Alex Massie

Tales from Modern Britain

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When the spooks think matters have got out of hand then, you know, they've probably gotten out of hand.

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) was passed in 2000 to regulate the way that public bodies such as the police and the security services carry out surveillance. Originally only a handful of authorities were able to use RIPA but its scope has been expanded enormously and now there are at least 792 organisations using it, including hundreds of local councils.

This has generated dozens of complaints about anti-terrorism legislation being used to spy on, for example, a nursery suspected of selling pot plants unlawfully, a family suspected of lying about living in a school catchment area, and paperboys suspected of not having the right paperwork.

Now those campaigning against the abuse of RIPA have got a new ally – Lady Manningham-Buller, the former head of MI5. In a speech in the House of Lords yesterday, she said she was "astonished" when she found out how many organisations were getting access to RIPA powers.

Well, yes. Quite so. And yet there you have it. In addition to this public service, Baroness B-M did us a service by clarifying the accepted pronunciation of RIPA:

When RIPA was introduced—those of us in the intelligence community call it “Ripper”, as in “Jack the”, and not “Reaper”, as in “the Grim”; there is no correct pronunciation, but I always call it “Ripper” and so do my former colleagues.

[Hat-tip: Chicken Yoghurt.]

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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