Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has said that the government’s proposed Communications Data Bill, which would provide access by intelligence services and the police to private emails and individual internet activity, needs to be amended in order to provide a better balance between security and personal liberty.

Commenting on the findings of new and critical report from the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Draft Communications Bill, Mr Clegg said:

‘I believe the coalition government needs to have a fundamental rethink about this legislation. We cannot proceed with this bill and we have to go back to the drawing board.’

The report had criticised the draft bill on a number of counts – for being too broad in its powers, for not having sufficient safeguards against possible misuse, for underestimating the costs of carrying out the bill’s proposals, and – fundamentally – for not placing due emphasis on the right to individual privacy.

Both the Committee and Mr Clegg himself however were at pains to point out their agreement that some form of legislation was needed to help tackle crime – including terrorism – being perpetrated with the help of the internet and other web-based communications.

The Home Office is keen to push the bill through as soon as possible.

Under the proposed law, full details of every single online communication would need to be stored for up to a year by internet service providers (ISPs).

Authorities would be able to see when and between whom such communication took place, but would require a warrant to view actual content.