Straw enters bitter row over RIP Bill

In a week when the RIP Bill has been hit by increased and often bitter criticism, enter the Home Secretary to defend the government's plans, and criticise the British Chambers of Commerce's report

Home Secretary Jack Straw has been drawn into the escalating row over the Government's proposed Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill (RIP) Bill, denouncing an industry report claiming it would cost Britain £46bn.

In a letter to the editor of The Financial Times Wednesday, Straw implies that a report commissioned by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and produced by academics at the London School of Economics, grossly exaggerates the cost to Britain's e-commerce plans.

The BCC report, presented to the House of Lords Monday, says the RIP Bill will force companies to leave Britain costing billions in lost e-commerce revenue over the next five years. Straw dismisses the claims.

"Having read the BCC's report, it is unclear in any event how the £46bn figure is arrived at," says Straw. "Even the year by year estimates are literally incredible."

The Bill is intended to help the police fight Internet crime. It proposes to give authorities powers to monitor Internet traffic and demand keys to encrypted data with a ministerial warrant.

Straw not only says that the costs have been hugely exaggerated but also accuses the report of factual inaccuracy. The report is "riddled with flawed assumptions," he says.

"Contrary to its claim, there will be no need for 'black boxes at all ISPs sending traffic data to GTAC'," he says. "The Government Technical Assistance Centre will handle material intercepted under warrant. It will not be used to access communications data."

Visiting fellow at the LSE and one of the authors of the report, Simon Davies, yesterday denounced Straw for "nit-picking". He says: "I don't know where Straw gets his facts from."

Drawing the Home Secretary into the fray is, nevertheless, a considerable coup for those opposed to the Bill and shows that the government is at the very least, rattled by the stream of criticism it has received.

ZDNet will provide comment and further analysis on this issue throughout the day.

The government's Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Bill looks set for a bumpy ride thorough the House of Lords. Good. Give it hell says Tony Westbrook. Go to AnchorDesk UK for the news comment.

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