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 188.

    The reason you are not a total slave and have the right to vote, to work, to own property ... only happened by a few brave souls who fought the Government.

    The Government is always trying to turn you back into total slavery.

    "Can I see your Papers, please ?"

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    Anyone with a bit of IT knowhow can:

    1) encrypt data so that it cannot be read.
    2) Use proxy servers to hide behind.
    3) Set up multiple email/Facebook/twitter accounts, and use them via internet cafes, PAYG mobile data etc.

    Organised crime and terrorist networks will just start using these methods making the data held useless.

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    Police & intelligence service having more power to monitor internet it would not bother me then they would know how much people complain about them.I certainly would like Leigh council; MP Andy Burnum to monitor me and then I would enjoy criticising them and him even more. I do not think it would take long before all the complaining made the people in power scrap the whole thing

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    We are already tracked every step of the way by Google and others "For your convenience" Look at any product, and you will be forever after bombarded with adverts for that product on other sites. It might throw up a glitch if it tries to bring up an ad "Buy your Semtex and R.P.G's on Amazon" though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    I hope the government will be paying for the cost of storage of this stuff as well as paying a fat fee for access. I see no reason why Internet users should pay tax and then the cost of enforcement as well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    im off to get the kids from school but the govt already knew that

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    all davey has to do to make the public happy is

    1. leave the EU because to be fract they suck

    2. leave our internet buiness alone and too ourselves

    3. legalise weed and solve the recesion

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    would you put a TV camera in you room for big brother?
    do you know the X-box has 3D TV cameras & sound?
    and they can switch on you PC camera and watch you?
    Dont trust Windows software.
    you can use Free ubuntu/ linux.

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    I saw a well-thought out documentary recently, a British Muslim looking at the causes and effects of the Crusades.

    He went into how religion was misappropriated and the reasons why parts of the Islamic world fear or hate the western world.

    If the gvt and security services want to prevent their terror, maybe they need to understand why the hate, and why this policy would only make things worse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    What next? The post office opening and scanning all your mail and storing it on some mega database, it's just another form of media they will say!
    The tech savvy and those with something to hide will cover their tracks behind VPN and secure web sites, Joe public will leave a data trail for the snoopers to inspect. Once they have the data what next? Political, religious & cultural profiling?

  • Comment number 178.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    Terrorism, and paedophiles of course. That's what we need to stop. We don't even get a say on laws like this. We vote for a bunch of half truths once every 5 years and then they just trott out Orwellian nightmares like this. This is not democracy. It's a hoax. If they want to monitor the internet, first use it to let us vote on the laws they want to pass, and to monitor them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    So what happened to the Tories and Liberals being so against Labours attempts to do the same thing then? Pure hypocrisy of the first order? or have they been told to change policy at the last Bilderberg Group meeting?

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    Ben Franklin had this right - They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

    This means you too, Dave.

    I'm sure the electorate will congratulate you for this at the next GE.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    I'm all for being able to read what Prince Charles is telling various ministers but, since that's not being allowed, the authorities pick on people that have no power instead, i.e. the electorate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    What is the the definition of a terrorist? I thought I had a good idea. Then the bloke who heckled Tony Blair was arrested under the terrorism act. We have seen how people have ended up in serious trouble by posting something slightly wrong on Facebook,Twitter etc!

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    Lies and lies, just more blatant lies ... the police are very quick to arrest facebook and twitter users who step out of line .. and even paedophiles are caught quickly these days ... as for terrorists, do they exist anymore, so its just pure unadulterated lies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    Fair enough - provided we plebs get unlimited, real-time access to all MP's & Lords personal emails, texts etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    Absolutely ridiculous, what do they think this is, North Korea? I suppose next they'll want microphones in our houses, followed by cameras. This is going step by step into Big Brother. I've got more chance dying while choking on a pen lid or slipping in the bath than getting bombed, screening my internet history won't protect me from anything. May needs to drop this and never look back. Ridiculous

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    By nature, a private person. I have no political, terrorist or any other axe to grind, so why do the government feel the need to pry into my business when most, if not all, of my details are freely available to them?

    Of my concern to me is where would these details be stored and how securely? To be honest, it's not the government/civil service have a positive record of keeping details secure!


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