A furious Coalition row broke out this morning as Nick Clegg accused Theresa May of peddling "false and outrageous" slurs about the Liberal Democrats.
The Deputy Prime Minister hit back after the Home Secretary claimed that his party had put children at risk by blocking plans to introduce the so-called “snooper’s charter”.
Mr Clegg said he had written to his fellow Cabinet member to demand an apology and said the episode marked 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 accused her of “appalling” behaviour - and suggested she was putting children at risk.
“This a new low point in coalition relations,” he said in his weekly LBC Radio phone-in.
Video: A segment of May's speech
“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.
“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 am entitled to be a little bit aggrieved to hear a Conservative Home Secretary somehow claiming that my party is putting children at risk when it is their inactivity that is doing just that.”
Mr Clegg said he had not yet spoken to Mrs May directly, but he had written her a letter expressing his anger.
“I have made it very, very clear to her that I expect an apology from her for making such a false and outrageous claim,” the Lib Dem leader said.Reuse content