The controversial draft Communications Data Bill – dubbed "the Snoopers’ Charter" – will not go ahead while the Lib Dems are in government, according to deputy prime minister Nick Clegg.
"It's not going to happen," Nick Clegg said in his weekly LBC radio programme, Call Clegg. "It certainly isn't going to happen with Liberal Democrats in government."
The Communications Data Bill is aimed at making it easier for security and police services to spy on emails, phone calls and internet activity. Campaigners have widely criticised the draft bill as an assault on civil liberties.
“I think it's not workable nor proportionate, so it's not going to happen," said Clegg, who has opposed the measures since they were first proposed by home secretary Theresa May.
In February 2013, a report by the cross-party intelligence and security committee, appointed by the prime minister, said the bill needed more work.
It is thought Theresa May has withdrawn the legislation with significant changes in the hope of getting it included in the Queen's Speech on 8 May.
However, Clegg said he will accept minor technical changes to how online activity is currently regulated, but no more.
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- Campaigners slam snooping Communications Data Bill
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Civil liberties group welcomes move
Privacy and civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch welcomed the news.
"Nick Clegg has made the right decision for our economy, for internet security and for our freedom," said Emma Carr, deputy director of Big Brother Watch.
“Last year Skype gave British police more data than any other government, including the US. To say that the police can’t get data from the internet without this bill is simply wrong."
Where security or child safety is at risk, Carr said companies already comply with police requests. Carr said there was a real risk the proposed bill would make the situation worse by driving dangerous people underground into encrypted services.
“Recording the websites we look at and who we email would not have made us safer, as some of the country’s leading cyber security academics argued this week,” said Carr.
It would have made the UK a less attractive place to start a company and put UK companies in the position of being paid by the government to spy on their customers, she said.
Instead of spending billions on the bill, government should focus on ensuring the police have the skills and training to make use of the huge volume of data available, said Carr.
Last year, a Big Brother Watch/YouGov poll found 71% of UK citizens polled did not trust that the data about internet use will be kept secure. Some 41% said they would be less likely to use online services and websites if they knew their activity was being recorded.
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