David Cameron defends surveillance plans
David Cameron has denied that Government proposals to monitor calls, emails, texts and website visits would be a "snoopers' charter".
The Prime Minister insisted the moves were needed to keep up with changes in technology and were vital in the effort to tackle serious crime and terrorism.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the controversial proposals would be published in draft form for consultation and would include the "highest possible safeguards".
The Government has faced a backlash from Tory and Liberal Democrat backbenchers concerned at the erosion of civil liberties.
Both parties had previously condemned the Labour government's plans to establish a surveillance database.
Asked why the Tories appeared to have changed their position on GCHQ accessing information, Mr Cameron said: "Let's be absolutely clear, this is not what the last government proposed and we opposed.
"And let's be clear, this is not about extending the reach of the state into people's data, it's about trying to keep up with modern technology.
"But we should remember that this sort of data, used at the moment, through the proper processes, is absolutely vital in stopping serious crime and some of the most serious terrorist incidents that could kill people in our country, so it's essential we get this right.
"Yes to keeping up with modern technology. No to a snoopers' charter."
Speaking on a visit to south west London, the Prime Minister added: "This is not about giving the state access to the content of people's emails or telephone conversations, that requires a warrant and all the proper processes have to be gone through.
"An awful lot of misinformation, frankly, has been put about what's being proposed."
Liberal Democrat leader Mr Clegg said what was being discussed was a case of updating existing powers to take account of advances in technology - such as internet telephone service Skype - which he claimed criminals and terrorists could use to subvert existing surveillance laws.
Mr Clegg told BBC Radio 4's World At One: "We have to confront as a Government it is now possible to communicate with each other using different routes and we do need to update the means and powers that already exist on the statute books to reflect that change in technology.
"There will be the highest possible safeguards. What I can't do is tell you what those are in detail because the proposals have not been published yet.
"I'm absolutely clear... we will not return to the bad old days under the Labour Party.
"This will be an open, consultative and properly scrutinised process."
But Labour leader Ed Miliband said the Government had "spectacularly mishandled" a sensitive issue.
He said: "It is unclear what they are proposing. It is unclear what it means for people. It is always going to lead to fears about general browsing of people's emails unless they are clear about their proposals, clear about what they would mean, clear about how they are changing the law."
Liberal Democrat MP Julian Huppert, who sits on the Home Affairs Select Committee, warned there were real questions to answer about the technological capability of any new system.
He told the World at One: "Proposals to read exactly what we write in an email would, I think, be totally unacceptable.
"I think from a principle level I'm not wild about phone records being kept but it's hard to see whether there is a difference between a phone record and a Skype record.
"But there are key problems from both a technological and a cost point of view."
Home Secretary Theresa May will face questions about the plans when she appears in front of the Home Affairs Select Committee on April 24.
Writing in The Sun she said the proposed law change, which will mean internet companies are instructed to install hardware tracking telephone and website traffic, would help police stay one step ahead of criminals.
She added: "We cannot afford to lose this vital law enforcement tool. But currently online communication by criminals can't always be tracked. That's why the Government is proposing to help the police stay one step ahead of the criminals.
"There are no plans for any big Government database. No one is going to be looking through ordinary people's emails or Facebook posts. Only suspected terrorists, paedophiles or serious criminals will be investigated."
- 1 Exclusive: Abusers using spyware apps to monitor partners reaches 'epidemic proportions'
- 2 Margaret Thatcher 'expressed fears of Asian rising' at Anglo-Irish summit in 1984
- 3 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
- 4 The Unluckiest People of the Year 2014 (and one very unlucky giraffe)
- 5 Magna Carta will be 800 years old next year – the perfect reminder of the rights and freedoms we must hold dear
Exclusive: Abusers using spyware apps to monitor partners reaches 'epidemic proportions'
UK weather: Warning for more snow and ice as freezing temperatures and gales hit Britain
Margaret Thatcher 'expressed fears of Asian rising' at Anglo-Irish summit in 1984
UK weather: Travel chaos continues as King's Cross train delays add to snow on roads
The Unluckiest People of the Year 2014 (and one very unlucky giraffe)
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...
£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...
£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...