Parliament accused of turning "blind eye" to surveillance issues

Tom Watson MP lambasts coalition government and shadow cabinet for failing to address surveillance issues.

Parliament

Parliament has been accused of turning a blind eye to the emergence of surveillance programmes that keep tabs on UK citizens by Labour MP Tom Watson.

Speaking at a fringe event last night at the Labour Party Conference, Watson took aim at the coalition and shadow cabinet for failing to arrest the development of the UK surveillance state.

Parliamentary scrutiny hasn't just failed. It doesn't exist.

"The surveillance state is running amok and Parliament has absolutely failed," he said.

His words follow on from a summer of revelations about the surveillance programmes being used to monitor the online activities of British and American citizens.

In this time, Watson has regularly spoken out about the importance of preserving the privacy rights of UK residents, having chaired a House of Commons debate on the subject earlier in the summer.

During his speech at the event, which was organised by privacy campaigners the Open Rights Group and Big Brother Watch, Watson expressed his dismay that no party leader had sought to address the issue.

"We're living in the most closed system of liberal democracy in the Western world. We have the most unaccountable intelligence services," he said.

"Parliamentary scrutiny hasn't just failed. It doesn't exist.

"I can't think what any party leader has said about this. That's an absolute disgrace. This is a callous denial of our freedom," Watson added.

He then went on to hit out at the Intelligence and Security Committee, the body responsible for overseeing the activities of UK surveillance bodies.

"We have to say we're not going to put up with this and build a cross-party coalition to make the intelligence services accountable for once and for all and provide oversight of a surveillance state running amok," he added.

This view was backed by Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, who called for intelligence agencies to be more open about their activities.

"How we govern data isn't fit for the internet age. Parliament need to drag the intelligence agencies into the open. Secrecy cannot be justified to simply prevent embarrassment," he said.

"We've been telling the world to do one thing while doing a completely different thing ourselves."

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