Woolwich: Powers to monitor internet use back on agenda

Home Secretary will push again for 'snooper's charter' after Liberal Democrats vetoed policy

The Woolwich murder will be used by Theresa May, the Home Secretary, to revive plans for a "snooper's charter", allowing police and security services to monitor internet use, Conservative sources indicated tonight.

Ms 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 faced demands from senior figures in all parties to strengthen the powers of the police and security services after 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 they are preparing to return to the scheme before the next election.

The move would divide the Coalition as the Liberal Democrats are strongly opposed to the Communications Data Bill, which is on hold.

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."

Under Ms May's plans, internet service providers would have 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 Tories 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 that 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. "We must ensure the police and the security services have for the future the tools they need … to prevent this kind of attack taking place," he 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".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project