Investigatory Powers Act

This page contains an overview of the Investigatory Powers Act and supporting documents.

On Tuesday 29 November 2016, the Investigatory Powers Bill received Royal Assent and will now be known as the Investigatory Powers Act 2016. It will provide a new framework to govern the use and oversight of investigatory powers by law enforcement and the security and intelligence agencies.

A public consultation on draft codes of practice under the Act was published on 23 February 2017.

The act does 3 things:

  1. Brings together all of the powers already available to law enforcement and the security and intelligence agencies to obtain communications and data about communications. It will make these powers and the safeguards that apply to them clear and understandable.

  2. Radically overhauls the way these powers are authorised and overseen. It introduces a ‘double-lock’ for interception warrants, so that, following Secretary of State authorisation, these (and other warrants) cannot come into force until they have been approved by a judge. And it creates a powerful new Investigatory Powers Commissioner to oversee how these powers are used.

  3. Ensures powers are fit for the digital age. It makes provision for the retention of internet connection records for law enforcement to identify the communications service to which a device has connected. This will restore capabilities that have been lost as a result of changes in the way people communicate.

In November 2015 the government published a draft bill for pre-legislative scrutiny. The provisions in the draft bill were considered by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee (PDF 477KB), the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament (PDF 334KB) and by a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament (PDF 1.73MB).

This revised bill, along with the further explanatory material that is being published, responds to the vast majority of the recommendations made by the 3 committees.

In particular, the government:

  • responded to the committees’ call for greater clarity by producing a much clearer bill (we have refined technical definitions and are publishing additional material alongside the bill to explain how the powers in the bill will be used and why they are needed)
  • made the privacy safeguards clearer and stronger (the bill incorporates additional protections for journalists, removing an exemption for the security and intelligence agencies when seeking to identify journalists’ sources and it incorporates statutory protections for lawyers)
  • will continue to work closely with industry to develop implementation plans for retaining internet connection records in response to recommendations from the Joint Committee and the Science and Technology Committee

The new legislation needs to be in force by 31 December 2016. By introducing it now, the government is ensuring that this important piece of legislation will be subject to full and thorough scrutiny by both Houses of Parliament, following the normal Parliamentary timetable.

Investigatory powers regulations

  1. Investigatory powers regulations

    • Policy paper
  2. Investigatory powers regulations: explanatory memorandums

    • Policy paper

Investigatory Powers Bill

Review of powers

Codes of practice

  1. Investigatory Powers Act 2016: codes of practice

    • Consultation outcome
Published 1 March 2016
Last updated 18 December 2017 + show all updates
  1. New Investigatory powers regulations.
  2. Consultation on draft codes of practice published.
  3. Investigatory Powers Bill received Royal Assent and will now be known as the Investigatory Powers Act 2016.
  4. Independent review of bulk powers published.
  5. Added terms of reference for an independent review on the operational case for bulk powers.
  6. Investigatory Powers Bill factsheets added to the collection.
  7. First published.