Draft Communications Data Bill cannot proceed - Nick Clegg

 

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Plans to give police and intelligence services the power to monitor all email and internet use in the UK need a "fundamental rethink", Nick Clegg says.

The deputy prime minister said he would block the draft Communications Data Bill and push for plans ensuring "the balance between security and liberty".

His comments came as a committee of MPs and peers criticised the bill's scope.

The Home Office said the new laws were needed "without delay" to stop serious crimes such as terrorism.

The Conservative and Liberal Democrat leaderships agree on the need for new measures, but they disagree over their scope.

The plans in the draft bill include:

  • Internet service providers having to store for a year all details of online communication in the UK - such as the time, duration, originator and recipient of a communication and the location of the device from which it was made.
  • They would also be having to store for the first time all Britons' web browsing history and details of messages sent on social media, webmail, voice calls over the internet and gaming, in addition to emails and phone calls
  • Police not having to seek permission to access details of these communications, if investigating a crime
  • Police having to get a warrant from the home secretary to be able to see the actual content of any messages
  • Four bodies having access to data: the police, the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, the intelligence agencies and HM Revenue and Customs

Civil liberties campaigners have described the proposals as a "snoopers' charter", but Home Secretary Theresa May insists they are vital for countering paedophiles, extremists and fraudsters.

'Safeguards'

A report from the Joint Committee on the Draft Communications Bill, made up of MPs and peers, accepted a new law was needed to help police fight crime and tackle security threats organised online.

But it warned ministers would be able to demand "potentially limitless categories of data" unless the draft bill was amended.

Data Communications Bill

  • The Bill would extend the range of data telecoms firms have to store for up to 12 months
  • It would include, for the first time, details of messages sent on social media, webmail, voice calls over the internet and gaming, in addition to emails and phone calls
  • The data would include the time, duration, originator and recipient of a communication and the location of the device from which it was made
  • It would not include the content of messages - what is being said. Officers would need a warrant to see that
  • But they would not need the permission of a judge to see details of the time and place of messages, provided they were investigating a crime or protecting national security
  • Four bodies would have access to data: the police, the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, the intelligence agencies and HM Revenue and Customs
  • Local authorities would face restrictions on the kinds of data they can access

It called for "safeguards" over the new powers to prevent abuse and accused the government of producing estimates of the cost of implementing the plans which were not "robust" enough.

The "net benefit figure" was "fanciful and misleading", it said.

The MPs and peers added that the draft bill paid "insufficient attention to the duty to respect the right to privacy" and went "much further than it need or should for the purpose of providing necessary and justifiable official access to communications data".

Mr Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, said the committee had raised "a number of serious criticisms - not least on scope, proportionality, cost, checks and balances, and the need for much wider consultation".

"It is for those reasons that I believe the coalition government needs to have a fundamental rethink about this legislation. We cannot proceed with this bill and we have to go back to the drawing board."

But he added: "The committee did not, however, suggest that nothing needs to be done. They were very clear that there is a problem that must be addressed to give law enforcement agencies the powers they need to fight crime. I agree.

"But that must be done in a proportionate way that gets the balance between security and liberty right."

'Secret notices'

In its report, the committee said the home secretary would be given "sweeping powers to issue secret notices to communications service providers, requiring them to retain and disclose potentially limitless categories of data".

But it added: "We have been told that she has no intention of using the powers in this way. Our main recommendation is therefore that her powers should be limited to those categories of data for which a case can now be made."

If these powers needed to be enhanced in future, this should be done with "effective parliamentary scrutiny", it said.

The home secretary wants the bill in place next year.

This bill wasn't dreamt up by Tory ministers in the coalition.

The previous Labour government came up with the first plans after the intelligence and security community said it needed modern tools to combat modern threats - threats organised online rather than through invisible ink messages left under park benches.

So the controversy is not about the bill's aim, but its scope - something we have seen in other pieces of security legislation since the coalition took office. Powers to hold terror suspects in their own home and the current bill to protect state secrets in courts were both cut back as part of coalition compromise. In each case ministers aimed to protect the primary purpose.

The question is whether this particular bill will be able to do its job if it goes through the same exercise - and that's why Nick Clegg will face claims of playing politics with security.

Security minister James Brokenshire told BBC Radio 4's Today programme there was a "legitimate debate" to be had.

He added that he wanted to "rebalance" the bill, so that "it's properly reflecting the needs of the collective and the needs of the individual".

Mr Brokenshire also said: "If there were to be any extension, that would have to be through the full scrutiny of Parliament. We are saying very clearly that we accept that."

He added: "We know that we need to work this through the coalition."

For Labour, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the government was "making a complete mess of a very important issue".

"It is important that the police and security services can keep up to date with modern technology, but this bill is too widely drawn, is unworkable and gives far too much power to the home secretary without proper safeguards."

She added: "It is astonishing that the Home Office have had so little discussion with the internet companies who need to deliver this legislation. The Government have been slipshod with this bill from the word go."

