Two MPs have been given the green light to legally challenge the Government over the introduction of controversial legislation which gives police and security services access to people’s phone and internet records.
The judicial review action brought by Conservative former shadow home secretary David Davis and Labour backbencher Tom Watson centres on the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (Dripa).
The Act was rushed through Parliament in just three days in July with the backing of all three major party leaders.
Backed by civil rights group Liberty, the MPs are seeking a declaration from the High Court that the Act is not compatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to a private life.
Today, Mr Justice Lewis, sitting in London, gave them permission to bring the case, which means there will be a full hearing at a date to be fixed.
Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg have said that the accelerated passage of Dripa through Parliament was necessary because of an emergency created by a ruling in April by the European Court of Justice, which they said would have the effect of denying police and security services access to vital data about phone and email communications.
They insisted that the Act would simply maintain existing powers, which required communications companies to retain data for 12 months for possible investigation, but do not allow police or security agencies to access the content of calls or emails without a warrant.
Mr Davis said in a statement: “While it is disappointing that the courts, rather than Parliament, are in this case acting as the defender of our civil liberties, it is nonetheless a vindication of our constitutional checks and balances that the courts have seen fit to review the flawed decision by the Government to force emergency legislation through Parliament with serious consequences for everyone’s privacy in response to a manufactured emergency.
“The courts will now consider whether Dripa disproportionately infringes on our fundamental right to privacy.
“Given that the Court of Justice of the European Court has already been very clear that that blanket data retention is an unnecessary and disproportionate breach of our civil liberties, there is a distinct possibility that the Government will find its legislation to be in conflict (with) European law.
“This is particularly notable since the original law was a European Directive, largely drawn up and driven by the previous Labour government. This directive has now been struck down.
“The Government, in conjunction with our security services, have for too long demanded the steady erosion in our civil liberties, supposedly in exchange for greater security, while instead delivering less safety and less freedom.
“I hope that the Government will take time to consider the implications of continuing down this path, and will take this opportunity to reconsider their counter-terrorism strategy.”