Sarah Teather MP (Liberal Democrat) MP for Brent East.
Entered Parliament for the first time after winning a by-election in 2003. Liberal Democrat shadow education secretary.
This MP has been contacted about the Data Retention & Investigatory Powers Bill. Her response (dated 29 July 2014) is as follows:
- Thank you very much for your email regarding the Data Retention & Investigatory Powers Bill, which I received recently.
- I fully understand your concerns about this Bill, which as you may know has now become law. As a Liberal Democrat, I care passionately about civil liberties, privacy and the need to limit abusive state surveillance.
- We have resisted and continue to resist anything that might be or give rise to a "Snooper's Charter". Whilst there is obviously a need for the police and intelligence agencies to have the tools to do the job we give them, there must also be safeguards in place to ensure these tools are very carefully controlled, appropriately used and proportionate to the threat faced.
- I fully appreciate concerns about the timetable of the Bill. However, emergency legislation was needed because if we hadn't acted now, internet and phone companies would have started deleting data and refusing to service interception warrants. This would harm the ability of our security services to bring criminals to justice and keep us safe.
- There are two important issues to remember when considering this Bill. First, the legislation is about retaining existing powers, not creating new ones. Second, it contains a significant number of new safeguards.
- One of the main reasons that the ECJ struck down the Data Retention Directive was that it contained no safeguards. When we implemented the directive, we embedded it in to a set of pre-existing laws that already included a range of safeguards and ensured that access to stored data had to be necessary, proportionate and for defined purposes. This framework complied with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), so we already applied many of the safeguards the ECJ was calling for. The Government's proposals introduce more safeguards on top of this, the most significant of which is that the legislation is time-limited. It will expire at the end of 2016 and will need further approval by Parliament to continue beyond this point.
- We have also responded to the ECJ ruling directly by including a range of new checks and balances in the technical regulations that accompany the Bill. These include oversight of data storage by the Information Commissioner, and a more flexible system that will allow for shorter retention periods than 12 months where appropriate. We are confident that these changes mean our data retention laws will be compliant with the court ruling and with the European Convention on Human Rights.
- The Liberal Democrats have also secured a further package of safeguards, including:
- Establishing a Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board based on the American model
- Further reform of the Intelligence and Security Committee
- Annual transparency reports
- Restricting the number of public bodies, like councils, that are able to approach phone and internet companies and ask for communications data
- The independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation will also carry out a review of our communications data and intercept laws. These are all important reforms.
- I'm proud that the Liberal Democrats in government, unlike previous administrations, have done much to support and defend civil liberties. We've scrapped ID cards, ended 28-day detention without charge, curtailed stop and search powers, ender routing child detention for immigration purposes, reformed the libel laws to protect free speech, and much more. If it was just down to us, we'd have made even more progress - but these reforms, and the safeguards in this new Bill, would simply not have happened without us.
- Thank you very much again for writing to me. If there is anything else I can do please do not hesitate to contact me again using the details below.
This MP has been contacted about the Digital Economy Bill. Her response is as follows:
- Thank you for your email on the Digital Economy Bill, which I received on 28 November 2009. I am very sorry for the delay in replying to you.
- I strongly share your views on this matter. The Liberal Democrats believe that for Lord Mandelson to attempt to create new offences with respect to downloading and file-sharing without proper assessment by the Commons is utterly shameless. We do not live in an autocracy, where major rules can be introduced on the whim of an unelected politician.
- I believe tackling the damaging effects of illegal file-sharing is vital, but a right and workable solution will only be possible with cooperation. Lord Mandelson's attempt to fast-track proposals to amend the 1988 Copyright Act through statutory instrument is an outrageous attempt to slip through sweeping changes with the minimum of scrutiny.
- The Bill is currently being discussed at the committee stage in teh House of Lords. I assure you the Liberal Democrats will be opposing any ill-informed policy which seeks to rashly disconnect internet users, and which consequently infringes on their rights.
- Lord Clement-Jones, Liberal Democrat Media spokesperson, has said creators must be protected from people stealing their work through illegal downloads, but exactly how the Government plans to do this must be stated sufficiently clearly.
- I hope this has been helpful. Please do not hesitate to contact me again should you require further assistance, on this or any other issue.
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Schools fingerprinting kids without parents' consent 11 April 2007
- "The government needs to respond to the concerns of parents and teachers and produce strict regulations for using this technology in schools,"
- "An awful lot of people are washing their hands of responsibility of this issue while this practice spreads unregulated."
"I believe that the collection of biometric data from young pupils without parental consent is illegal and must cease," she told The Register in a written statement. "The DfES needs to consult with parents, pupils, and local authorities. This can't be a decision made by ministers behind closed doors." 20th January 2007
17th October 2006 Teather told Teachers TV: "Fingerprinting three-year-olds to borrow library books is clearly excessive and completely over the top. There's a serious issue here. The government must take some responsibility and they must get some legal advice and issue some guidance to schools so that they know what they should and should not be doing."
