Theresa May keen to revive 'snooper's charter' in wake of Woolwich attack

Home Secretary under pressure from senior figures in all parties to strengthen police and security service powers after killing of off-duty soldier

The Woolwich murder will be used by Theresa May, the Home Secretary, to revive plans for a “snoopers’ charter” allowing the police and the security services to monitor internet use, Conservative sources indicated.

Mrs May was furious when Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, vetoed the inclusion of the contentious scheme in this month’s Queen’s Speech on the grounds that it was disproportionate and an invasion of privacy.

She faces demands from senior figures in all parties to strengthen police and security service powers following Wednesday’s killing of an off-duty soldier.

David Cameron and Tory ministers insisted they would not rush into “knee-jerk” legislation while feelings were running high, but are now preparing to return to the scheme before the next election.

The move would provoke a fierce Coalition row as the Liberal Democrats are strongly opposed to the planned Communications Data Bill, which is currently on ice.

A senior Tory told The Independent: “The Home Secretary is very keen to do something shortly that includes at least some of this Bill.

“I suspect any opportunity to strengthen pressure on the naysayers will be taken. She is absolutely determined to do something on this.”

Under Mrs May’s plans, internet service providers would be required to store data about website visits, emails, mobile calls and messages on social media and Skype.

The information would cover the time, duration and recipient of messages, but not their contents.

The Home Secretary insisted the moves would help to monitor terrorists who were turning to sophisticated technology to escape detection.

A Home Office source said: “It’s a simple idea about giving the authorities the tools to keep track of pretty clever people. When people understand what’s being proposed, it’s hard to object.”

Security sources acknowledged it was unclear whether the Bill’s proposed powers would have thwarted the Woolwich attack and signalled their wariness over being used for “political purposes”.

But they said that greater access to contacts between terror suspects would be useful in the early stages of an investigation and to collect evidence to secure a conviction.

Senior Conservatives insist that talks are continuing within the Coalition over the Bill’s fate and that Liberal Democrat objections can be overcome.

But a spokesman for Mr Clegg said: “There are already substantial powers in place to track the communications of criminals and terrorists.”

And a Liberal Democrat source warned the Deputy Prime Minister would face “open revolt” from his party’s grassroots if the Bill was revived.

Calls for the extension of email and internet monitoring powers were led by Lord Carlile, the former independent reviewer of terror laws, who is a Liberal Democrat peer.

He said the Woolwich attack should give the Government “pause for thought” over its decision to shelve the Bill.

He also suggested ministers should look afresh at its move to replace control orders for terror suspects with the “diluted” system of Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (Tpims).

“We must ensure the police and the security services have for the future the tools they need which will enable them to prevent this kind of attack taking place,” Lord Carlile said.

Lord Reid, the former Home Secretary, said mobile phone data had been crucial in saving 2,500 lives by foiling a plot in 2006 to blow up airliners using liquid explosives.

But he added: “Now people have moved on from mobile phones to internet, email, text, Skype. We don't have the means of doing what we did six years ago.”

Nick Pickles, director of the civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, warned of the “dangers of rushing forward policy changes when the nation is in shock and of those who seek to use the politics of fear”.

Mr Cameron said: “After an event like this, it is natural questions will be asked about what additional steps can be taken to keep us safe. I will make sure those questions are asked and answered. But I am not in favour of knee-jerk responses.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...