The Government is to spend £1.8 billion giving police, security services and tax officials access to details of people’s phone calls, emails and internet usage.

The price tag for what critics call the “Snooper’s Charter” was disclosed today as Home Secretary Theresa May published draft legislation for the contentious plans.

The costs include equipping internet and telephone companies to retain and store data on behalf of the police, the security services, the Serious Organised and Crime Agency and HM Revenue and Customs.

The Home Office said the expected benefits from the outlay would be in the region of £5 billion to £6.2 billion, including from reducing tax fraud and seizing criminal assets.

Mrs May also compared the average £180 million-a-year cost of the plans with the annual policing bill of £14 billion.

”This communications data is vital for catching criminals,” she said.

”If we don’t do this, if that money isn’t spent, then we are going to catch fewer criminals.”

Amid criticism from civil liberties campaigners that the Communications Bill heralds an unwarranted intrusion into people’s privacy, she insisted the innocent had nothing to fear.

”The only people who have anything to fear from this are the criminals,” she said.