Two weeks ago it was “Pasty-gate”. Last week it was “Big Brother-gate”, the storm which erupted over reports that the Government is planning to set up a £2 billion cyber-surveillance centre at GCHQ, to monitor data on all electronic exchanges, through emails, Facebook, Skype and mobile phones.
As readers of this column will know, whenever the Government comes up with some proposal which is hugely unpopular and the justification for which is not immediately clear – from charging VAT on hot pies to creating a high-speed rail service from London to Birmingham – it is always worth inquiring as to whether there is some hidden European dimension at work. This Snoopergate furore is no exception.
Clues as to what is going on here proliferate in all directions. Last November, the Government announced that it would spend £650 million on beefing up British cyber-security as part of its Strategic Defence and Security Review; and that top British firms were to be offered the chance to buy top-secret security software from GCHQ.
Last week, GCHQ announced that it would be paying eight UK universities to set up Academic Centres of Excellence in Cyber-Security Research. The minister in charge of cyber-security, Francis Maude, makes no secret of the importance the Government attaches to this issue, although of course he makes no mention of Europe, but only claims that it wishes “to make the UK one of the most secure places in the world to do business”. …