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Britain to pass emergency data surveillance laws

An emergency data law is being passed in the UK to allow police and security services to continue to monitor phone and internet records of the British public. The controversial legislation is being rushed through the British parliament after the European Court of Justice struck down existing powers.

LONDON: Calls, texts and internet records -- all these will be stored by web and phone companies for 12 months, after the British government tabled an emergency law.

The legislation is being rushed through after the European Court of Justice struck down existing powers ensuring companies stored communication data, claiming there was a lack of necessary safeguards.

The government denies that, with Prime Minister David Cameron saying this is about maintaining existing capabilities.

Mr Cameron said: "Failure to act now could fundamentally undermine our ability to counter a range of threats to the safety of our citizens and I will not stand by and let that happen."

Under the emergency law, what is actually said on calls and in texts will not be stored -- it is just the data on when and who people called, texted and emailed.

The British government claims that this law must be rushed through in order to maintain national security. However, many said if it is this urgent -- then now is the best time to have a full discussion over just how the government and security agencies such as Mi5 monitor the British public.

The government previously tried to introduce even tougher surveillance measures -- such as a database of websites visited by every UK citizen -- but it was blocked by other politicians.

Campaign groups said this rushed decision is yet another move towards a so-called 'snoopers charter'.

Rachel Robinson, a member of Liberty, a human rights organisation in the United Kingdom, said: "An issue which has such serious civil liberties implications deserves full and proper parliamentary scrutiny -- not the day of rushed procedure that we're going to get with this bill. It's actually a travesty to our democracy."

This emergency law will likely come into effect next week but ends in 2016, after next year's general election.

Parties have agreed that a full and wider discussion about communication monitoring will then be held. 

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