Spat grows over online security proposals

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The coalition spat over extending internet surveillance intensified yesterday after Nick Clegg denied he had endorsed the plans.

David Cameron had 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.

He insisted Lib Dem and Tory backbench critics who had branded the policy a “snoopers’ charter” should be “patient” until they see the final version.

He also urged against rushing to condemn plans to extend courts’ ability to hear evidence in secret.

Speaking during a trade mission to south-east Asia, 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 emails.

“No one is talking about changing the rules and snooping into the content of somebody’s telephone calls or emails,” 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.

“I think it’s important that people see the detail and hear the arguments.

“You’ve got to remember that this was a National Security Council where, sitting round the table, was (Lib Dem ex-Energy Secretary) Chris Huhne, Nick Clegg, (Tory Justice Secretary) Ken Clarke – people from impeccable civil libertarian backgrounds.

But 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 by the Home Office.”

Mr Clegg has now written to the National Security Council to say Lib Dems will not support plans to extend powers without changes