David Cameron and Nick Clegg during a joint press conference

Emergency law to allow data retention crucial for safety

An emergency law to ensure police and security services can continue to access people's phone and Internet records is expected to be approved by the UK government at a special meeting today.

The Data Retention and Investigation Powers Bill is backed by all main parties and needed to fight "criminals and terrorists", said Prime Minister David Cameron.

The Government has been forced to act as a result of a European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling in April that a European Union data retention directive, which was implemented by Labour in 2009, was invalid because it interferes in a particularly serious manner with the fundamental right to respect for private life. According to the April ruling, communication companies would be able to start deleting data which may be used to fight terrorism.

"Unless we act now companies will no longer retain the data about who contacted who, where and when and we will no longer be able to use this information to bring criminals to justice and keep our country safe," Cameron said in a joint press conference with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

"Let me be clear, I am not talking about the content of those communications - just the fact that those communications took place - the so-called communications data. Who contacted who, when and where.”

Cameron stressed that recent events in Syria and Iraq have proved beyond any doubt that the time for relaxing any anti-terrorist measures has not come yet.

"It is the first duty of government to protect our national security and to act quickly when that security is compromised,” he said.

“The ability to access information about communications and intercept the communications of dangerous individuals is essential to fight the threat from criminals and terrorists targeting the UK."

However, he reassured the government will take steps to prevent unauthorised parties, such as communications companies, from using the data for their own purposes.

According to the IET’s Martyn Thomas, the new hasty legislation runs a risk of being inherently flawed.

“The Government has not yet published the detail of the proposed Bill, so it’s important to make sure that the draft Bill is examined and debated in detail before legislation is passed," Thomas said.

"In principle, the proposals are important for national security and law enforcement. It is essential that any intrusion into a citizen's private affairs is minimal, proportionate to the benefits to society as a whole, and properly controlled and supervised.”

The six-clause Bill is expected to be pushed through the Commons and the Lords next week after Labour signalled they would support it.

Mr Cameron said that alongside the measures on communications data, the Government would also set out a clearer framework for intercepts - where the Home Secretary signs off warrants for accessing

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