Tory MP Richard Graham accused of quoting Joseph Goebbels in defence of new surveillance bill

Evan Bartlett@ev_bartlett
Wednesday 04 November 2015 17:00

A Conservative MP used a quote widely attributed to Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels while defending the government's new surveillance bill.

Richard Graham, the MP for Gloucester, was addressing the House of Commons on the draft Investigatory Powers Bill when he said that "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear".


I welcome this statement, which will help make the country safer and will prevent local authorities from accessing communications data.

The home secretary, Mr Speaker, rightly condemned the extraordinary claim by the shadow home secretary in an otherwise positive response that the prime minister had said that the entire Muslim population condoned extremism.

Would she confirm to the House today that in his speech on the 7th October, he specifically recognised the value of religious teaching across all religions but that the teaching of intolerance or separatism was not acceptable?

Would she also agree that many of us know of good examples of Islamic teaching in our constituencies and that the message today is very clear: we should unite against extremism using all modern tools appropriately and that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

  • Richard Graham MP

Theresa May's response:

Well, my honourable friend is absolutely right.

The exact origin of the quote "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" is unclear. It has been attributed to both the Nazi Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda Joseph Goebbels as well as a description of the idea of the all-seeing state in George Orwell's dystopian novel 1984. It is often used as a defence of mass surveillance.

Nevertheless, comparisons were quickly drawn online:

In response to the comparison, Mr Graham told

Clearly absurd to suggest I was quoting Goebbels, who would have used German anyway.

Amazing how if you welcome plans to help the security of our country against terrorism someone in the media manages to bring in the Nazis. Surely you can do better than that.

  • Richard Graham MP

In fact, Mr Graham's uttering of that phrase is not the first time a Conservative minister has used the words to defend government surveillance.

In 2013, then foreign secretary William Hague used it on The Andrew Marr Show to defend the practices of GCHQ.

Earlier this year the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden dismissed the argument of "nothing to hide", by saying:

Arguing that you don't care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don't care about free speech because you have nothing to say.

Last week, Shaker Amer, the last British prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, was released after 13 years of detention without charge.

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