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Clegg denies endorsing emails plan

The coalition spat over extending internet surveillance has intensified 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.

He insisted Lib Dem and Tory backbench critics who have 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 to journalists on 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.

"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% 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.

"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. I think when people see the detail they will understand this is a very sensible way of keeping up with technology and not a snoopers' charter."

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 brought forward by the Home Office. When they are, they must be carefully scrutinised to get the balance between security and liberty exactly right."

Mr Clegg has written to the National Security Council to say Lib Dems will not support separate plans to extend powers for civil courts to hear evidence in secret without changes.


From Belfast Telegraph