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Theresa May upsets the Lib Dems and David Davis in one fell swoop

3 December 2012

6:25 PM

3 December 2012

6:25 PM

Theresa May has upset quite a few people from across the political spectrum with her comments in the Sun today about the Communications Data Bill. The Home Secretary told the newspaper:

‘The people who say they’re against this bill need to look victims of serious crime, terrorism and child sex offences in the eye and tell them why they’re not prepared to give police the powers they need to protect the public. Anybody who is against this bill is putting politics before people’s lives.’

This irritated David Davis sufficiently for the Tory backbencher to raise May’s comments as a point of order in the House of Commons this afternoon. Davis, who has made his own opposition to the Bill abundantly clear from the start, told the Speaker:

‘I raise this point of order with you in respect of your duty of defending the interests and rights of backbenchers and committees in this House. This morning in an interview with the Sun newspaper, the Home Secretary, who I see is on the Treasury Bench, said the following about the Communications Data Bill:

‘Criminals, terrorists and paedophiles will want MPs to vote against this bill. Victims of crime, police and the public will want them to vote for it. It’s a question of whose side you’re on.’ She also said: ‘Anybody who is against this bill is putting politics before people’s lives.’

‘A Joint Committee of this House and the other House is meeting at present to pass comment on this Bill. Therefore, apart from traducing a large number of Members of this House, the Home Secretary is undermining the work of that Committee. Has she asked to come to the House to explain herself, and if not, what can you do to protect us, Mr Speaker?’

The main targets of May’s interview were clearly the Liberal Democrats, who may well pull the plug on the legislation. Their own backbench spokesman on home affairs Julian Huppert argued in a post for Coffee House in October that this is ‘a Bill that should not and will not get support in Parliament’, and Nick Cohen attacked the draft legislation in the magazine in September. Today, a Lib Dem source told me:

‘It’s no good just asserting that the case has been made for this Bill, it has to be proved. We’ll find out next week if the Committee thinks that it has been made. It’s the job of politicians to make sure we both protect the public but also protect the privacy of people’s everyday personal communications. The response has to be proportionate and necessary.’

When you’ve managed to cheese off both the Lib Dems and David Davis, you know you’ve got quite a legislative fight on your hands.

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