Blunkett shelves Snooping proposals

Controversial bill put on ice... for now or for ever?

Controversial bill put on ice... for now or for ever?

Home Secretary David Blunkett has issued a statement explaining why a Commons debate on controversial snooping proposals has been delayed indefinitely. Blunkett said the proposals will now be withdrawn for detailed consultation over the summer. He said: "I recognise there is widespread concern about the current proposals to regulate how public bodies can access phone and internet records. "It's clear that whilst we want to provide greater security, clarity and regulation to activities that already go on, our plans have been understood as having the opposite effect&I have therefore decided that it makes sense to withdraw the current proposals to allow calmer and lengthy public discussion before we bring forward new plans in this field. "The time has come for a much broader public debate about how we effectively regulate modern communications and strike the balance between the privacy of the individual and the need to ensure our laws and society are upheld." Blunkett has been heavily criticised for backtracking on guarantees he gave that plans to extend powers to monitor electronic communications in response to 11 September would only be used against terrorists. It emerged last week that seven government agencies, including local authorities, NHS groups and the Food Standards Agency, were to be allowed to monitor private communications without a court order. Last night a debate on the proposals was delayed for "parliamentary reasons", however today's statement by the Home Secretary looks like a more significant climbdown. Over the weekend politicians from both sides came out against the proposals, with the House of Lords making it clear it would fight the new laws. The Conservative Lord Strathclyde, who has been leading the opposition to the plans, said Labour had been forced into a humiliating retreat: "This is exactly what the House of Lords is for - to uphold natural justice and defend the freedoms of the citizen against abuse by any government. "Had we not made clear that we would seek to defeat these outrageous proposals they would have been rammed through the Commons tonight." Internet policy think-tank the Foundation for Information Policy Research, which has been campaigning against the proposals, welcomed the news. Director Ian Brown said: "We're very pleased with this. The government have said it won't be looked at until at least November, but we're hoping its not going to get discussed at all. "My guess is the government is going to let this die."