A majority of Britons support the government's controversial 'snooping' proposals - despite the growing NSA/Prism data-sharing scandal, an exclusive poll for The Huffington Post UK reveals.

And more than four in 10 people think the security services should be able to break data laws in order to prevent terrorism.

The first major survey carried out since the leaking of details of the US Prism surveillance programme found that 51% of voters either backed the coalition's draft Communications Data Bill, or thought it did not go far enough.

The Bill would allow the security services access to mobile phone and internet records.

Civil liberties campaigners had hoped the ongoing data-mining revelations involving Google, Apple and Facebook would serve as a "wake-up call" on the plans.

But just 38% of people polled agreed that the Bill "goes too far" and "undermines our privacy".

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Four in 10 people would be happy if GCHQ broke the law

Meanwhile, 42% of people said the police and security agencies should be able to go "beyond the law" to obtain information if it is necessary to fight serious crime and terrorism, while 45% said they should "always obey the law".

Foreign Secretary William Hague told MPs it was "baseless" to suggest GCHQ could circumvent UK laws by using personal data gathered by foreign agencies.

But 46% would be happy with such a measure, the YouGov poll found.

By comparison, 39% said would be "sorry that the UK agencies might be getting round British law to undermine our right to privacy".

YouGov President Peter Kellner said the "simmering dispute" over the Communications Data Bill had "roared to life" following the leak, by 29-year-old Edward Snowden.

Women were far more likely to back the Bill than men, dividing by almost two to one.

However, despite the overall backing for the 'snooping' measures, support was far smaller than for previous civil liberties battlegrounds, 90-day detention and control orders, Kellner said.

"These are early days in an argument that may well rumble on for months, even years," he said.

"Indeed, the trade-off between security-driven rules and individual liberty will, and should, be something that we never stop debating."

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Hague told MPs he "deplored" the leaks

Giving a statement to Parliament on Monday afternoon, Hague said he "deplored" the leaking of US intelligence data that sparked the Prism scandal.

And he insisted that any data on British citizens would be "subject to proper UK statutory controls and safeguards".

The Foreign Secretary admitted he could not say "everything is definitely perfect at all times" in the way the intelligence services operate, but said he only had praise for the way they work.

Counter terror activity reached peak during the 2012 Olympics, he said, and added: "The methods we use to combat these threats have to be secret".

Emphasising the importance of the measures to the struggle against terrorism makes political sense, according to YouGov's Kellner: "One thing that is likely to sway public attitudes is evidence that electronic 'snooping' either has, or has not, managed to stop terrorism and/or serious crime."