News story

Home Secretary introduces draft Investigatory Powers Bill

Draft Bill significantly strengthens oversight, safeguards and authorisation.

The government today introduced landmark legislation to provide law enforcement and the security and intelligence agencies with the investigatory powers they need to keep us safe and fight crime in the digital age – subject to a world-leading oversight regime.

The draft Investigatory Powers Bill sets out in unprecedented detail the powers already available to law enforcement, MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, enshrines new capabilities in legislation, and significantly strengthens the oversight, safeguards and authorisation that govern their use.

Under the plans, warrants for the most intrusive powers available to the agencies, such as the interception of communications, will be subject to a “double-lock”, requiring approval by a judge as well as by the Secretary of State.

World-leading oversight

A new, single, stronger body – led by a powerful Investigatory Powers Commissioner, a senior judge – will replace the existing oversight arrangements split across three different bodies to establish a more visible, world-leading oversight regime.

The draft Bill includes provisions on each of the key capabilities available to the intelligence agencies and others: communications data; interception; and equipment interference.

It provides for the retention of internet connection records (ICRs) - which law enforcement agencies need to restore eroding capabilities - although access to the data will be tightly controlled.

Law enforcement access to the information would be on a case-by-case basis, where it was necessary and proportionate to do so in the course of an individual investigation, limited to three rigidly defined purposes.

These are to identify what device had sent an online communication, establish what online communications services a known individual had accessed or identify whether a known individual had accessed illegal services online.

The operational case for ICRs is published alongside the draft Bill today, in direct response to David Anderson’s recommendation in his report “A Question of Trust”. It is available here. Law enforcement requests for access to ICRs for wider purposes are not provided for in the draft Bill.

Internet connection records are the internet equivalent of a phone bill – a record of the communication services a computer or a Smartphone connects to, but not people’s full browsing history. ICRs – a form of communications data - would let the police see a person has visited or but not what searches have been made on Google or whose profiles had been viewed on.

And local authorities will be banned from accessing ICRs for any purpose.

The three independent reviews on investigatory powers – by David Anderson, the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, and the Royal United Services Institute - agreed that the agencies should have the power to acquire and use data in bulk. The draft Bill sets out, in clear detail, existing powers for the security and intelligence agencies to do this, whilst subjecting them to stricter safeguards.

“Double-lock” authorisation for bulk powers

And, in an oral statement to the Commons today, the Home Secretary made clear that the draft Bill will set out all of the agencies’ powers to acquire data in bulk, including their ability to acquire communications data relating to both the UK and overseas in bulk from communications services providers. She announced the Government’s intention to place the capability on a more transparent footing through the Investigatory Powers Bill and to make it subject to the same robust safeguards as other bulk powers, including the “double-lock” authorisation process.

The legislation responds to huge changes in the way we all communicate and seeks to ensure there are no “no go” areas of the internet for law enforcement – so that the entirety of cyberspace can be policed in the face of technological advances.

Home Secretary Theresa May said:

The publication of our draft Investigatory Powers Bill is a decisive moment – never before has so much information been in the public domain about the activities of our police and security services, as well as the oversight, safeguard and authorisation arrangements which govern them.

I am clear we need to update our legislation to ensure it is modern, fit for purpose and can respond to emerging threats as technology advances. There should be no area of cyberspace which is a haven for those who seek to harm us to plot, poison minds and peddle hatred under the radar.

But I am also clear that the exercise and scope of investigatory powers should be clearly set out and subject to stringent safeguards and robust oversight, including ‘double-lock’ authorisation for the most intrusive capabilities.

This Bill will establish world-leading oversight to govern an investigatory powers regime which is more open and transparent than anywhere else in the world.

The draft Bill will now go through full pre-legislative scrutiny before a revised Investigatory Powers Bill is laid before Parliament in spring 2016.

The government held more than 60 meetings with industry, civil liberties groups and other organisations to inform its policy proposals, and engagement will continue throughout pre-legislative scrutiny.