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
    +4

    Comment number 672.

    Of course they've got plenty to hide, why do you think they have institutions such as the Secret Service.

    Since Government inception we have been lied to and that fact is not about to change anytime soon.

    You only have to look at the sitting Governments Foreign Policy which is actually spelled H.Y.P.O.C.R.I.S.Y

    Say NO to self serving career politicians, they do more harm than good.

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 671.

    243.yoinkster
    Labour already tried this, Tories opposed. Now the Tories are in, they try to push it through. Makes you sick.

    And makes you wonder, who behind the scenes is actually pushing for such powers against the sprit of democracy and liberty. If it was really for a good purpose the arguments would be clear and open and the figures accurate.

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 670.

    Once again the threat of "terrorism" is being used to frighten us into giving up liberties. This bill should be stopped because history shows that no Government, however well intentioned, should be given this kind of power over citizens, as someday it will be mis-used, and freedom, once lost is very difficult to get back. The split with the LibDems is the best argument yet for Coalition goverment

  • rate this
    +69

    Comment number 669.

    It staggers me just how popular the 'help the government make us safer' argument is, as if we now have to accept that we are to be forever under the hammer of terrorist thugs.

    If we continue to sacrifice our freedom in a sick Orwellian nightmare, the extremists we are trying to protect ourselves from will have won and we will have lost what made our society worth defending in the first place.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 668.

    "If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear"

    what utter rot

    Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you......

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 667.

    Hard won freedoms are so easily lost. I wonder what year it will be in the UK when it is illegal to insult the Prime minister (or should I say 'President') even it is a private email or conversation?
    "Nothing to hide, nothing to fear...Baaa, baaa"

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 666.

    We already live in a surveillance mad country. The chances are that you will appear on at least 7 closed circuit cameras every day you go out of your home.
    Has it made Britain a safer place? No, I don't think so.
    Are our email and internet details safe in the hands of the police and the intelligence services? There's absolutely nothing to give you any confidence, is there?

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 665.

    Clearly Cameron and his mega rich pals have no intention of seeing their share of the wealth being more evenly distributed any time soon. So, anticipating that even the notoriously passive British public may eventually start to protest more actively, they plan to bring in laws that will help them manage the protests by monitoring / curbing internet use - no Arab Springs here chaps.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 664.

    At last... at LAST some Lib Dem influence on coalition policy. Make it count; this outrageous intrusion of the state into our lives should be put out it's misery without delay.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 663.

    MI5 have been gathering info on terrorists for years, and from what we see, managing to foil plots and gather lots of intelligence information without the need for this new bill.
    What we don't see, is that the Gov are already scanning emails and web use.
    They just want the public running scared and to become 'yes men' so it makes the Gov job easier!!

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 662.

    Breathtaking hypocrisy of this extreme Right wing govt - when in Opposition it was breach of Civil Liberties, in govt - great idea. Their agenda is to "control" every aspect of Society, eroding democracy by the day. Who cares what the Literal Doormats think? The biggest turncoats have sold out on every principle they had, no doubt they will do a "deal" after noises off ends!

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 661.

    If in as a totalitarian an environment as a gaol, with its massive police presence, constant surveillance and no privacy still suffers crime, drugs, rape, bribery within it... why does the state think that its failed tyrannical tactics in there will work outside those walls?

    The state doesn't need protection from us, it should fear us. We need protection from the state.

  • Comment number 660.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 659.

    Oh, and be on the lookout for some other equally unsavoury, but less sensationalist bill being passed under the cover of the storm this has created.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 658.

    "the committee said Home Secretary Theresa May would be given sweeping powers to issue secret notices to communications service providers"

    Nothing to worry about there eh?

    In the current climate this is a disgraceful waste of time and money...

  • Comment number 657.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 656.

    All that will happen is the baddies will move to VPNs and encrypting their web traffic and email so they will be invisible. All the normal folk will end up being logged and hounded by big brother.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 655.

    @645.Myky D

    i would be more than happy for them to look at what i do if they let me look at what they do. i mean surely if they have the right to watch our internet why cant we watch theirs? have they got somthing to hide also?

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 654.

    The bill should be stopped at all cost's.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 653.

    If there was anyone in politics of real integrity they would organise a vote of ZERO CONFIDENCE in this shambles of a government & try to force an election before it's too dammed late!

 

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