David Cameron lashed out at Nick Clegg's opposition to internet snooping plans today as he insisted senior Liberal Democrat figures had backed the proposal.
Plans being formulated by the Home Office look set to expand state surveillance to web utilities such as Skype and Facebook in addition to email and telephone calls. They may also offer security services real time access to the publics' communications.
The plans triggered an outcry in the press and were opposed by Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat president, who threatened to "kill" them. Mr Clegg later promised draft legislation, which opponents would have sufficient time to evaluate and debate before it hit the statute book – a significant climb-down.
But speaking ahead of a visit to Asia, Mr Cameron said the plans had been approved by the National Security Council.
"You've got to remember that this was a national security council where sitting round the table was Chris Huhne, Nick Clegg, Ken Clarke – people from impeccable civil libertarian backgrounds," he was quoted as saying.
"People see the detail they will understand this is a very sensible way of keeping up with technology and not a snoopers' charter. And I wouldn't as prime minister sanction something that was."
The watering down of the snooping proposals came as a result of Tory and Liberal Democrat backbench pressures, but many Lib Dem MPs were keen to get stuck into a public argument over civil liberties.
Many Tory backbenchers are wary of Lib Dem efforts to create artificial spats in a bid to highlight divisions with their coalition partners, while others are furious at Mr Clegg's tendency of opposing measures he previously supported.
The prime minister added: "Why would we be doing this in a Cabinet of Conservatives, including quite a lot of liberal Conservatives, and Liberal Democrats, if there wasn't a problem?” he said. “In both areas there are pressing problems we need to deal with.
"There are some people who will never be satisfied. But I think anyone who is reasonable – who understands that national security matters, who understands that being able to present intelligence in court matters – I think they will find favour with these proposals."