Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, came under fire over the plans as he failed to secure agreement on a package of measures designed to bolster the European fight against terrorism. The summit of 70 ministers in Newcastle upon Tyne remained divided over rules laying down how long companies would have to keep the details of telephone calls and the location of callers.
Mr Clarke acknowledged that the issue was "a tricky political question" but said that he was still confident of securing a data retention law by the end of the year. He said: "There was a determination from all colleagues around the table ... to reach agreement."
The Government insists that the cost of retaining call details will not be prohibitive, and stresses its importance in combating terrorism. But Michael Bartholomew, the director of the European Telecommunications Network Operators' Association, said: "We think it's a rather unsophisticated approach to a complex problem. Our plea to the ministers is to have more dialogue with the industry."
He said: "Storing the location of callers is outlawed under European data protection measures. The implications of this total package are very considerable and it seems to me that we're talking about hundreds of millions of euros on a pan-European basis."Reuse content