Big Brother: British citizens more watched than under Stasi

The British government now has more information on its citizens than the Stasi, former conservative shadow home secretary David Davis said last night.

"This is not an exaggeration. Our government and the American government have got more information available to them than the Stasi had," Davis told a debate in central London.

He compared the destruction of the Guardian's hard drives by the British security services to the "burning of the books" under the Nazis.

The runner-up for the Conservative party leadership also called for Edward Snowden to be given asylum in Germany or the UK.

"On this question of asylum for Snowden, it's become apparent that the only protection for us is whistleblowing," he said

"It's the only thing that makes these organisations behave properly and if whistleblowers can look forward to a life in Germany rather than a life in Moscow that would improve things for everybody."

Asked if he would like Snowden to be given asylum in the UK he replied: "Even better".

Davis admitted his support for the Guardian would probably cause him to "go straight to hell" among other Conservatives.

He also launched an attack on David Cameron for dismissing the paper's reporting of the Snowden revelations.

Last month the prime minister accused critics of the British and American security services of taking a "Lah-dih-dah and airy-fairy" approach to national security.

Cameron's former rival for the Tory leadership was withering in response.

"You cannot imagine what a pleasure it is to be called lah-dih-dah by an Old Etonian," he said.

The audience at the Royal Institute of British Architects also heard from the Guardian's editor Alan Rusbridger.

Rusbridger admitted he regretted not taking a story about UK bugging of world leaders at the G20 to the authorities before publishing.

"We didn't go to the DA-notice committee because we thought we would get injuncted and it turns out that was a perfectly rational fear because a month later we had the Cabinet secretary threatening to injunct us," he said.

"So of all the stories we published that was the only one we didn't put to the authorities first. That gives [our critics] the chance to say that the Guardian behaved irresponsibly, so arguably maybe we should have done."

He said he was surprised at the relatively mild reaction in the UK to the Snowden revelations, but suggested that it was because the British people had never experienced totalitarianism.

"It may be because we're complacent. We haven't had the Stasi, we haven't had Nixon, we haven't had Hoover and McCarthy so we believe it couldn't happen here."

This view was supported by the editor of German paper Der Spiegel, who added: "What we have in Germany is the experience of totalitarian machines that tried to establish total surveillance."

"They couldn't but just imagine if they would have had the technologies that are now available to the NSA and GCHQ. Lucky they did not have."