RIPA rip-off – the latest on the Surveillance State

Under FOI, the latest disclosures in the Guardian about the workings of the notorious Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA).

Sir Christopher Rose, the Chief Surveillance Commissioner, was particularly critical of Defra. In a letter to Helen Ghosh, the department’s most senior official, he said that his findings from one inspection made “lamentable reading”. He found it impossible to discover which senior officials were in charge of making sure the surveillance powers were used lawfully and found the department had not properly authorised the use of undercover officials who were seeking to prevent the illegal importation of live fish.

Tracking devices were attached to vehicles in a bid to monitor the disposal of waste, after the Environment Agency received apparently incorrect advice from the Home Office

But whatever he says now, David Cameron won’t be protecting essential rights if he introduces a new British Bill which alters the essentials of the Human Rights Act, which domesticated the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Tory leader in a written statement for today’s Convention on Modern Liberty promises that a Conservative government would replace the Human Rights Act with a British bill of rights to “better tailor, but also strengthen, the protection of our core rights.”

The Constitution Unit says: “The two main parties remain wary ofthe HRA. However neither is likely to depart from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). For both parties if for different reasons, a Bill of Rights and Responsibilities may yet become the instrument to embed a rights culture in the fertile soil of the British constitution and civil liberties tradition.

BTW, the draft Northern Ireland HR Bill is said to be emerging soon. Has anyone got as squint at it yet? So far, I’ve drawn a blank. Hopefully we’ll hear more after today’s Convention on Modern Liberty, ( Queen’s session).

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London