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Minister slams RIP objections as ‘ill founded’

Feminists and pro-fox hunters unite in opposition

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Home Office Minister Charles Clarke has labelled concerns over the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) bill from an alliance of 50 UK organisations "ill founded".

In the ongoing daily media circus that RIP seems to have become, the Home Office Minister has written to The Daily Telegraph denying that the authorisation measures the bill would bring with it would be inadequate.

Clarke's comments, expected to appear in tomorrow's edition of the Telegraph, include: "The Bill is an important one which does not substantially increase the powers available to the law enforcement and security agencies but will make the UK a better and safer place to live for all."

The letter continues: "Particularly, the allegation that the oversight and authorisation measures are wholly inadequate is badly wrong. The Bill is drafted tightly specifically to ensure that the use of all the powers is controlled and regulated with full regard to the European Convention on Human Rights. That is one of the primary drivers of the Bill."

Clarke's correspondence was a response to an open letter signed by around 50 UK organisations that was delivered to the House of Lords today - in time to catch the final discussion stage on RIP.

The open letter, which united such strange bedfellows as Feminists Against Censorship and The Countryside Alliance, aimed to stop RIP in its tracks. Consumer and business groups also put their names to the letter, along with medical organisations - such as The Royal College of General Practitioners - and Internet groups.

"We are deeply concerned that the bill will inhibit the development of the Internet and e-commerce, while creating a range of onerous and unfair impositions on individuals, organisations and companies," it stated.

The alliance went on to warn that, whereas the bill gives more power to law enforcement and security agencies, "it provides wholly inadequate measures for authorisation and oversight".

The letter, which was not asking for amendments but actually urged the government to totally withdraw the bill, followed threats from ISPs to abandon the UK if RIP goes ahead. This week, ClaraNet, GreenNet and Poptel have all warned they will move their email services overseas.

Clarke's letter claimed that these "correspondents [sic] concern about the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill is ill founded".

The full text of the open letter, plus a list of signatories, can be found here. ®

Check out our coverage of the RIP Bill here

Charles Clarke's letter to The Telegraph:

12 July 2000

Your correspondents concern about the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill is ill founded.

The Bill is an important one which does not substantially increase the powers available to the law enforcement and security agencies but will make the UK a better and safer place to live for all. We need to ensure that vicious crimes such as drug dealing, people smuggling, money laundering and paedophilia are aggressively and effectively contested.

Particularly, the allegation that the oversight and authorisation measures are wholly inadequate is badly wrong. The Bill is drafted tightly specifically to ensure that the use of all the powers is controlled and regulated with full regard to the European Convention on Human Rights. That is one of the primary drivers of the Bill. Considerable care has been taken to ensure that the Bill is ECHR compliant.

I believe all the serious commentators with whom we have engaged recognise the importance of and necessity for such a Bill. We have made some significant changes during its Parliamentary passage precisely because we know we have to work in partnership with industry to ensure the Bill has the right kind of impact. We are committed to continuing and developing that partnership regardless of the concerns printed on your pages.

Charles Clarke

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