May clashes with Lib Dems over surveillance powers

Home Secretary Theresa May makes a statement on the Paris shootings. Picture: PA

Home Secretary Theresa May makes a statement on the Paris shootings. Picture: PA

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INNOCENT lives will be put at risk unless the security services are given more power to monitor communications, the Home Secretary has warned.

Theresa May told MPs that three “serious” terror plots had been disrupted in the UK during the past few months.

But she said that without the proposals in the Communications Data Bill, the “capabilities of the people who keep us safe diminishes”.

In a statement to the House of Commons, Mrs May said it was “highly probable” that communications data was used in Paris to locate the suspects and establish links between the two terrorist attacks on the offices of Charlie Hebdo and a kosher store. She said: “The police and security agencies must have the capabilities and powers they need to do their job, and following the attacks in Paris the Prime Minister has reiterated that commitment.

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Unfortunately, when it comes to communications data and the intercept of communications, there is no cross-party consensus and therefore no parliamentary majority to pass the legislation.

“But let me be absolutely clear, every day that passes without the proposals in the Communications Data Bill, the capabilities of the people who keep us safe diminishes. And as those capabilities diminish, more people find themselves in danger, and yes crimes will go unpunished and innocent lives will be put at risk.”

The Liberal Democrats have repeatedly warned the Home Secretary against resurrecting a raft of invasive powers under a so-called “snoopers’ charter”.

Liberal Democrat justice minister Simon Hughes said: “The Liberal Democrats are part of a coalition government that has taken a number of measures to keep our country safe, including two pieces of counter-terrorism legislation in the last six months and increasing the resources of the security services.

“Theresa May makes it sound as if we are helpless without the so-called snooper’s charter, when in fact Britain already has some of the most extensive surveillance powers in the world.

“It is classic knee-jerk reaction to demand sweeping new powers in the wake of a terrorist atrocity. The snooper’s charter would be a major extension of surveillance powers and, in the view of the Liberal Democrats, is neither proportionate nor necessary.”

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