Surveillance

Nick Clegg's veto threat puts Theresa May's plan for a 'snooper's charter' in crisis

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Lib Dem leader says proposals to give police powers to monitor internet use need major 'rethink'

Theresa May’s plans for a “snoopers’ charter” were in crisis last night after Nick Clegg called for a “fundamental rethink” of plans to give sweeping powers to the police and the security services to monitor everyone’s internet use.

A parliamentary committee condemned the moves as disproportionate, an invasion of privacy and drawn up without proper consultation. In a damning report, it also condemned the Home Office for supplying “fanciful and misleading” estimates of how much the project would cost the taxpayer.

The Liberal Democrats are now preparing to block the draft Communications Data Bill, which has been widely condemned by civil liberties groups as well as several Conservative MPs.

Mr Clegg said: “The Coalition Government needs to have a fundamental rethink about this legislation. We cannot proceed with this Bill and have to go back to the drawing-board.”

He put himself on a collision course with Ms May who argues the moves are essential to catch terrorists, criminal networks and paedophile rings which turn to increasing sophisticated forms of communication to evade detection.

Under her plans, public bodies would be able to instruct internet service providers to store information about every website visit, as well as emails, mobile calls and messages sent on social media, webmail and Skype. The data collected would include the time, the duration and recipient of communications, but not their contents.

But the committee, which was set up at Mr Clegg’s insistence to scrutinise the proposals, sounded the alarm over the scheme. It condemned the Bill as unjustified and intrusive and called for the plans to be substantially rewritten.

It acknowledged there was a case for legislation to take account of technological advances, but protested that the Bill paid “insufficient attention to the duty to respect the right to privacy and goes much further than it need or should for the purpose of providing necessary and justifiable official access to communications data”.

The joint committee, comprising MPs and peers of all parties, added that the proposals would give the Home Secretary “sweeping powers” to issue secret orders to communications companies to keep and hand over “potentially limitless” types of information.

It called for the proposals to be narrowed, and safeguards added to them, to prevent abuse and to strike a “better balance between the needs of law enforcement and other agencies and the right to privacy”.

The former Tory chief whip Lord Blencathra, who chaired the committee, said: “The breadth of this draft Bill as it stands appears to be overkill.”

The committee was also was scathing about a claim by the Home Office that it would cost £1.8bn to run the scheme over ten years, but recoup three times that amount. It said: “Some of the figures are fanciful and misleading”.

Last night Ms May insisted she was determined to press ahead with the controversial measures within months. She said: “The longer we leave it, the greater the gap becomes and the harder it will be for the police and security services to get on with their job of saving lives.”

She said she was “open-minded” about making changes to her plans, but a spokesman for Mr Clegg said: “There’s a huge amount of work that needs to be done.”

The Conservative MP Dominic Raab said: “It is difficult to see how Parliament could vote for this scheme. The proposals are on life support and they'll need major surgery to pass in any shape or form.”

Yvette Cooper, the shadow Home Secretary, said the Government was “making a complete mess of a very important issue”.

She said: “Given the importance of technology in fighting crime, the Home Secretary needs to urgently rethink this legislation and get her approach right so that the police can do their job in fighting crime whilst the public have confidence their privacy is well protected too.”

Isabella Sankey, the director of policy for Liberty, said: “It is clear that a proper public consultation would leave this Snoopers’ Charter, not just in the long grass, but dead and buried for good.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...