4th August 2006 "The potential for misuse of this data is of great concern to me... Efforts to ascertain the extent of fingerprinting in schools have thus far been rebuffed."
Written Question Schools: Biometrics 4 June 2007
- To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills when he expects to publish guidance to schools on the use of biometric technologies.
Written Question E-learning Credits 25 January 2007
- To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills whether his Department has approved for purchase with e-learning credits technologies which would facilitate the collection of biometric data.
Sarah Teather has a page dedicated to why ID Cards are expensive, intrusive and ineffective on her website.
Signed Early Day Motion 263 Identity Cards 06 June 2005
- That this House believes that a convincing case for the introduction of compulsory biometric identity cards and a national database has not been made, that the risks involved far outweigh any discernible benefit, that the introduction of identity cards will fundamentally change the relationship between the citizen and the state, diminish personal privacy and threaten civil liberties, that the present proposals do not provide properly costed, proportionate or effective solutions to the problems they are claimed to solve; and calls upon the Government to shelve plans for their introduction.
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.
Signed Early Day Motion 179 Software in Schools 21 November 2006
- That this House congratulates the Open University and other schools, colleges and universities for utilising free and open source software to deliver cost-effective educational benefit not just for their own institutions but also the wider community; and expresses concern that Becta and the Department for Education and Skills, through the use of outdated purchasing frameworks, are effectively denying schools the option of benefiting from both free and open source software and the value and experience small and medium ICT companies could bring to the schools market.
- 2008-07-18 - Liberal Democrats - Loss of more sensitive information shows shocking incompetence
- Summary: 121 USB sticks containing sensitive information have been lost or stolen from the Ministry of Defence since 2004, including five containing information classified as 'secret'. The figures were released in response to a Parliamentary question from Liberal Democrat MP, Sarah Teather on data loss in the MoD. Commenting, Sarah Teather said: "It seems that this Government simply cannot be trusted with keeping sensitive information safe. It is frightening to think that secret MoD information can be lost or stolen." "This shows a shocking degree of incompetence across the entire Government." "When different departments are losing sensitive data left, right and centre it is no wonder that people have lost confidence in Gordon Brown and Labour." "How can they expect us to trust them to keep our personal information safe in their unnecessary and expensive ID card scheme?"
- 2007-06-04 - politics.co.uk - 'Hundreds' of schools fingerprint pupils
- Summary: Thousands of school children are potentially being fingerprinted, the Liberal Democrats claim. A survey of Local Education Authorities (LEAs) discovered 285 schools regularly fingerprint pupils and store their biometric details on record, adding the real figure could be higher. Despite this, the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) has not issued any guidance on when and how biometric data should be collected and stored. ... Lib Dem education spokeswoman Sarah Teather said: "These figures confirm an extremely worrying situation where schools are fingerprinting pupils without any guidance on whether it is legal to do so." "Insecure school computers holding precious unique personal information are a gift to identity thieves."
- 2007-06-04 - Liberal Democrates - Figures reveal hundreds of schools that fingerprint children
- Author: Sarah Teather MP
- Summary: The Liberal Democrats are urging parents to check whether their children attend one of nearly 300 schools in England that are fingerprinting pupils. A Liberal Democrat survey of Local Education Authorities (LEAs) in England has revealed that at least 285 schools are fingerprinting children, but the figure is likely to be much higher. Schools in Alan Johnson's own constituency are amongst those collecting biometric data of their pupils, without any guidance from the Government. The survey also revealed that: * Only a quarter of LEAs had details about the use of fingerprinting in schools; the Government has refused to issue guidance on the issue and has no idea how many children are being fingerprinted. * Education authorities did not have information regarding whether parental consent had been obtained in four-fifths of the schools that collect fingerprinting. * Schools are also fingerprinting pupils in the constituencies of former Education Minister David Miliband and Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott. Commenting, Liberal Democrat Shadow Education Secretary, Sarah Teather MP said: "These figures confirm an extremely worrying situation where schools are fingerprinting pupils without any guidance on whether it is legal to do so." "This is happening right under Alan Johnson's nose and he still refuses to act." "Insecure school computers holding precious unique personal information are a gift to identity thieves." "Concerned parents should write to the Government demanding that it produces strict regulations for the use of this technology in schools." "An awful lot of people are washing their hands of responsibility while this practice spreads unregulated."
