Blair gets RIP thanks to a few sleepy MPs

Here's how it got through the Commons

The government managed to slip its email snooping plans through the House of Commons on Wednesday night.

Not that it proved too difficult - no more than 30 MPs made the effort to attend (out of 659, making it a 4.5 per cent turn out) for the consideration of the Lords amendments to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) bill.

But who can blame them? By the time the House got around to debating RIP it was almost 8pm BST and those remaining wanted to get the bill out of the way as soon as possible (last orders is still last orders). The Government timed it brilliantly - especially as this was the last week of Parliament before the kiddies' summer recess.

A report by two Internet security experts, which described RIP as "technically inept" and listed ways in which even non-Web savvy individuals could dodge RIP, was dismissed out of hand by Home Office Minister Charles Clarke. Clarke did not go into detail about why the research was wrong - it was apparently enough that he did not accept its comments.

He was not challenged.

In fact, hot bed is not a phrase you'd use to describe the debate. The Liberal Democrats stood up, said they were pleased with the Lords amendments, and then sat down again. Their chief speaker, Richard Allan, had to leave after around half an hour. It was not explained why.

For the Tories, it seemed to be more a matter of self-congratulation - since at least some of their proposals got made into amendments to the bill via their pals in the House of Lords.

At least all the Lords amendments were agreed to, but the bill, which threatens to scare business away from Britain and cost taxpayers at least £20 million, passed through the Commons with little fanfare just before 10pm. ®

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