Election 2017: Lib Dems pledge to scrap ‘Orwellian’ bulk surveillance powers

Written by Rebecca Hill on 16 May 2017 in News
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Liberal Democrats say they will repeal controversial Investigatory Powers Act - as Labour calls for ‘proportionate’ controls

Alistair Carmichael said the Investigatory Powers Act was 'straight out of an Orwellian nightmare' - Photo credit: PA

The Liberal Democrats have said that their manifesto will include a proposal to scrap the Investigatory Powers Act, which was passed into law in November 2016.

The act - also known as the Snoopers’ Charter - grants new powers to intelligence agencies and police in the UK to carry out bulk collection and storage of data on individuals, and can force internet companies to retain people’s browser histories for up to a year.

It has been roundly criticised by privacy campaigners, who have said it is draconian in its measures, while the Liberal Democrats spoke out against the bill while it was passing through parliament.


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The party has now said that rolling back the act will be one of its manifesto commitments, with Alistair Carmichael - who is standing for re-election in Orkney and Shetland - saying that it is a “full frontal assault on our privacy and civil liberties”.

He said: “The security services need to be able to keep people safe, but these powers are straight out of an Orwellian nightmare. They have no place in an open and democratic society, will cost billions of taxpayers’ money and simply will not work.”

A Lib Dem statement described the act as the “pre-internet equivalent of hiring a private investigator to follow every person in the UK and record their movements, on the grounds that it may be useful at some point in the next year”.

Meanwhile, Labour’s manifesto, which has been published today (16 May), also makes a commitment to balancing investigatory powers with the need for civil liberties, but makes no specific mention of the Act or plans to reform or repeal it.

In the short section on security and counter terrorism, Labour said it would “always” provide security agencies with the right amount of resource and powers they needed, but that it would “ensure that such powers do not weaken our individual rights or civil liberties”.

The manifesto added: “When – as they sometimes will – these aims collide, the exercise of investigatory powers must always be both proportionate and necessary. We will reintroduce effective judicial oversight over how and when they are used, when the circumstances demand that our collective security outweighs an individual freedom.”

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