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Internet law: Senior government MPs attack proposed new law

Senior MPs representing both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have spoken out to criticise a proposed new law which would see internet service providers and phone companies obliged to surrender personal records to monitoring agencies.

The plans under consideration would allow the Government to know who people call, when they call, them and how long they spend on the phone. The Government would also be given powers to see what internet sites had been visited by individuals.

However, to access the content of emails or phone calls the authorities would still need a warrant from a court.

It is thought the new law could be announced in the next Queen's speech, which is due on 9 May 2012 for the 2012-13 parliamentary sessions.

The proposed law has been met with opposition from MPs across the coalition government. David Davis, the former shadow home secretary, who ran for leadership of the party in 2001 and 2005, has spoken out against further erosion of civil liberties.

"(This law is) an unnecessary extension of the Government's ability to snoop on innocent people," he said.

"The current surveillance structure allows ... unwarranted checking of who calls who. It is far too loose," he added. "This legislation makes it 60 million times worse."

Mark Field is another Tory backbencher who sits on the parliamentary intelligence and security committee. He believes that there is greater opposition to this law now than when Labour attempted, and failed, to introduce a similar law back in 2006.

Speaking to Pienaar's Politics, Mr Field said: "I would imagine that if anything the sentiment has become even stronger among MPs across the House that they would be extremely concerned if this were to see the light of day in legislation in this entirely unvarnished way."

Other opponents have cited the risk that data could fall into the wrong hands. Liberal Democrat MP Malcolm Bruce pointed to previous incidents where sensitive data has been lost to emphasise his concerns.

However, the Home Office said that the new law was 'vital' to allow the police and the security services to investigate serious crime and terrorism.

A Home Office spokesman said: "We need to take action to maintain the continued availability of communications data as technology changes."

Related links:

Read more on the story (The Financial Times)

Right to privacy (FindLaw)