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Home Office kept busy defending RIP Bill

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Fielding opposition to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Bill is becoming a full-time job for the Home Office.

This week Jack Straw made time to write a letter to the Financial Times to try and allay fears in the City that the Bill will be costly or drive business overseas.

The Home Office also set up a special section on its Web site "devoted to dispelling some of the myths and misunderstandings that have been circulating regarding the Bill's provisions."

This detailed online defence of RIP is almost as woolly as the Bill itself. For example, it dismisses the recent British Chamber of Commerce's claim that RIP could cost British industry £46 billion, saying the claims have "no foundation". Yet the Home Office has still to come up with a definite figure of how much the cost is likely to be.

A fine and detailed analysis of these Home Office statements can be found at the FIPR Web site

Trade and industry secretary Stephen Byers is also promising to add to the Home Office's workload. He is to lobby the government department to listen to business concerns, and yesterday hinted that the government may back down over certain aspects of the Bill.

"We are aware of concern within the business community about some of the proposals in the measure," he told MPs during question time. "Which is why the home secretary has indicated he is more than willing to consult business about their concerns and, if necessary, the measure can be amended."

The Bill is due its second session at the committee stage in the House of Lords on Monday. ®

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