Coalition spat over web surveillance intensifies

The coalition spat over extending internet surveillance intensified last night after Nick Clegg denied he had signed up to the plans.

David Cameron stressed his Liberal Democrat deputy’s involvement in formulating the proposals earlier, saying Mr Clegg was “round the table” at key meetings of the National Security Council (NSC).

He insisted Lib Dem and Tory backbench critics who have branded the policy a “snoopers’ charter” and said they should be “patient”.

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Mr Cameron said: “I think everyone needs to be patient. They need to see what is proposed, both in terms of this court issue and in terms of telephone calls and e-mails.

“No-one is talking about changing the rules and snooping into the content of somebody’s telephone calls or e-mails, and a warrant would still be needed, signed by the home secretary. All we’re talking about here is making sure we’re keeping up with technology.

“We have always been able to see who people are contacting through phone calls. It used to be the case that the communications data of 90 per cent of calls could be accessed but that’s not the case with Skype and other new technologies. I think it’s important that people see the detail and hear the arguments.”

A spokesman for Mr Clegg said: “The Deputy Prime Minister agreed at the NSC that the government would look at proposals to address the police’s technological gap to deal with serious criminals and terrorists.

“But he also made clear that they could only proceed if they took into account and protected civil liberties. The full details of those proposals have not yet been bought forward.”