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
    +2

    Comment number 292.

    If this got the go ahead we would be turning into a nanny communist state.
    The only people in favour of this are the ones who want to do the snooping - The Gov and that nosey bird Theresa May.
    Snoop on the terrorists, not the average Joe!!

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 291.

    Do you believe these Cons.They are against tightening up the press barons with legislation underpinning the controls because it is a loss of freedom for individuals and the first step for goverment control of the papers and then they want to control and look into all the peoples e-mails. Are they not hypocrites in this goverment. It just makes you wonder what planet they are on.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 290.

    Clegg is demonstrating that he can block just about anything that Cameron wants to do unless he has fully consulted and disclosed reasons to the Lib Dem rank and file. If our security services, who protect us from threats we don't even know about, want extra powers..give them what they need...just don't extend access to sensitive/secret information to other depts that don't need it

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 289.

    Time for a new internet

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 288.

    This Bill is a necessity to comply with the EU Communications Retention Directive.

    I thought the Lib Dems supported everything European?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 287.

    When I first read this I saw the word daft, then realised it was draft.
    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.
    Nuff said then. Let's have a referendum on giving more powers to the government.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 286.

    To all those who support this measure, put yourself in Germany in the 1930s. The National Socialists felt they needed similar powers to combat the threat from Jews, Gypsies and political opponents. Think not of what this government would do, but of what a successor government could do. These powers, once enacted, could be used to stifle dissent and persecute minorities.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 285.

    this is purely being done to force any criminals that actually use the internet over to TOR VPN's and Proxy Strings. That way then they can say that anyone that uses these methods is obviously hiding something and in their eyes make you out to be a criminal. Some of us still make baaaa noises. Am I wrong?

  • rate this
    -10

    Comment number 284.

    9.Mike from Brum
    "We didn't need lots of surveillence and our civil liberties eroded to keep everyone safe then, why do we need it now?"
    What an insensitive comment: 21 November 1974 - 19 killed, 180 injured and six wrongfully convicted! Had technologly been sufficiently advanced to have been able to prevent these horrendous bombings and catch the true culprits; I'd have it any day!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 283.

    Too little too late Cleegy my boy. You have on too many previous occasions lied to the electorate to be taken seriously. I doubt if you said the sky is blue any sane person in this country would believe you. Yet again you are trying to make a name for yourself against your Tory masters and yet again all you have achieved is to humiliate yourself and your party further.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 282.

    Cameron is using the bogeyman of terrorism to scare people into giving up their rights.

    Just like every other fascist in the history of mankind.

    This won't help the intelligence services one jot; they've already got more advanced ways of reading terrorist chatter online. It's designed for small, everyday crimes that hurt no-one but corporate bullies

    File sharing, illegal downloading e.t.c.

  • rate this
    -14

    Comment number 281.

    Anyone who believes they can't & don't already do this is naive! Perhaps not at all levels of law enforcement, but definitely higher up.

    Yes, the thought that someone, somewhere can see my bank balance or risqué selection of website is slightly off-putting. But, I have nothing sinister to hide & as soon as the computerised filter realises that, the 'Eye of Sauron' will cast it's gaze elsewhere.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 280.

    "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.".

    Yeah right! I bet the very first use is for file sharers. Considering the number of forces that are signed up to FACT I bet Warner Bro's will be yanking chains straight off the bat.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 279.

    Bad enough we have facial recognition now being used by private companies (facebook)
    And with I Pads, note books ect now having GPS they can see where everybody is even in the privacy of your own home.
    I can understand apps like night sky needing GPS location but other apps?
    Plus I clouds is a third party you store information with.
    Think they will not use it to make money?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 278.

    If you want to catch paedophiles change attitudes and procedures not spy on everyone - remember it was the victims who were not believed when they told the Police or no action taken re:Cyril Smith

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 277.

    Perhaps if the UK started murdering less people then we wouldnt be so hated. Although the fact is you have more chance of choking to death on a banana than dying from terrorism in this country. The goverment are trying to implement a police state as they know a financial implosion is coming, a massive uprising for widespread change will come from the people and will be stopped at all costs.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 276.

    To be honest I stopped listening to what Cleg was saying some time ago. He his is the cause of his own irrelevance. The sooner we can change UK politics to be more reflective of what the people want the better, currently we are led by the self interested and career obsessed idiots on both the left and right of the spectrum

  • rate this
    -92

    Comment number 275.

    I support this bill if they simply want a record of who sent what/when.

    The data they want is no different to what is written on a postal mail, it is not the contents of the letter they want.

    Why is this a problem if the email header (not content) is provided to law enforcement which is only being used to keep innocent people safe and weed out the weeds in society that do harm?

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 274.

    Clegg is wrong to chuck this back for review - he should be chucking it out completely.
    The authorities already have all the powers required to contest criminality etc. Where is the substantiation of this need Ms May - the Police or whoever say they need ........ is not good enough especially when balanced against the common good and right to privacy.
    How will this Act catch anyone - complete B.S

  • rate this
    +15

    Comment number 273.

    This proposal is the wrong way round...
    The government should be under the closer scrutiny by the people of this country.

    Governments should remember that they are supposed to be our representatives, not our Controllers.

 

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