Theresa May’s plans to revive the “snooper’s charter” triggered an extraordinary Coalition clash as Nick Clegg accused the Home Secretary of peddling “false and outrageous” lies and her aides denounced the Deputy Prime Minister as a “w*****”.
Tensions between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats will intensify today (when the Tories detail plans to end the authority of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) over British law.
The Deputy Prime Minister hit out after Ms May claimed his party had put children at risk by blocking plans to reintroduce the so-called “snooper’s charter”.
Mr Clegg said he had written to his fellow Cabinet member to demand an apology and described the episode as a “new low point in Coalition relations”.
In her speech to this week’s Tory conference, Mrs May called for the revival of the Communications Data Bill, which would give police and the intelligence services wider powers to monitor internet, email and phone use.
She claimed the National Crime Agency had been forced to drop at least 20 cases, including 13 “threat-to-life cases” involving children, because they lacked the power to track online contacts.
Ms May called the Lib Dems “outrageously irresponsible” for torpedoing the legislation and vowed a future Tory government would bring in the measure.
But Mr Clegg lambasted her for “appalling” behaviour - and suggested she was putting children at risk.
“To say I’ve put children at risk is a level of misinformation I’ve not witnessed in four and a half years of this government,” he said in LBC radio phone-in.
“The reason the National Crime Agency had to drop come of these cases was because IP addresses were not properly matched to individual mobile devices.
“I have been saying for months that that is a problem we should deal with, and guess who has been dragging their feet to do something about it – the Home Office.
“I think I’m entitled to be a little bit aggrieved to hear a Conservative Home Secretary somehow claiming my party is putting children at risk when it is their inactivity that is doing just that.”
Mr Clegg said: “I have made it very, very clear to her I expect an apology from her for making such a false and outrageous claim.”
But sources close to Ms May stood by the Home Secretary’s claims, and one told Mailonline: “Nick Clegg is a w******.”
Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, will today publish plans to strip the ECHR of the ability to order changes to UK legislation and to guarantee that the Supreme Court is Britain’s ultimate legal arbiter.
Under the proposals, which will form part of the Tory election manifesto in May, judges will no longer have to take into account ECHR ruling.
Judgements by the Strasbourg-based court against the UK would be treated as “advisory” and would have to be approved by MPs for them to lead to change in British laws.
Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, said the plans were “legally illiterate and politically provocative” and breach international law.Reuse content