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Lord Carlile defends communication monitoring plans

2 April 2012

Lord Carlile, the Lib Dem peer and former reviewer of terrorism legislation, has defended government plans to give intelligence centre GCHQ real-time access to emails, web visits, phone calls and texts. It is understood that the proposals could feature in next month’s Queen’s Speech.

Under the current regime internet service providers keep details of communications for 12 months.

Lord Carlile told BBC’s Radio Four this morning that the proposals involved updating existing practices rather than a new departure.

He explained that, although both Conservatives and Lib Dem MPs had strongly criticised similar plans by the previous government which were never carried out, the coalition government had now realised the move had the potential for saving lives and preventing serious crime.

Lord Carlile said any increased powers given to the police or security services must the subject of independent scrutiny and careful consideration by parliament.

A Home Office spokesman said it was vital that police and security services were able to obtain communications data “in certain circumstances” to investigate serious crime and terrorism and to protect the public.

“Communications data includes time, duration and dialling numbers of a phone call, or an email address,” he said.

“It does not include the content of any phone call or email and it is not the intention of government to make changes to the existing legal basis for the interception of communications.

“As set out in the strategic defence and security review we will legislate as soon as parliamentary time allows to ensure that the use of communications data is compatible with the government's approach to civil liberties.”

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Procedures