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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  • Comment number 628.

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

  • Comment number 627.

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

  • Comment number 626.

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

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 625.

    What people are worried about is inappropriate and disproportionate use of these powers. Simple solution: the government should charge investigating authorities £100 per person for each and every request they make. That way it acts as a filter, it won't stop MI5 investigating genuine terror suspects but it might stop local councils snooping on people's emails for parking violations!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 624.

    Cameron & co; Do you still not understand? WE don't want your intrusive law. WE are fed up of the control you exercise over us already. WE want you to just go away and leave us alone until we can vote you out of power for all time. Now, do you still think that WE, your employer want what you offer?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 623.

    One day... everyone will be Anonymous.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 622.

    as well as the scandal of MP expenses, will we now see the MPs ripping us off as they browse through our banking details? will our taxes go up for using internet banking as its paperless? this opens the door to many tax changes, what will happen when you order from Amazon? this is indeed a scary time!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 621.

    When this story originally broke I thought it was a hoax! Another "Big Brother" act is about to be imposed on us all in the name of "security" how long before we the govt enact the blueprint for for 1984? In the end we have to say NO. My friend from East Germany visted London and observed the cameras he said "The Stasi would have loved this system!" And we use to criticise East Germany!!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 620.

    Well done Nick Clegg. The lunacy of the previous Labour administration should not be perpetuated by the Coalition. If the Tories can't see how wrong their proposals are, you must moderate them.

    But will Labour vote against the proposals (effectively their own) or will they vote for them? After all, they voted against the rise in tuition fees which they proposed themselves in their manifesto!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 619.

    The Government claims that this law is to help fight terrorism, organised crime and paedophile gangs. If that was the case, why does the Government refuse to have a measure so that any snooping on people's internet data has to be authorised by a judge? One can't help but be suspicious that they have ulterior motives.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 618.

    We have had this before... checked my previous comments on this. I haven't shifted in my views. This is invasive and iniquitous, a complete disgrace. Don't trot out the 'if you have nothing to hide...' argument... We have plenty to fear from governments taking on these powers.. Oh I am an elected local member, not ConDem.. and I also vigorously opposed ID cards.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 617.

    coram, i have worked all my life, i got cancer at an early age, unlike those that can bend the benefit system to suit their lifestyle, well, i was just either too stupid or too naive to get anything, now, as well as being ignored as a cancer patient, i no longer seem to have freedom of speech, where do you come from coram, that is certainly not a british name!, lets see if they get me for that!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 616.

    We've had the likes of Peter Bone MP being allowed to hold up legislation that is popular. Where are the MPs standing up against this bill.

    It is clear to anyone that this has nothing to do with terrorism. It will be used against groups pressurising the government on behalf of the majority, groups like Occupy LSX, Hacked Off and anti cuts pressure groups

  • Comment number 615.

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

  • Comment number 614.

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

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 613.

    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 . . like letting your dog poop on a pavement or parking on a yellow line?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 612.

    Like the anti terrorist legislation - I think the first time it was used was against Willie Wolfgang for shouting out the word "Rubbish" at Jack Straw at a Labour Party Conference. If the authorities get internet monitoring it will be used for the wrong purposes right from the start.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 611.

    They have already manage to install, without any consent whatsoever a mass surveillance system of the road network using anpr cameras and data mining software.

    All our journeys are monitored and stored for 2 years.

    A map of the scale of the surveillance system is available to view @ www.bigbrotheriswatching.co.uk


    People need to wake up very quickly, time is very short.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 610.

    So with this legislation I should be able to ask for a full catalogue of Dave Camerons e mails as PM under the freedom of information act just to see what he got up to at No 10. As he says we are all in this together and we should be able to read any MPs e mails. Unless the Tories and Dave in particular are more equal than others.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 609.

    its a laugh really , they catch criminals and terrorists but our laws are downgraded by Europe , so if we catch em we cant it seems put them on a plane out , its just money for lawyers etc and our government a laughing stock in the world , we have laws use them .

 

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