Three problems with William Hague's Commons statement

Problems with Hague's statements
Problems with Hague's statements
Ian Dunt By

It's hard to think of a Commons statement more intent on misleading its audience than the one William Hague offered today.

The foreign secretary is dealing with an incredibly grey area of law. Hague used bluster, confidence and force to suggest a level of checks and balances which simply does not exist.

Here are three key problems:

"To intercept the content of any individual's communications in the UK requires a warrant signed personally by me, the home secretary, or by another secretary of state."


This is only true if Hague is referring to the interception, not the communication, when he says 'in the UK'. If it is conducted by a non-UK agency there is no need for a warrant. This sentence is immensly misleading.

"Any data obtained by us from the US involving UK nationals is subject to proper UK statutory controls and safeguards, including the relevant sections of the Intelligence Services Act, the Human Rights Act and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act [Ripa]."

The problem with this statement is that there are very few, if any, relevant sections in those Acts. Ripa is by far the most precise, but it refers to interceptions by UK agencies. It does not have a legal bearing on data being provided to the UK by a foreign agency which has already been collected. Or at least, it doesn't look like it. This is murky legal area, as I said.

Finally, Hague gave no assurances about criticising the US' massive over-reach when it comes to collecting Brits' details. He may claim to be governing over the greatest system of checks and balances in the world but when presented with a foreign state spying on UK citizens, he did nothing.

For all his sound and fury, the foreign secretary still has plenty of questions to answer. Let's hope Labour holds him to them.

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