Julian Huppert has already joyfully welcomed Nick Clegg’s decision to veto Tory plans on web snooping. However, I thought I’d give you the chance to hear Nick Clegg’s words from Call Clegg this morning. I certainly wasn’t expecting such an unequivocal statement. He has given himself no wiggle room at all. This is what he said:
What people have dubbed the snoopers’ charter, I just have to be clear with you, that’s not going to happen. In other words, the idea that the Government will pass a law which means there would be a record kept of every website you visit, of who you communicate with on social media sites, that’s not going to happen. It’s certainly not going to happen with Liberal Democrats in government. We all committed ourselves at the beginning of this Coalition Government to learn the lessons from the past, where Labour overdid it, tried to constantly keep tabs on everybody. We have a commitment in the Coalition Agreement to end the storage of email and internet information unless there is a very good reason to do so. Of course we need to support, and I’ve spoken to senior police officers and people from the security services, of course we need to support them. They’ve got very significant powers already which I support them in deploying to go after criminals, to keep us safe. There are technical issues about how, as technology changes you got to update that. For instance, we’ve all got more and more mobile devices but there aren’t enough IP addresses to go round and we need to straighten that out and that’s clearly something the Government will do. We will work with the police and others to do so. But this idea of a snooper’s charter, as it’s been dubbed, where a law is passed where there is a record kept of all the websites that you visit, of who you communicate with on social media sites, I’m afraid I think that’s not necessarily workable nor proportionate so it’s not going to happen.
As I understand it the IP address issue does not require legislation.
There is work that clearly needs to be done on issues where I think most reasonable people would think you do need to keep up with technology, particularly this issue where you have to make sure you’ve got an IP address attached to every device, you don’t. The police say that’s a big issue and you’ve got to look at that. But I think the full scale approach of basically saying you are going to just scoop up and horde huge amounts of data, for instance, literally recording every website that you ever visit, and everybody visits, so that you’ve got this great treasure trove of data that you can then dip into if you need to, I don’t think the British public will support that. I don’t think it’s in many ways necessarily workable for various technical reasons – there are large parts of the internet industry, the internet service providers, who say it’s not necessarily technically feasible, and I don’t think it’s necessarily proportionate. We’ve got to get the balance right between giving the police, of course, the tools they need to do the job, but they need to do so in a way that also gets the balance right between liberty and security, between privacy and what law enforcement agencies do.
This will undoubtedly please party activists and shows the value of the leadership and the party working together on issues, listening to each other and getting the right result. Julian Huppert’s work on this issue has been extremely helpful along with the contribution of party members like Dr Jenny Woods. Let’s be clear: if the Liberal Democrats were not in Government, these authoritarian, illiberal and draconian measures would probably be law by now. It was Nick Clegg putting his foot down last year, and insisting on a draft bill which was carefully scrutinised and rejected last December that set us on the road to today. This is a very significant protection that Liberal Democrats have won for the British people.
No ifs, buts or maybes, Nick has done a good job on this one.
* Caron Lindsay is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings