Nick Clegg has issued a clear warning to the home secretary, Theresa May, that there will be no revival of her "snooper's charter" legislation this side of the general election despite her claim on Monday that it was "quite simply a matter of life or death".
The home secretary made her most detailed case yet for reviving her draft communications data bill to maintain the ability of the police and security services to track everyone's internet and mobile phone use. The bill was blocked by Clegg two years ago over concerns that it "tramples on privacy".
Clegg said on his weekly LBC 97.3 radio show: "The home secretary and the Home Office – they can try to make the case as many times as they like but this idea, which was the idea of the heart of the snooper's charter, that every single website that you visit and every single website that anyone visits in this country is logged somewhere, that's just not going to happen while I'm in government."
The Liberal Democrat leader reaffirmed that he was happy to see work continue on narrow issues such as the problem of matching computer and phone IP addresses to individuals.
He also confirmed that government lawyers were urgently studying a recent European court of justice ruling that the official requirement for internet and phone companies to retain communications data was unlawful, as it was likely to generate a feeling that people's private lives were subject to "constant surveillance".
He confirmed that in the wake of the Snowden disclosures about the scale of mass harvesting of personal data by Britain's GCHQ and America's NSA, the Liberal Democrats had asked the defence and security thinktank Rusi to undertake a wide-ranging "top to toe" review of the checks and balances needed to oversee the use of surveillance powers as well as what proportionate measures were needed "to keep up with technologies".
He said there was a need for much more transparency about the activities of the intelligence agencies and the police, and better scrutiny of proposed new powers with an eye on their impact on privacy and civil liberties.
"I personally also think we need to have a much wider review, we need to have more transparency, to have more checks and balances so that as these surveillance powers develop as no doubt they will do and must do in the years to come because the security services and the police need the tools to do the job to keep us safe," he said.
"They do so in a way … that's properly held to account and that it's properly scrutinised and that it's made properly transparent, and that's where I think we can still do a whole lot of extra work.
"So no to what I call the weblog snoopers' charter. Yes of course to keeping up with technology but yes also to much wider reforms to improve the accountability, the checks and balances and the transparency with which these surveillance powers are used."
The home secretary made clear on Monday that she was not open to the idea of new legislation reforming the oversight or regulation of the use of surveillance powers and insisted that the current regime was not only effective but unsurpassed by any other country.
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