Nick Clegg Promises Safeguards In Web Surveillance Legislation

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Deputy PM says surveillance plans will be open to debate but ensures safeguards over any monitored data

Nick Clegg has spoken out to calm concerns about proposed internet and phone surveillance measures by vowing to impose the “highest possible safeguards” on any data collected.

The Home Office’s proposals, revealed on Monday, were met with criticism from various rights groups and MPs who suggested that GCHQ would be breaching privacy by tracking communications across platforms (including email, Skype and SMS) without a warrant.

Clegg steps in

The home secretary, Theresa May, defended the plans in The Sun on Tuesday by saying that they would help stop paedophile rings and terrorists, and would not form part of a government database on the population.

However, her defence failed to quell fears both within and outside of government. The deputy prime minister yesterday stepped in state that the measures were still under consideration and would not seek to intrude on people’s privacy:

“It’s important people should be reassured that we as a government are not going to ram something through parliament,” Clegg said on BBC Radio 4. “Any change will have to be proportionate.”

“It cannot lead to the creation of a new government database. It cannot give the police new powers to look at the content of people’s emails and essentially what we’re talking about is what the powers of the police need to be updated to keep pace with the use of new technologies.”

Clegg’s intervention is thought to have been an attempt to prevent a Liberal Democrat revolt against the legislation, which some MPs had said lacked clarity about GCHQ’s proposed new powers. The deputy PM later added, in an interview with The Guardian, that the matter is still under scrutiny and would not pass without public debate.

“We are not simply going to bounce new legislation through parliament. We will publish draft clauses and subject them to proper pre-legislative scrutiny,” he said. “The route to legislation will be a deliberative, open one which can be subject to real stress testing and scrutiny. That is what proper pre-legislative scrutiny is all about.”

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