Lib Dems could scupper "snooper's charter"

Westminster

Nick Clegg to use committee report to oppose Communications Data Bill

The Liberal Democrats could drop support of the government's controversial plans to increase web surveillance, posing a threat to it progressing into law.

The Communication Data Bill has been roundly criticised by many in the technology industry and by social rights groups as being a "snooper's charter" yet is still being championed by the Home Office.

A draft version of the Bill was recently discussed by a parliamentary committee, which is due to report on its findings next week, according to sources quoted by the BBC, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg plans to use the report's publication to oppose the Bill.

The bill was intended to give police and security services greater access to records of communications - such as email headers, but not content – without a warrant and has been criticised for being an expensive threat to privacy that might not meet its aims of targeting terrorists and other criminals.

It is critical of the approach the Home Office initially took and recommends more caution and a more proportionate way forward

The report, which is expected to raise several questions about the Home Office plans, could enable the Lib Dems to put a spanner in the works, especially as Labour has yet to commit to support the bill.

According to the BBC, one senior Lib Dem minister said: "The report gives Nick an opportunity to kill the bill for good and that's what he wants to do."

Another said it was only a matter of time before the bill was undermined. "This is a dead duck. It is a question of when, not if," they told the BBC.

Critical report

The committee's report is expected to say the Home Office has failed to show how its current access to mobile phone records has helped solve crime and that the Bill is a threat to civil liberties.

"It is critical of the approach the Home Office initially took and recommends more caution and a more proportionate way forward,” a committee source told the BBC.

"It worries about individual liberties and principle and the costs and proportionality of what was initially recommended. How secure is this information? Are you certain it cannot be stolen by people who have access to it?"

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