It seems the Home Office is growing a little bit nervous about its flagship Communications Data Bill. I understand that Home Secretary Theresa May took time out of an Abu-Qatada-packed day yesterday to ring internet service providers to try to give reassurances about the legislation.
As I explained yesterday, there’s a growing sense in Westminster that this Bill won’t survive. Many backbench Tory MPs tell me of a rumour sweeping their party that it is already dead.
Other sources involved in the negotiations suggest that there’s a possibility that the Home Office might jettison the more controversial parts of the legislation in order to get the darned thing through. Given the fears that some internet service provider companies have about the impact of the proposals on their ability to operate, that could involve simply demanding more data on IP addresses, rather than also requiring them to collect third-party data. That element of the Bill has come up against stiff opposition from web-based services, who argue that they spend vast sums of money preventing anyone else from accessing their information.
If the Home Office is able to drop the more ambitious elements of the Bill, it will upset those who have been pushing for this for years such as Charles Farr, Director of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism. But it might mean that it doesn’t get the boot from Nick Clegg before it even reaches the House of Commons.