Senior Conservative sources say that the Prime Minister will refuse to form a government with the Liberal Democrats if Nick Clegg does not drop his opposition to Tory plans to ramp up internet surveillance powers
By Peter Dominiczak, and Christopher Hope
Telegraph Online – 14 January 2015
David Cameron will refuse to form another coalition with the Liberal Democrats unless Nick Clegg backs down over his opposition to the so-called “snoopers’ charter”, senior Government sources have warned. The Prime Minister sees his bid to ramp up internet surveillance powers to prevent terrorists plotting online atrocities online as a “red line” in any future coalition negotiations.
Nick Clegg caused anger amongst senior Government figures when he last year derailed the Communications Data Bill, which had the backing of the Prime Minister, Home Secretary, and the bosses of Britain’s security services. It follows the massacre of French journalists last week, which led for calls for British spies to be given significant new powers to monitor jihadists.
Mr Cameron this week said that he would revive the legislation if the Tories win the election on May 7. However, with the polls increasingly pointing to another hung Parliament, it is expected that the issue could form a key part of any coalition negotiations. A senior source said:
“This is a red line for the PM. He won’t do a deal with a party that opposes the communications data bill because he believes it is vital. The terrorist threat has never been greater. Nobody in Government wants to be in the position where something happens and we could have been in a position to have stopped it with legislation.”
Julian Lewis, a Conservative member of the Intelligence and Security Committee which monitors the work of the security services, said:
“To the Lib Dems, the concept of the Government potentially being able to look at this material is more important than the prospect of preventing lethal terrorist attacks from taking place.”
Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the Tory chairman of the cross-party committee, added that Mr Clegg’s position seemed to be inconsistent. He told the Telegraph:
“Anyone in a position of responsibility, dealing with the security issues, should never say never. If the intelligence agencies make a request for certain reforms then it is much better to listen very carefully to what they say, and, if you are in Government you have access to the most classified information, not to preclude the possibility of further reform by sweeping statements in advance.”
It came after Rob Wainwright, the director of Europol, the EU’s enforcement agency, told MPs that were between 3,000 to 5,000 suspects who have the potential to carry out an attack similar to the recent Paris shootings.
“We are dealing with a large body of mainly young men that have the potential to come back and have the intent if not the capability to carry out the attacks that we have seen in Paris last weekend,”