The government plans a giant database of all internet communications and phone calls. What is the Tories’ response? Their home affairs spokesman, Dominic Grieve, says he wants a debate:
Dominic Grieve has called for “a full and proper” debate over Jacqui Smith’s proposals for a major expansion in the Government’s surveillance powers. The Home Secretary told Parliament she was considering a major expansion of the Government’s ability to record which websites people visit and who they email and speak to on the telephone.
Dominic, the Shadow Home Secretary, said these proposals would mark “a substantial shift in the powers of the state” to obtain personal information – and he stressed: “Given the Government’s poor record on protecting data – and running databases – there needs to be a full and proper debate. The Government must present convincing justification for such an exponential increase in the powers of the state.”
He also warned it would be “unacceptable” if local authorities continued to use surveillance powers designed to combat terrorism and serious organised crime to investigate things like fly-tipping.
Grieve is right that this would enormously increase the power of the state. So why the need for a “debate”? I don’t need to debate whether strawberries covered in cream are better to eat than broken glass covered in diarrhea. And if Grieve had the right instincts he wouldn’t need a debate about whether vastly increasing the surveillance state is a good idea, because it manifestly isn’t.
So I think “debate” is code for “we’ll probably go along with this if we’re elected, but we don’t want to alienate our libertarian supporters”.