Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has hit out at the government’s draft communications bill, claiming that it needs a 'fundamental rethink' and cannot be brought into legislation as it currently stands.
Clegg's comments follow heavy criticism of the bill by a parliamentary joint committee, which claimed that its powers are too broad and the benefits are exaggerated.
The Draft Communications Data Bill, which was put forward in June, would give police access to communications data for the purposes of tackling serious crime.
Communications data includes information such as which websites individuals have visited, and who they have emailed, but not the actual content of exchanges. The government wants to update existing data laws to enable police to access communications data generated by new technologies such as VoIP (voice over IP) service Skype.
The Draft Bill also plans to require communication service providers, when requested to do so, to retain and store communications records that they might not already keep.
Clegg said that the government 'cannot proceed with this bill' and that it 'has to go back to the drawing board'.
"We need to reflect properly on the criticisms that the Committee have made, while also consulting much more widely with business and other interested groups," he said.
"The Committee did not, however, suggest that nothing needs to be done. They were very clear that there is a problem that must be addressed to give law enforcement agencies the powers they need to fight crime. I agree."
He added: "But that must be done in a proportionate way that gets the balance between security and liberty right. Any modernisation of the powers, including possible new legislation, must meet the concerns of the Joint Committee by having the best possible safeguards and keeping costs under control.2