LONDON, July 10 Britain said on Thursday it
would rush through emergency legislation to force telecoms
companies to retain the data of users for a year, saying the
move was vital to protect national security following a decision
by Europe's top court.
Communication companies had been required to retain data for
12 months under a 2006 European Union directive which was thrown
out by the European Court of Justice in April.
The scrapping of the directive could deprive police and
intelligence agencies of access to information about who
customers contacted by phone, text or email, and where and when,
the British government said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said the emergency
legislation would restore this capability and enshrine it in
law, ensuring investigations would not be hampered and giving
protection to the telecom firms from possible legal challenges.
However, he stated the measure would not give the
authorities any new powers to access Britons' personal data or
the content of their calls or emails, a hugely controversial
issue which has already led to one proposed law being ditched in
the wake of privacy concerns.
"No government introduces fast track legislation lightly.
But the consequences of not acting are grave," Cameron said in a
"I want to be very clear that we are not introducing new
powers or capabilities - that is not for this Parliament. This
is about restoring two vital measures ensuring that our law
enforcement and intelligence agencies maintain the right tools
to keep us all safe."
The emergency security legislation, which has the support of
all three major parties, will include a termination clause
meaning it will expire in 2016 meaning lawmakers will have to
look at the measures in detail again before then.
(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)