Nick Clegg announced this morning that “What people dub the Snoopers’ Charter” will not go ahead while the Liberal Democrats are in government.
Speaking as part of an LBC radio phone in, the Deputy Prime Minister said:
What people have dubbed the snooper’s charter - I 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 will be a record kept of every website you visit, 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.
— Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister
Although five hours after Clegg’s comments there has not yet been an official government announcement, this appears pretty definitive. Keeping a “record…of every website you visit” and “who you communicate with on social media sites” was fundamental to the approach in the Communications Data Bill: take that out, and it’s not the same Bill at all. And saying that “It’s not going to happen with Liberal Democrats in government” goes beyond saying that the Lib-Dems would vote against the Bill (in which case there would still be the possibility of it carrying with Labour support), and appears to threaten that Clegg would take the Lib-Dems out of the Coalition if the Prime Minister tried to force the issue.
Clegg used the Coalition Agreement to provide political cover from Tory accusations of disloyalty:
We all committed ourselves at the beginning of this coalition to learn the lessons from the past, when Labour overdid it, trying to constantly keep tabs on everyone. We have a commitment in this Coalition Agreement to end the storage of internet information unless there is a very good reason to do so.
The Internet industry will be pleased to see the back of the Communications Data Bill, which it has consistently criticised since its first incarnation under the Labour government, when it was known as the Interception Modernisation Programme. While the industry provides much assistance for law enforcement, particularly with regard to communications data, the Bill was seen as expensive, technically questionable, risky in terms of security, a radical step forward in terms of national surveillance, and as setting worrying precdent for repressive foreign governments to follow.