Gov't may shelve comms-database plans for 2009

Whitehall sources have said the Communications Data Bill will not now be included in the Queen's speech in December

The Communications Data Bill may have been axed from the next round of parliamentary legislation, according to reports.

Whitehall sources have told The Independent that the bill will now not be included in next month's Queen's speech, setting out the legislation the government intends to table for the following year.

Despite the sources reaffirming the government's commitment to the bill, no replacement timetable has been scheduled for it.

The bill was initially planned to come into effect by 2009, requiring all internet service providers (ISPs) to keep the 'who', 'when' and 'where' details of all web, VoIP and messaging traffic for at least 12 months, bringing the UK in line with an EU directive. The contents of communications were not to be kept, however.

According to the government, the bill is intended to bring the UK's crime-fighting and detection capabilities up to speed with changes in technology, by allowing the retention of new sets of communications data.

However, the bill has attracted criticism since its publication. Information commissioner Richard Thomas warned the plan is a "step too far for the British way of life", while the Lords queried how effectively the database storing the communications information would be able to cope with the three billion emails and 57 billion texts sent every year.

A Home Office spokesman declined to comment on the contents of the Queen's speech.