The Tour de France was a stunning success for Leeds and for the wonders of Yorkshire. The Headrow was heaving with spectators from first thing on Saturday morning and I’ve never seen the city centre so crowded. The organisers of the Tour de France were bowled over by the enthusiastic welcome the riders received everywhere they went, and Yorkshire has never had a better advertisement for its many wonders and charms! We should once again say a big thank you to Gary Verity of welcome to Yorkshire, Keith Wakefield and Tom Riordan from Leeds City Council, all of the other councils that backed the bid and all of those who worked so hard to make it so successful. Someone said to me on Saturday “This is what you get when you devolve power”. How true that is.
Last Friday I went to visit a property that Canopy Housing is doing up in Beeston. They work to bring empty properties back into use and the prospective tenants have to do a certain amount of work on the property before they move in. The scheme is going really well, and I wish Steve Hoey and his colleagues all the best.
This week in Parliament we have been debating the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill. The Bill has been put forward following a recent judgement by the European court of justice which ruled illegal the current law which requires telephone and Internet companies to keep data for at least 12 months. This is not the content of our telephone calls or what we put in a text or an email, but the fact that we have sent a text or an email or made a call to another address at what time. This information is really important in dealing with missing persons, tackling paedophiles who exchange images online, identifying terrorist plots and in other serious criminal cases. I know that there is real concern about the balance between privacy and public protection, but it seems to me reasonable to have legislated to put the law back where it was before the court case because the interests of justice and public safety are served by this measure.
The second part of the bill deals with interception of communications – i.e. bugging people’s telephones. Just as in the first case, a warrant is always required in order to do this but there are circumstances in which – I think we would all accept – where it is the right thing to do to prevent a serious crime. The problem here is that some foreign-based providers of telephone and internet services have been querying whether they are required to comply with warrants issued in respect of people who are here in the UK. If we accept that there is a need on occasion to listen in to people, then it doesn’t really make much sense to have a situation where a suspect using a UK based server can be bugged the one with a foreign server can’t.
It was for both of these reasons that I voted in favour of the bill, but we did add significant safeguards including a review of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and we forced the government to agree that the information Commissioner will monitor the implementation of these arrangements every six months. These are very important safeguards and will allow us to review the way which the law is working after we’ve looked at all the evidence. This is a much better arrangement then just making the current bill lapse in December. Many constituents have contacted me about this matter and I am in the process of replying to all of them. I thought it right to set out my views but I also respect those who take a different view.
On Friday I will be appearing on Any Questions from Rutland. You never know what questions are going to come up, but the secret of success is to have done your best to anticipate. So I shall be heading off there with a very long list.