We've got a number of tools in our armoury [Not weapons? Ed.] - Hazel Lewis - UK government minister
THE UK GOVERNMENT has managed to rush through its data retention and Investigatory Powers (DRIP) bill in just seven days after it received royal assent on Thursday afternoon, but campaigners have already threatened legal action.
The government unveiled the bill on 10 July. It said the laws were vital to ensure its agencies could continue to access communications data from telecoms firms, after a ruling from Europe in April ruled such collection illegal.
The bill took four days to pass through debate in both the House of Commons and House of Lords, with many members of both Houses criticising the government for allowing them such a short time to see it through.
Despite this, the vast majority gave their backing, helping the bill become law on Thursday afternoon, as the House of Commons Twitter accounted noted.
The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill has received Royal Assent to become an Act of Parliament. #DRIP— House of Commons (@HouseofCommons) July 17, 2014
Home secretary Theresa May welcomed the news, claiming it was vital for the safety of the UK that the bill had become law.
"If we had not acted immediately, investigations could have suddenly gone dark overnight. Criminals and terrorists would have been able to go about their work unimpeded, and innocent lives would have been lost," she said.
"The DRIP Act will ensure the job of those who protect us does not get even more difficult and that they can maintain the use of vital powers to solve crime, save lives and protect the public from harm."
Privacy campaigners criticised the government, though, claiming they had forced the legislation through at breakneck speed in an effort to stifle any real debate over the concept of surveillance.
The Open Rights Group has already threatened legal action, with executive director Jim Killock saying the UK must adhere to European law.
"The European Court's decision was very clear: blanket data retention is unlawful and violates the right to privacy. The courts will have the final say on whether DRIP breaches human rights. And no matter what David Cameron believes, the UK has international obligations," he said.
"We're already meeting with lawyers and taking counsel's advice to work out the best way to take the government to court. We will work every other group who is willing to help. But a major legal battle like this is going to be tough. The more resources we have, the more we'll be able to do to stand up to DRIP."
One small comfort for those who opposed the law is that the House of Lords approved an amendment to bring forward the date of when the law will be repealed from 2016 to 2015. µ
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