Database plan to bug phones, email

Ministers are to consider plans for a giant database of electronic information.

The computer system would hold details of every phone call and email sent in the UK, The Times newspaper reported.

The information would be passed to the Government by internet service providers and telephone companies.

The plans are at a very early stage, but are being considered for inclusion in the draft Communications Bill to be published later this year, the Home Office confirmed.

Ministers are yet to see the plans, which have been drawn up by Home Office officials.

They are likely to provoke outrage from data protection and civil liberty campaigners and raise objections to the rise of a “Big Brother” state.

A Home Office spokesman said retaining communications information was essential for protecting national security.

He also emphasised powers to hold information were subject to strict safeguards.

He said: “Communications data – the who, how, when and where of a communication but not the what (content) of the communication – is a crucial tool for protecting national security, preventing and detecting crime and protecting the public.”

The Government has been embarrassed by a string of data protection failures in recent months including the loss of a CD carrying the personal details of every child benefit claimant