Queen's Speech gives details on surveillance plans

News by Dan Raywood

The Queen has confirmed that "vital communications data" will potentially be accessed, "subject to scrutiny of draft clauses".

The Queen has confirmed that "vital communications data" will potentially be accessed, "subject to scrutiny of draft clauses".

As part of the Queen's Speech at the state opening of Parliament on Wednesday, Her Majesty said the Government "intends to bring forward measures to maintain the ability of the law enforcement and intelligence agencies to access vital communications data under strict safeguards to protect the public, subject to scrutiny of draft clauses".

Also in the speech were details on the introduction of legislation to strengthen oversight of the security and intelligence agencies that will also allow courts, through the limited use of closed proceedings, to hear a greater range of evidence in national security cases.

The announcement of government plans to monitor and store the calls, emails, texts and website visits of everyone in the UK by the Home Office last month caused outrage, while details were unclear. Talking to SC Magazine, Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said he expected the surveillance plans to stand out in the Queen's Speech.

He said: “There are core decisions still to be made, around limiting the intrusion into people's privacy, to be sure it is compliant with the Data Protection Act on safeguarding people's data. We'll have to wait and see what is in the Queen's Speech and my role is to look at the details and suggest where there need to be changes.”

Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, responding to the Communications Data Bill announcement in the Queen's Speech, said: “This is a direct attack on the coalition's promise to end the storage of email data without good reason.

“Gaining access to your Facebook and Google data without court supervision is not preserving powers, it is a massive extension of the ability of a police officer to see what you are doing. It would be wide open to abuse, endangering whistleblowers and journalists' sources.

“The interception powers open a whole new can of worms. No law has ever previously claimed that people's communications data should be collected by third parties just in case. This data has never been previously collected. This bill could mark the end of the government's reputation as a force for protecting our freedom and privacy. They should scrap it now.”

Also in the Queen's Speech was a commitment to reducing and preventing crime, with details of a bill that will be introduced to establish the National Crime Agency to tackle the most serious and organised crime and strengthen border security. “The courts and tribunals service will be reformed to increase efficiency, transparency and judicial diversity,” Her Majesty said.

A statement by the British Bankers' Association said it was looking forward to the establishment of the National Crime Agency "as it aims to bring much-needed co-ordination to the fight against financial crime".

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