Via Government web surveillance: ‘Expensive, impractical, totalitarian’ – Telegraph:

The Government’s plan to make Internet Service Providers capture personal communications data is nothing new. It was brought up under the last Labour government as the “Intercept Modernisation Programme” and received heavy criticism from the Tory party in opposition.

The article concentrates on the practicalities of recording people’s internet activity. For a more philosophical point of view about why it shouldn’t be attempted, see Sam Bowman’s Our road to serfdom. Meanwhile, the Deputy Prime Minister has made “dramatic interventions” in defence of civil liberties.

One warning came from Michael Portillo, who apparently told The Moral Maze that government routinely abuses its powers. Another may be seen in Europe’s history of oppression enabled by technology: I quoted Albert Speer’s testimony at Nuremberg in an article for Big Brother Watch.

After re-reading this Open Europe report, I wonder the extent to which the Government’s plans are directed by the EU. I am having someone check.

What is sure is that I certainly did not stand for election in order to help roll forward Labour’s surveillance state. My posts tagged 1984 and privacy demonstrate my long standing outrage at the creeping development of state intrusion in the UK.

The Coalition Agreement says in section 3:

We will implement a full programme of measures to reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties and roll back state intrusion.

That is what I expect the Government to deliver.


  1. It doesn't add up...

    I’m delighted to see you adopt this stance. I trust you will echo that in the voting lobbies should the need arise.

  2. Thank you for a great contribution to the debate. I have nothing but respect for your stance but I question your choice of headline. It’s not Labour’s surveillance state any more, is it?

    If this goes through then it’s the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour surveillance state.

    Yes, we know Labour’s authoritarianism stinks – but they’re not in office now. Using your own party’s failings as an opportunity to snipe at the Opposition looks petty and is distracting.

    I see you have indeed an excellent record of standing up for civil liberties in a digital age. This is an issue that will draw strong cross-party support. I myself am very far from being a Conservative. Making it a partisan campaign – even in a headline – is a mistake that will backfire badly I fear. The argument for people to be allowed to live their lives free from unnecessary intrusion from the state is strong enough in itself without the need to wave a party flag over it.

    The time for bashing Labour’s contempt for freedom – a contempt shared by some currently on the coalition front benches – will be when this bill is defeated not before.

    • It doesn't add up...

      I think Steve is quite right to draw attention to the fact that these laws originated with Labour, who found that a combination of public and Parliamentary opposition meant that they withdrew their planned bill, and instead foist them on us by persuading an initially shocked and reluctant Brussels to turn them into a Directive, thus effectively by-passing Parliament and democracy.

      Labour’s use of the EU in this way deserves highlighting, and the EU’s complicity is a demonstration that they are not fit to act as our effective government.

  3. Al Bolingbroke


    I’m delighted to see a Conservative MP take such a public stand on this matter. It’s heartbreaking to see the sheer level of state intrusion into peoples lives that has come of a result of 13 years of Labour Government. History shows that Britain prospers better, across all levels of income and social background when Governments stick to a laissez-faire approach on private and domestic matters and instead concentrate on providing the infra-structure, platforms and rule of law that an intelligent and morally aware population can then use to best fit the social makeup of their communities. People need to go back to being personally accountable for their actions, and parents must take ownership of their children’s social and moral development not sit back and say the government should step in. This kind of approach gives governments a platform and an excuse to start or continue the steady rumble of the busy-body state we now live in. Keep up your good, hard work. We need more MP’s like you who believe in freedom of speech and expression and the right to privacy and personal development.


  4. Too late, we are already in the Orwellian nightmare with a dash of Huxley.

    Surveillance cameras everywhere, Britons extradited to the US without evidence, economic and social data manipulated to suit government targets and propaganda, mainstream media regurgitating the same, corruption and collusion by the police and journalists for phone hacking, insolvent governments indebted to insolvent banks and vice versa in a circle jerk, cash for questions, expenses fraud, cash for dinner with the PM, turning a blind eye to the rape and removal of democracy in southern europe, bowing to unelected technocrats in the EU, planning to hyperinflate the national debt away, supporting zombie banks and manipulating the markets with QE.

    Frankly its disgusting and rotten to the core. The political class across the whole spectrum should be utterly ashamed of themselves.

    As much as I detest the man I welcome George Galloways victory in Bradford and hope it shocks the political class and the British people out of complacency but I won’t hold my breath. I suppose it will have to be the perennial street riots, violence and protests and victories for extremist parties before we actually even see a hint of real change.

    Apart from the above its all looking pretty good.

  5. Hi Steve,

    As you know I have a fairly sanguine attitude to most Westminster politics, but I was shocked and astonished that a Conservative government could even be considering such a huge erosion of civil liberties. I thought we had left this kind of thing behind with the Blair/Brown era. Good on you for making a stand.


    PS Needless to say it wouldn’t happen in an independent Scotland 😉