Draft Communications Data Bill to be redrafted - No 10


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No 10 says the PM remains committed to giving police and security services new powers to monitor internet activity, despite criticism of current plans.

The prime minister's spokesman said he accepted the criticism from MPs and peers of the draft Communications Data Bill and would re-write it.

Deputy PM Nick Clegg had threatened to block it unless there was a "rethink".

No 10 said bringing in new powers was a "government commitment" and everyone was "committed to fixing this problem".

He said: "We recognise this is a difficult issue. We will take account of what the committee said."

The deputy prime minister had earlier 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.

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.

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

Nick Clegg: ''We need a fundamental rethink, go back to the drawing board''

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

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

    Comment number 168.

    We are becoming more Like North Korea each day ....

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    Reasonable people usually use devices registered to themselves and to their address. Can the same be said for those who commit serious crimes?
    Only those who are already traceable can be monitored, and punished - the reasonable folk in life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    The implications of this for our security and freedoms are positively terrifying! A log of everything you do on-line, every site you visit, every email, conversation, purchase, transaction being scrutinsed and stored for a year on an ISP server just waiting to be hacked, compromised and misused by governments and criminals alike?! Utterly INSANE, incredibly DANGEROUS - and EVERYONE KNOWS IT!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    No way is it going to be even possible for them to store that much data. We're talking billions of pounds worth of storage capacity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    You pay £x to the IT engineer to police the web, the terrorists pay £2x to the engineer to bypass the security.

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    Also lobby your ISP and make it clear to them that if they support this move you will be cancelling any contract. And if you absolutely can't do without the net (trust me, you can, and for many of you you did) tell them you'll switch to the cheapest contract they have.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    "We need these laws to catch..." etc, should not be used as an excuse to wipe out the freedoms and liberty we enjoy. How far will they go otherwise? We all get brain implants to detect any illegal thoughts? We're genetically profiled to predict potential future crimes and locked up just in case? Science fiction? Not to some.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    Sometimes this sort of snooping, if not specifically targeted at an identifiable person, can throw up all sorts of threats which don't actually exist if they rely on "Keywords". Back in Clinton's day, when the American N.S.A. started a keyword alert on phone calls that were listened to in the millions, I could have started an investigation just by saying "We're going to murder Chelsea on Saturday"

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    Chris N68
    "force cameron and clegg out of power "
    While I agree in principle at least Cleggy stopped Compo Browns silly bill for us.

    The danger .. i look up some educational material on Islam .. and 6 months later the site is declared "Extremist" Will I have to explain to the Secret Services what I was doing?

    Just because something is legal today doesn't mean it will always be that way!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    I'd rather take my chances with the "terrorists" than have the thought police snooping through everyones business.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    If we are not careful we will go down the road of the old Soviet Union with its NKVD and later KGB, people will be whisked off in the early hours and never seen again, what a way to keep the plebs in check, smells of Dictatorship!

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    And how do the government expect to achieve this? This is a ridiculous amount of data. As an IT professional - good luck! Plus, you will just send the people who have something to hide underground. These people can just create a network of private VPN's and Proxies to avoid all of this. Or even easier, just meet and talk face to face.

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    This proposed legislation goes against the founding principles of democracy:
    'All the tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.'
    'The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.'
    'Even under the best form of government, those entrusted with power have, in time..perverted it into tyranny.'
    But what would Thomas Jefferson know anyway?

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    Buy in cash cheap web capable phone.

    Buy in cash Pay as you Go simcard & time cards.

    Insert into phone.

    Create Gmail account using false data.

    You are now annoymous. Go directly to terrorism.

    Pretty sure that the terrorists funded by the trillions generated through online copyright theft (so we're told) can spare £50 to sort that out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    No choice but completely cancelling this bill will be accepted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    This must mean that we will all be able to see David Cameron's e-mails with Rebeka Brookes to assure ourselves that they do not contain any material of a terrorist nature.

    In a democracy we are all in it together.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    All those ministers in favour of this should start by releasing their search history for the past year. Till they are ready to do that, they can't expect the same from the public!

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    This is only the beginning, May will probably want to introduce a UK version of the US Patriot Act. The US Act makes chilling reading and puts security and policing under military law. No protests, no marches, no proof of illegality required, no Habeas Corpus act, no access to legal representation, courts set up and operated by the military in secret. All at the whim of a minister of state.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    The People should not fear the Government

    The Government should fear the People

    Use your mandate, email your MP, write to the Prime Minister personally at No 10 send a blizzard of mail, emails and letters let the Government know it is not acceptable.

    And do not forget Labour, they are salivating at the prospect of seeing the Tories shove this into law, it saves them the trouble.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    Will these powers be used to check on people putting their bins out a day early though?... At least every other anti-terrorism measure seems to be used for that more than actual anti-terrorism.


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