- 2007-04-11 - PC Pro - Schools fingerprinting kids without parents' consent
- Author: Nicole Kobie
- Summary: As many as three-quarters of school authorities allow students' fingerprints to be held in databases - for use as identification for libraries and canteens - according to Conservative Party data. ... Liberal Democrat education spokesman Sarah Teather said the figures show a worrying state of affairs in schools. "The government needs to respond to the concerns of parents and teachers and produce strict regulations for using this technology in schools," she said in a statement. "An awful lot of people are washing their hands of responsibility of this issue while this practice spreads unregulated."
- 2007-04-09 - Liberal Democrats - Spread of fingerprinting in schools extremely worrying
- Author: Sarah Teather
- Summary: New figures showing that less than one-quarter of local education authorities have banned collecting fingerprints in school have been called "extremely worrying" today by the Liberal Democrats. The Liberal Democrats have long campaigned on this issue, recently forcing a Government u-turn that they will issue guidance to schools on the legality of fingerprinting pupils. Commenting, Liberal Democrat Shadow Education Secretary, Sarah Teather MP said: "These figures confirm the extremely worrying state of affairs where schools are fingerprinting pupils without proper guidance on whether it is legal to do so." "The Government needs to respond to the concerns of parents and teachers and produce strict regulations for using this technology in schools." "An awful lot of people are washing their hands of responsibility of this issue while this practice spreads unregulated."
- 2007-03-01 - Liberal Democrats - Scrapping of youth 'ID Card' bodes ill for national scheme
- Author: Sarah Teather
- Summary: Commenting on the Government’s announcement that it is scrapping its Youth Opportunity Card, which was seen as a forerunner of the controversial national ID card, Liberal Democrat Shadow Education Secretary, Sarah Teather MP said: "I would have thought the Government had learned its lesson from the connexions card debacle but sometimes, it seems, Ministers need telling twice." "This Government project didn’t even make it out of the starting blocks. The Government need to spend time and money getting tried and tested practices right instead of wasting money on gimmicks that never get off the ground." "Tackling bullying, recruiting expert teachers and an exciting curriculum are the ways to keep young people interested in education, not ill thought out reward schemes." "The fact that they were unable to find suitable technology to handle this relatively small scheme doesn’t bode well for success in taking forward the much larger ID cards project."
- 2007-02-15 - Security Park - Biometric system developers branded worse than thieves
- Summary: Speaking to the Sunday Express on the recent installation at Snapdragons Nursery in Bath of a biometric ‘fingerprint recognition’ door access system, Liberal Democrat Shadow Education Secretary Sarah Teather MP claimed biometric system developers were "Worse than thieves" since someone could close a bank account if their PIN was stolen, whereas biometric systems took a child’s identity for life.
- 2007-01-20 - The Register - MPs investigate school fingerprinting
- Author: Mark Ballard
- Summary: Opposition MPs have begun investigating the use of biometric scanners in UK schools and the use of funds that might otherwise be spent buying books and learning materials to buy the systems. ... Sarah Teather, shadow education secretary and MP for Brent East, asked the government whether it had given schools permission to use e-Learning credits to buy biometric scanners that took children's fingerprints. ... "I believe that the collection of biometric data from young pupils without parental consent is illegal and must cease," she told The Register in a written statement.
- 2007-01-17 - The Register - Info Commissioner: Too late to stop school fingerprinting
- Author: Mark Ballard
- Summary: So many schools are taking the fingerprints of their pupils that it's too late to do anything about it, according to the Information Commissioner. ... Smith stands by that advice, despite the growing interest from people like Nick Gibb MP and Sarah Teather MP, education spokespeople for the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats respectively, who are meeting campaigning parents this week. Parents will also meet Labour MP Tom Watston, who has supported their campaign and called for a public debate.
- 2007-01-12 - The Register - UK to review school fingerprinting
- Author: Mark Ballard
- Summary: The Department for Education and Skills is to reconsider the fingerprinting of school children after a four year campaign by parents. ... Pippa King, a lead campaigner against school fingerprinting, and David Clouter, who runs the group Leave Them Kids Alone, have meetings scheduled next week with the Libdem MP Sarah Teather, Conservative MP Nick Gibb and Labour MP Tom Watson.
- 2006-10-17 - The Register - MPs condemn school fingerprinting
- Author: Mark Ballard
- Summary: Shadow ministers for the Libdems and Conservatives have condemned schools that fingerprint children. ... Teather told Teachers TV: "Fingerprinting three year olds to borrow library books is clearly excessive and completely over the top. There's a serious issue here. The government must get some legal advice."
- 2006-10-13 - Teacher's TV News - Fingerprinting Children in Schools
- Summary: (Second item in news bulletin) John Draper reports from Cumbria where a group of parents is preparing to take court action over the issue of fingerprinting children in schools. Their solicitor says using pupils fingerprints to track library books is an infringement of their human rights and is seeking an injunction. Nick Gibb MP (Conservative Shadow Minister For Schools) and Sarah Teather MP (Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Education) condemn school biometrics.