Government puts brakes on web snooping plans

In a U-turn over plans to allow security services to spy on e-mails, phone calls and web browsing, the legislation will be published only in draft

In an apparent about-turn over government plans to allow security and police services to spy on e-mails, phone calls and internet browsing habits, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said the legislation will be published only as a draft.

This indicates that the controversial proposed new legislation may not be included in the Queen's Speech in May as expected, and will instead be subjected to further scrutiny, according to reports.

In an attempt to head off Liberal Democrat revolt over the plans, which home secretary Theresa May said were needed to protect citizens from terrorists and paedophiles, Clegg promised the "highest possible safeguards" on security service powers, according to the Guardian.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4, Clegg insisted that the draft proposals would be subjected to proper scrutiny.

"It is important that people should be reassured that we as a government are not going to ram something through parliament… Any change will have to be proportionate," he said.

Clegg said any changes to the law could not lead to the creation of a new government database or give the police new powers to look at the content of people's e-mails.

"Essentially what we're talking about is that the powers of the police need to be updated to keep pace with the use of new technologies," he said.

The proposed legislation has drawn strong criticism from civil liberties groups that have raised concerns that the changes could lead to blanket surveillance of the entire UK population.

MPs from across the political spectrum have raised concerns about how much the data storage will cost taxpayers and what levels of authority will be needed to access information on individuals.

Internet service providers are concerned that the proposals will be pushed through without consultation, leaving them with a costly and technically difficult task of providing the data.

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