The Conservative Party has pledged to re-introduce a Communications Data Bill in its election manifesto, unveiled today by Conservative Party leader David Cameron.
“We will keep up to date the ability of the police and security services to access communications data – the ‘who, where, when and how’ of a communication, but not its content,” the Conservative Party pledged on page 64 of its 83-page manifesto.
It continued: “Our new communications data legislation will strengthen our ability to disrupt terrorist plots, criminal networks and organised child grooming gangs, even as technology develops. We will maintain the ability of the authorities to intercept the content of suspects’ communications, while continuing to strengthen oversight of the use of these powers.”
The pledge – a promise to re-introduce the rejected Communications Data Bill – was made in the manifesto directly after promises to “reject any suggestions of sweeping, authoritarian measures that would threaten our hard-won freedoms”.
The Conservatives went on to promise to “outlaw” groups that “foment hate” with the introduction of “banning orders” for “extremist organisations”. However, these banning orders would apply to “dangerous organisations” that “fall short of the existing thresholds for proscription under terrorism legislation”.
On top of that, “extremism disruption orders” would be introduced to act as injunctions against particular behaviour against certain people that the state regards as dangerous – but who don’t meet the threshold required of anti-terrorism laws.
“These new powers might, for instance, prevent those who are seeking to radicalise young British people online from using the internet or communicating via social media,” explained the manifesto.
However, the extremism disruption orders, which were trailed by the-then Home Secretary Theresa May last autumn, have been widely criticised as a potential attack on free speech that could be used against people critical of government policy on a wide range of measures. “When the government extends its remit to include the prevention of views, it is time to worry,” argued an editorial in The Spectator.
The Conservatives also promised to make it possible for employers to check whether staff and prospective staff are “an extremist”, enabling them to bar them from working with children.
The launch of the Conservative Party manifesto today comes a day after the opposition Labour Party unveiled its manifesto, which promised faster and more reliable broadband. The election will be held on Thursday 7th May.