Lib Dems fear Government will stifle debate over online ‘snooping’ laws

Christopher Williams writes in the Daily Telegraph:

Senior Liberal Democrats fear the Government could force online “snooping” laws through Parliament by including them in widely-supported reforms of the fight against organised crime.

Measures to dramatically increase surveillance of the internet are due to be included in the Queen’s Speech next month. Opponents believe the Government may attempt to stifle backbench dissent by incorporating them into the Bill to set up the new National Crime Agency.

Tom Brake, chairman of the Liberal Democrat backbench home affairs committee, warned against the move.

“There are only a certain number of slots for new laws but we need this to be something that is debatable and improvable on its own terms,” he said, “not part of something that has broad support like the National Crime Agency”.

“The laws in this area are already too weak to protect individual privacy, and they need to be strengthened.”

Under the plans, the police and intelligence agencies would be granted “real time” access to vast databases of information about everything Britons do online. Details of who contacts whom, when, and where would be stored for an array of internet services such as Facebook, Google free email system Gmail, and web browsing.