Last month saw the terrorist attacks in France, the worst in Europe since the 2004 Madrid train bombings. This mindless and cowardly act of violence on innocent civilians enjoying their Saturday evening brings home very clearly the need to ensure every city, town and village in our Country needs to be robustly protected against these murderous extremists. We should all be able to enjoy a meal out, a concert or just go about our normal daily lives in the knowledge we are safe.
In the past week innocent American citizens were targeted and here in the UK a lone attacker with a knife terrorised and stabbed members of the public in a tube station.
In line with the Government’s commitment to protect the UK from all forms of attack, be that from another state, terrorists or the cyber threat, a few weeks ago David Cameron announced the Government would be creating nearly 2,000 new staff for MI5, MI6 and GCHQ increasing the numbers from 12,700 to 14,600 and more money for security at UK airports. Britain already has the best Security Services in the world and these additional resources will enhance their capability and ensure they can continue to foil and prevent attacks on British soil.
The fact there have been seven foiled attempts over the last six months emphasises how important it is that the Security Services have the powers they need to carry out their investigations in order to keep us safe. This is why we have to regularly review what they are allowed to do so newer, more modern threats can be countered. For example we now live in a society which is ever more dependent on technology and the threat from cyber terrorism is growing all the time. In today’s world a terrorist with a computer and skilled in IT poses, in a different way, as big a threat as a terrorist with a bomb or a gun.
The draft Investigatory Powers Bill put before the House on 4th November will give the Security Services the powers they need to combat today’s threats. To assist the fight against terrorism as well as very serious crime in the digital age the Bill is needed in order to bring all investigatory powers available to the Police and Intelligence Agencies under one piece of legislation. We currently have a mesh of surveillance laws which overlap each other and run out in 2016, and I am sure you will agree it is important to take the opportunity to amend and update the legislation.
Our Security Services need access to as much information about those they suspect of posing a threat to our Country and way of life as possible. I know some people may have concerns with regards to the public’s privacy and the encroachment of the State on Civil Liberties, but I can reassure my constituents and readers that the draft Bill also proposes another level of scrutiny. Currently requests by the Security Services to access a person’s data are granted or refused by the Home Secretary or the Foreign Secretary. In future a decision to allow access will then have to be ratified by a panel of High Court Judges. This will be a new robust and world leading way in which to prevent abuses of the new powers and will ensure the legislation is used as ethically as possible.
Over the coming months and years our Security Services will continue to be tested, but this Conservative Government will always support them to ensure the safety of everyone in the UK.
This article was originally written for the Derby Evening Telegraph.