New Statesman events at Labour conference 2013

What to look out for in Brighton, including events with Chuka Umunna, Rachel Reeves, Andy Burnham, Sadiq Khan, Diane Abbott and Lord Adonis.

All events are free to attend and open to the public.

Sunday 22 September

Chuka Umunna MP in conversation with New Statesman

Chuka Umunna MP, Shadow Business Secretary

12:30-1:30pm, Tennyson room, Thistle Hotel

Diane Abbott MP in conversation with New Statesman

Diane Abbott MP, Shadow Public Health Minister

2-3pm, Wordsworth room, Thistle Hotel

Why invest in UK life sciences?

Shabanna Mahmood MP, Shadow Science and Higher Education Minister

5:30-6pm, Tennyson room, Thistle Hotel

Smart Grids: Is this the way of selling low carbon policies to sceptics?

Tom Greatex MP, Shadow Energy and Climate Change Minister

5:30-6:30pm, Wordsworth room, Thistle Hotel

Home Front: The battle for a sustainable housing market

(invite only)

Jack Dromey MP, Shadow Housing Minister

8-9:30pm, Hall 7 Room D, The Hilton

Monday 23 September

What next for the criminal justice system?

Rt. Hon Sadiq Khan MP, Shadow Lord Chancellor, Shadow Justice Secretary and Shadow London Minister

9-10am, Tennyson room, Thistle Hotel

Where now for aid to Syria and what role for Britain?

Rushanara Ali MP, Shadow International Development Minister

5:30-6:30pm, The Sandringham room, The Hilton

Could aid be effective without advocacy?

Cathy Jamieson MP, Shadow Economic Secretary to the Treasury

Rt. Hon Peter Hain MP

5:30-7pm, Wordsworth room, Thistle Hotel

Jobs for young people: how do we solve the problem?

Lord Adonis, Shadow Infrastructure Minister and former Transport Secretary

5:30-6:30pm, Tennyson room, Thistle Hotel

Rachel Reeves MP in conversation with New Statesman

Rachel Reeves MP, Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury

7:15-8pm, Tennyson room, Thistle Hotel

Tuesday 24 September

Innovation: what does the NHS need to do?

Andrew Gynne MP, Shadow Health Minister

8:30-9:30am, Tennyson room, Thistle Hotel

Is integration enough to save the NHS?

Rt. Hon Andy Burnham MP, Shadow Health Secretary

12-1pm, Wordsworth room, Thistle Hotel

Will competition and choice open up the banking sector?

Chris Leslie MP, Shadow Financial Secretary to the Treasury

4:45-5:45pm, Wordsworth room, Thistle Hotel

Is a cap on immigration a cap on growth?

Chris Bryant MP, Shadow Immigration Minister

5:30-6:30pm, Tennyson room, Thistle Hotel

Wednesday 25 September

From prevention to survival: the cancer pathway at every step

Lord Hunt, Shadow Health Spokesperson

9-10am, Tennyson room, Thistle Hotel

A workman fixes a Labour Party Conference banner to a fence outside the conference centre on September 21, 2013 in Brighton. Photograph: Getty Images.
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The problems with ending encryption to fight terrorism

Forcing tech firms to create a "backdoor" to access messages would be a gift to cyber-hackers.

The UK has endured its worst terrorist atrocity since 7 July 2005 and the threat level has been raised to "critical" for the first time in a decade. Though election campaigning has been suspended, the debate over potential new powers has already begun.

Today's Sun reports that the Conservatives will seek to force technology companies to hand over encrypted messages to the police and security services. The new Technical Capability Notices were proposed by Amber Rudd following the Westminster terrorist attack and a month-long consultation closed last week. A Tory minister told the Sun: "We will do this as soon as we can after the election, as long as we get back in. The level of threat clearly proves there is no more time to waste now. The social media companies have been laughing in our faces for too long."

Put that way, the plan sounds reasonable (orders would be approved by the home secretary and a senior judge). But there are irrefutable problems. Encryption means tech firms such as WhatsApp and Apple can't simply "hand over" suspect messages - they can't access them at all. The technology is designed precisely so that conversations are genuinely private (unless a suspect's device is obtained or hacked into). Were companies to create an encryption "backdoor", as the government proposes, they would also create new opportunities for criminals and cyberhackers (as in the case of the recent NHS attack).

Ian Levy, the technical director of the National Cyber Security, told the New Statesman's Will Dunn earlier this year: "Nobody in this organisation or our parent organisation will ever ask for a 'back door' in a large-scale encryption system, because it's dumb."

But there is a more profound problem: once created, a technology cannot be uninvented. Should large tech firms end encryption, terrorists will merely turn to other, lesser-known platforms. The only means of barring UK citizens from using the service would be a Chinese-style "great firewall", cutting Britain off from the rest of the internet. In 2015, before entering the cabinet, Brexit Secretary David Davis warned of ending encryption: "Such a move would have had devastating consequences for all financial transactions and online commerce, not to mention the security of all personal data. Its consequences for the City do not bear thinking about."

Labour's manifesto pledged to "provide our security agencies with the resources and the powers they need to protect our country and keep us all safe." But added: "We will also ensure that such powers do not weaken our individual rights or civil liberties". The Liberal Democrats have vowed to "oppose Conservative attempts to undermine encryption."

But with a large Conservative majority inevitable, according to polls, ministers will be confident of winning parliamentary support for the plan. Only a rebellion led by Davis-esque liberals is likely to stop them.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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