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
    +5

    Comment number 112.

    I don't want to seem like a FANATIC but I have some EXPLOSIVE news about my upcoming holiday to NEW YORK.

    Just waiting for the knock on the door now !!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 111.

    Don't they realise criminals have already worked out how to get round this already ? They are always ahead of the game. They are not going to use the internet. . There are many ways round it. After all crimiality was getting away with murderbefore it was invented. It my be the be and end all of our lives at the moment but its not theirs.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 110.

    How much is this going to cost and will there be any benefit to society as a whole?

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 109.

    Yet again we have to pay for something the public DO NOT WANT! The police should have to request a warrant to get access to peoples’ information in every instance. Giving anyone unlimited access to our personal conversations, our reading habits and viewing on the internet is complete lunacy and not morally corrupt! I feel like I’m being raped by this government and it needs to STOP!

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 108.

    The intelligence service does not need this power as it can already monitor suspected terrorists. It maybe the Home Office’s excuse but you bet if you were ever in court emails will be produced, even if not related to the case, to convict you.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 107.

    Another excuse to spy on the people. Why not station a police officer in every house? It would solve unemployment and the housing shortage at a stroke.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 106.

    This has been put under the disguise of 'protecting children' and 'counter terrorism'. It is nothing of the sort. To all the people who say to themselves 'I've got nothing to hide so what's the problem', let me come round to your house, without a warrant, and let me read all your mail. Difference is that you know your mail is being looked at - with the web, you don't know who's looking at what.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 105.

    This is utter madness. Our civil liberties are being destroyed. We cannot allow this to happen. What next we have the secret service follow us around.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 104.

    What else is being pushed through while we all get hot over this ?

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 103.

    >40. Grumpy_Haggis
    >Perhaps if we had the right to see all government emails and browsing
    >then might be willing to reconsider.

    The irony is it's the sordid secrets of politicians that will make the biggest headlines when they are dredged out of the daily spying archives.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 102.

    BIG BROTHER

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 101.

    Since when do the servants have the right to eavesdrop on their employers?

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 100.

    Totally amazed the government thinks this level of snooping is acceptable. They didn't when in opposition - I think it shows the manipulative power of the civil service, police, etc in Whitehall.

    Lets cut the cynicism. Clegg is right on this - genuine terrorism threats yes but council snooping (remember how they have re-interpreted previous legislation to snoop in your litter bins) etc no.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 99.

    If this bill is passed, how soon will it be until the Tories farm it out to GS4 or somesuch? The next thing you know your e-mails will be printed off and left sitting in an envelope on the 07.00 Woking to London train for all to see. As much as it is ashes in my mouth to say this, I'm with Nick on this one.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 98.

    The stupidest thing about all of this is that anyone who wishes to hide there tracks still can, and will... These politicians live in the stone age and need to get with the times.

    Yet again we as a populace are guilty until proven innocent.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 97.

    As if we needed more confirmation that Cameron is in absolutely no way, shape or form a small 'c' conservative. Being preached to by the left about civil liberties, doesn't he get it? The majority of people don't want the government poking their noses into their private lives! How can anyone who believes in small government now vote for the 'Conservatives'. I suspect it may now be UKIP's time.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 96.

    Look at the history of anti-terror legislation and how it was used - ejecting an AOP from a meeting, council snooping, etc. Now think how those same people will use these powers. Secondly the terrorists will just use other methods - anyone with any knowledge of how the net works knows this. Start will SSL traffic

  • rate this
    +103

    Comment number 95.

    I'm no fan of Nick Clegg, but he is right to block this insane plan.

    Anyone with anything to hide (criminals, terrorists etc) will just encrypt the data anyway. This will just monitor and police the law-abiding majority.

    1984 was meant to be a warning, not an instruction manual.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 94.

    Ahhh, protecting the freedom of communication are you Cleggy? How about trying to protect freedom to Education and Health Care? Don't be stupid, you'll be offered and accept a powerful role to vote for it, even though you campaigned against it....... Deja Vu.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 93.

    The more you monitoring, more people will move to use strong encryption deepweb, darknet, etc. witch seems to be a tactical error from the governament. Also it's not easy for IPS keep those records it's needs infrastructure and in the end of the day the consumers will pay the bill. The criminals already use strong encryption its for maximum monitoring normal people .

 

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