Data legislation u-turn: MPs to rewrite 'snooper's charter'

Theresa May said she was determined to press ahead without delay with the Communications Bill

Ministers today signalled they will rewrite a Bill which gives police and security services new powers to monitor communications, after an influential parliamentary committee branded it “overkill” and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said it needed a “fundamental rethink”.

Home Secretary Theresa May said she was determined to press ahead without delay with the Communications Bill, which has been dubbed a "snooper's charter" by critics.

But she accepted the "substance" of a highly-critical report by the committee set up to scrutinise the draft version of the Bill, which would allow a range of official bodies to monitor emails, web phone calls and activity on social networking sites.

Under the draft Bill, details of these activities - but not their content - could be kept for a year, but there would be no real-time monitoring of communications.

Police, the security services, the new National Crime Agency and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) would be able to access the data, but the draft Bill also gives the Home Secretary the power to extend access to others, such as the UK Borders Agency.

The committee of MPs and peers said the legislation would give the Home Secretary "sweeping powers to issue secret notices" ordering communications companies to disclose "potentially limitless categories of data".

And they accused the Government of using "fanciful and misleading" figures to support its case for the legislation.

Mr Clegg last night said he was ready to block the Bill in its current form, and called on the Home Office to go "back to the drawing board".

"I believe the coalition Government needs to have a fundamental rethink about this legislation," said the Deputy Prime Minister.

"We cannot proceed with this Bill and we have to go back to the drawing board. We need to reflect properly on the criticisms that the committee have made, while also consulting much more widely with business and other interested groups."

Urging ministers to take the committee's concerns on board, Mr Clegg said that the creation of any new powers must be done "in a proportionate way that gets the balance between security and liberty right".

Conservative security minister James Brokenshire today accepted that the legislation will have to be changed before being tabled in Parliament.

"We know that there is work that needs to be done and I absolutely accept that," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"What we want to do is work through on these points, recognising that the Deputy Prime Minister has set out his concerns and making sure that the substance of the recommendations from the joint committee are addressed. We agree with that, that's what we will now be doing."

Mrs May used an article in The Sun to stress that legislation is needed to help security agencies keep pace with technological advances, which she said were being exploited by terrorists and paedophiles.

"You and your loved ones have the right to expect the Government to protect you from harm," said the Home Secretary.

"I will not allow these vitally important laws to be delayed any longer in this Parliament. This law is needed and it is needed now. And I am determined to see it through."

But she added: "Parliament has made suggestions about how our plans could be improved and we will accept the substance of its recommendations."

The committee set up to scrutinise the draft Bill dismissed ministers' argument that new powers for security agencies must be drawn broadly in order to "future-proof" the legislation against potential developments in technology.

Committee chairman Lord Blencathra said: "There is a fine but crucial line between allowing our law enforcement and security agencies access to the information they need to protect the country, and allowing our citizens to go about their daily business without a fear, however unjustified, that the state is monitoring their every move."

The committee found the Government was using "fanciful and misleading" figures to suggest that the reforms will deliver savings of three times its £1.8 billion costs over 10 years.

And it said that ministers' claims that a quarter of the communications data required by investigators is currently unavailable were "unhelpful and potentially misleading".

Plans to retain web logs carried a "possible risk" of being hacked or falling into the wrong hands, which would allow "potentially damaging inferences about people's interests or activities" to be drawn, warned the report.

Lord Blencathra said: "The breadth of the draft Bill as it stands appears to be overkill and is much wider than the specific needs identified by the law enforcement agencies.

"We urge the Government to reconsider its zeal to future-proof legislation and concentrate on getting the immediate necessities right."

Meanwhile, a separate committee of MPs warned Prime Minister David Cameron that more work must be done on the draft Bill if the Government wants to win over Parliament and the public.

The Intelligence and Security Committee, which scrutinises the work of the security agencies, also criticised the 25% figure, warning that "superficially precise estimates" of the size of the capability gap were misleading and could detract from efforts to address the issue.

PA

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Maths Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

Maths Teacher

£22000 - £37000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: A West Yorkshire School i...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week