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Draft Communications Data Bill

Volume 548: debated on Monday 9 July 2012

12. What assessment she has made of the likely key areas of expenditure in implementing the proposals contained in the draft Communications Data Bill. (115549)

As I told the House some moments ago, the Government published the draft Communications Data Bill on 14 June. It was accompanied by an impact assessment, which estimated overall cost for the likely areas of expenditure.

That estimate of overall costs was £1.8 billion. When the last Government first introduced plans for identity cards, the Home Office estimated costs at between £1.3 billion and £3 billion. By the time the coalition Government wisely cancelled ID cards, that estimate had passed £5 billion. How can we have confidence that these proposals will not also prove to be a burden on industry and the taxpayer alike?

I agree with my hon. Friend that the ID card scheme was disproportionate and intrusive, and a waste of public expenditure. Our proposals for communications data are critical to support for essential day-to-day police operations. The alternatives—covert human intelligence sources, directed surveillance and undercover officers—are more expensive, more intrusive and less effective.

What assessment has the Minister made of the potential ability of terrorists to find their way around the provisions of the Bill?

The whole point of the Bill is that it provides flexibility. The key aspect of it is that it allows co-operation and collaboration with internet service providers to ensure that we respond to the changing nature of criminal operations. Criminals are changing their tactics, and the legislation needs to move with them.