Nick Clegg holds firm on snoopers’ charter

Nick Clegg has indicated that he will not change his position on the so called “snoopers’ charter” despite calls for him to do so by four former home secretaries.  A group of politicians, including Liberal Democrat peer Lord Carlile wrote to the Times (£) to say that the Bill was necessary:

It has always been a requirement, and always will be, that such intrusive intercepts are subject to time-limited warrants. Their use is guided by a strict criterion of necessity and proportionality, and are only permitted to protect national security and counter serious criminal conduct. We find it odd that many critics of the Bill prefer to champion the rights of corporations over democratically accountable law-enforcement agencies Good counter terrorism is about learning from previous plots and exploiting intelligence. Communications data is a vital tool in that armoury.

The Liberal Democrat leader is under constant pressure to agree to the measure under which every website we visit would be stored for a year. He has said continually that the proposal is disproportionate and unworkable.

Jack Straw, David Blunkett, Alan Johnson and Kenneth Baker are not what you would call ardent defenders of civil liberties. In fact, Straw would have been quite happy to lock people up for 3 months without charge, something which, as the BBC reports, Nick Clegg mentioned when asked about their letter:

But Mr Clegg said on Friday that he rejected any claim that his opposition to the Communications Data Bill had endangered lives and said it was important to “get the balance right”.

“We need to make sure the police and the security services have the powers that they need to keep us safe, that’s why we are going to do some more work for instance on how you match IP addresses to mobile devices,” he said.

“But we also have to get the balance right and I think that the proposal that every website that you visit should be stored on a database is not proportionate nor workable.”

He added: “These former home secretaries will know from their own experience the dangers of knee-jerk reactions, over-the-top reactions, to the difficult events we encounter in this country.”

He pointed to the history of Labour’s efforts to extend the period terrorist suspects could be held without charge, first to 90 then to 42 days – both of which ended in defeat for the then-Labour government.

It is to his credit that Nick Clegg is prepared to withstand this sort of pressure to  protect our internet activity from indiscriminate state intrusion. As we reported the other day, Paddy Ashdown, who probably  understands more about the detail of these issues than we will ever know, holds a similar view. This is an issue which is not going to go away and will challenge us after the 2015 election. There is a lot more holding firm to do and we should, in my view, be doing even more to get our position heard on this. Nick’s clear, consistent message is very welcome and the party must show its overwhelming support for him by getting out there and winning the arguments with him on the doorstep.

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