communications data has ‘provided crucial evidence in a high proportion of prosecutions for serious crimes.’ At present, 25 per cent of communications data required by the police and agencies can no longer be acquired because the relevant data is not available at the necessary quality and timeliness – we need to halt and reverse this.
I do not agree the every citizen of the UK is being made a suspect. The draft legislation provides the police and others with no new powers to intercept and read emails and phone calls. It does not weaken current safeguards or checks in place to protect private correspondence. What it does allow is the police and intelligence services to access this contextual information on the internet in the same way as they can currently access it via telephone records. I am pleased to hear that, under no circumstances will these proposals authorise the interception and storage of the content of a communication – what was written in an email or said over the telephone. That will always require a warrant signed by the Secretary of State.
As you may be aware, a joint committee of both Houses is conducting pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill. It is taking oral and written evidence and will, on the basis of that, make recommendations in a report to both Houses. The Joint Committee is inviting interested organisations and individuals to submit written evidence as part of the inquiry, further details can be found at the following link: Please do submit your points to the Committee.
I welcome the process of pre-legislative scrutiny to ensure that we get the balance right between protecting the public and upholding civil liberties and will be following the progress of the bill very closely.
Yours sincerely,

Member of Parliament for Hendon
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA