Following a speech by the Home Secretary Theresa May referencing the Communications Data Bill, Liberal Democrat spokesman on Home Affairs, Justice and Equalities Julian Huppert has sent the letter below to Theresa May.
We disagree on the Communications Data Bill.
The Liberal Democrat position is clear: we do not think that the proposal to store a record of every citizen's internet browsing for 12 months is compatible with our basic civil liberties. We also do not think it is right to force UK companies to keep track of everything people do on Google, Facebook or other websites. You appear determined to push ahead with the scheme at all costs, regardless of widespread public concern. I'm more than happy to continue to have that debate as we approach the general election.
But there are limits. I was utterly dismayed by the suggestion in your conference speech today that my party has put children's lives at risk.
That is an extraordinary claim, and one which must be backed with compelling evidence. Instead, you cited figures from the National Crime Agency which were entirely misleading. You said:
"Over a six-month period, the National Crime Agency estimates that it had to drop at least twenty cases as a result of missing communications data. Thirteen of these were threat-to-life cases, in which a child was judged to be at risk of imminent harm [...] The solution to this crisis of national security was the Communications Data Bill. But two years ago, it was torpedoed by the Liberal Democrats."
The National Crime Agency cases you cite were, I understand, unable to proceed because it was not possible to connect the IP address used for the communication to a particular device. 'IP matching' is a genuine problem, and as you know, Liberal Democrats have supported and continue to support action to solve it. Following our vetoing of the Communications Data Bill, we supported including proposals to resolve this problem in the Queen's Speech.
Since then, nothing has happened. No such proposals have been brought forward by your department.
Responsibility for the lack of data in the cases you cite, and the risk thereby caused to individuals, including children, therefore lies exclusively at your door. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the Liberal Democrats.
I realise that your conference speeches are not subject to the same levels of accuracy as statements in the House of Commons, but nonetheless I would expect you to issue a public correction and an apology at the earliest opportunity.