The government's controversial Draft Communications Data Bill, which aims to allow unparalleled interception of data about UK citizens' online communications and voice calls, needs to go back to the drawing board, according to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
Clegg was responding to a critical report from MPs and peers which laid into the Bill, accusing the government of using "fanciful and misleading" figures to justify them and stating that the current draft is "too sweeping, going further than it needs or should".
"Their report makes a number of serious criticisms - not least on scope; proportionality; cost; balances; and the need for much wider consultation," Clegg said.
"It is for those reasons that 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. We need to reflect properly on the criticisms that the Committee have made, while also consulting much more widely with business and other interested groups," he added.
The Home Office had revealed that the Bill, which was laid before Parliament in June, could lead to an increase in public expenditure of up to £1.8bn over 10 years. It also claimed that the benefits from the investment are estimated to be between £5bn and £6.2bn over the same period. However, it was not clear how these figures were calculated, leading to the MPs claiming that the figures were "not robust".
"They were prepared without consultation with the telecommunications industry on which they largely depend, and they project forward 10 years to a time where the communications landscape may be very different," the MPs said.
If introduced, the Bill would require internet and phone providers to store information about all web, social media and mobile activity in the UK for 12 months without the need for consent from users. This does not include the content of messages, as officers would need a warrant to gain access to these, but it does include other information such as the time, duration, recipient, originator, and location of device.