A Home Office spokesman said: "This legislation is vital to help catch paedophiles, terrorists and other serious criminals and we are pleased both scrutiny committees have recognised the need for new laws.

"We have now considered the committees' recommendations carefully and we will accept the substance of them all. But there can be no delay to this legislation. It is needed by law enforcement agencies now."

The Intelligence and Security Committee, which has sent a classified report on its findings to Prime Minister David Cameron, after speaking to the security services, called for more detail to be included in the draft bill.

It recommended that it be "future-proofed" to ensure extra powers are not added without scrutiny, adding that there had been "insufficient consultation" between ministers and internet providers.

 

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  • rate this
    -8

    Comment number 32.

    First round up and deport the unknown masses who have got in here illegally. How many terrorists and criminals are amongst them?

    Next, deport those who stand in our streets and openly denounce us and our way of life.

    Once you (Dave, Ed & Nick) have done that then you can play with a new toy.

    Get a grip on the real issues.

  • rate this
    +22

    Comment number 31.

    It should be a right of all to communicate freely without being monitored to facilitate a democracy. Those who site terror and fear to control the masses are nothing short of dictators. F.Y.I I have done nothing wrong, I have nothing to hide, but I value my rights and freedom and you may not take them away.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 30.

    This looks like its been engineered so the coalition can demonstrate their differences.

    Give Nick Clegg something he can oppose which can encourage his supporters.

    I'm afraid the Lib Dems are finished - they'll never be believed again after their tuition fee broken promise.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 29.

    how much is already spent by GCHQ ? How well is it used? How come Russian can die of polonium poisoning and GCHQ doesn't pick that up? Are these new laws meant to improve that? It's not worked in the States where they throw Billions at so called terrorism and still planes flying into buildings in NY. The thick end of an even thicker wedge. When was the last time you trusted a politician?

  • rate this
    -183

    Comment number 28.

    Here we go again, a sensible idea aimed at making our land safer blocked by short sighted lib dems. If you are doing nothing wrong whats the problem. The only people who should fear this are the ones with something to hide.

  • rate this
    +13

    Comment number 27.

    ♫♪we are anonymous we are legion we do not forget we not forgive♪♫

    expect us if this bill was to go through

  • rate this
    +57

    Comment number 26.

    A massive and disproportionate response - and impossible to implement. Whatever happenned to the presumption of innocence? I note, by the way, that HMRC also need access to this data. I presume that that is in some way for the "prevention of terrorism"? Or is it just all about the money?

  • rate this
    +55

    Comment number 25.

    The problem here as I see it is how easily it would be to mistakenly taken for someone up to no good. Millions of innocent comments are made which could be interpreted however the authorities wish, resulting in your door being removed at dawn. This is the thin end of the wedge and would be more at home in a police state. Absolutely not!!

  • rate this
    +39

    Comment number 24.

    Well done Nick Clegg, a victory for liberty and a loss for the UK' goverment's Chinese police state model.

  • rate this
    -7

    Comment number 23.

    Us, humans are capable of fulfilling all of our dreams.. as much our nightmares as our longevity and prosperity... We are indeed, able to reach for the stars but only and only if we can first reach out for each other by putting aside our indifferences and by finding our true meaning, our true purpose in this vast land of universes we're set to exist and indeed, co-exist..!

  • rate this
    +23

    Comment number 22.

    I suspect Clegg's motive is to try to recover some public support for his party rather than any deep-seated belief in balancing privacy and security. Nevertheless his comments are welcome - this bill is based on fear and hyperbole and will result in more erosion of individuals' privacy. Existing powers are more than sufficient; no more intrusion by control-freak bureaucrats

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 21.

    This issue is just as fundamental to our democracy as freedom of the press.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 20.

    Couldn't the government just remove the part of our brain that makes us 'cause trouble' and be done with it?

  • rate this
    +84

    Comment number 19.

    For once in his life, Clegg has grown a pair.

    These proposed measures are completely unnecessary. And no, I don't have anything to hide.

  • rate this
    +29

    Comment number 18.

    Seems that Security services are a bit behind the times.

    High-tech usage is not really an option and they will revert to low-tech to get around the monitoring

    I am sure though that the security services already have this senario written down.

    So the question then becomes if not for terrorists what is this monitoring for?

    A Bill made by control freaks for control freaks!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 17.

    Ooooooooooooooooh he's just so different isn't he.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 16.

    Clegg opposes it as he doesn't want David to know he's joined 'Labour Online'.

    Great to see the coalition is as strong as ever

  • rate this
    -143

    Comment number 15.

    The Internet is now the prime source of all serious crime and powers that will stop these activities sooner than later can only be welcomed.

    People who use the internet for legitimate reason will have nothing to fear.

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 14.

    For once - we've been waiting forever - Clegg does something right!

  • rate this
    +42

    Comment number 13.

    I thought the K stood for Kingdom, not Korea?

 

Page 42 of 43

 

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