The Government introduced the Investigatory Powers Bill to Parliament today (Tuesday 1 March).
The Bill sets out the powers available to the police, security and intelligence services to gather and access communications and communications data in the digital age, subject to strict safeguards and world-leading oversight arrangements.
The need for a new law was accepted by 3 Parliamentary committees which scrutinised the Government’s proposals, published in draft in November last year and subsequently revised to reflect the majority of the committees’ recommendations.
The Bill, scheduled to pass into law before the end of 2016, addresses themes which were the focus of the Joint Committee, Intelligence and Security Committee and Science and Technology Committee reports. The Bill:
- is clearer, with tighter technical definitions and strict codes of practice setting out exactly how the powers in the Bill will be used and why they are needed;
- includes stronger privacy safeguards, bolstering protections for lawyers and requiring the security services, as well as the police, to obtain a senior judge’s permission before accessing communications data to identify a journalist’s source;
- explicitly bans our agencies from asking foreign intelligence agencies to undertake activity on their behalf unless they have a warrant approved by a Secretary of State and Judicial Commissioner.
In addition, and in direct response to the Joint Committee, the Government has also published an operational case for bulk powers as set out by the security and intelligence agencies - giving unprecedented detail on why they need their existing powers and how they are used.
Home Secretary Theresa May said:
This is vital legislation and we are determined to get it right. Our proposals have been studied in detail by a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament established to provide rigorous scrutiny, and 2 further committees.
The revised Bill we introduced today reflects the majority of the committees’ recommendations – we have strengthened safeguards, enhanced privacy protections and bolstered oversight arrangements - and will now be examined by Parliament before passing into law by the end of 2016. This timetable was agreed by Parliament when we introduced the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act in summer 2014.
Terrorists and criminals are operating online and we need to ensure the police and security services can keep pace with the modern world and continue to protect the British public from the many serious threats we face.
Codes of practice
Six draft statutory codes of practice and the case for bulk powers have been published alongside the Bill - which commits to working with industry to implement the retention of internet connection records (ICRs) - and other documents explaining its various provisions and protections.
The revised proposals accept the Joint Committee’s recommendation that ICRs can be accessed to allow the pursuit of investigative leads.
The Bill clarifies the Government’s position on encryption, making it clear that companies can only be asked to remove encryption that they themselves have applied, and only where it is practicable for them to do so. The Government is not asking companies to weaken their security by undermining encryption.
New safeguards for interception and equipment interference warrants are introduced, reducing the period of time within which urgent warrants must be reviewed by a Judicial Commissioner from five to three days.
And the Bill as amended strengthens the office and powers of the new Investigatory Powers Commissioner, giving the Lord Chief Justice a role in his or her appointment and allowing for the Commissioner to inform people who have suffered as a result of the inappropriate use of powers.
Where we have not been able to accept the committees’ recommendations, it is because it would compromise the capabilities of law enforcement and the security and intelligence agencies. Full responses to each report have also been published today.
The ‘double-lock’ authorisation model endorsed by the Joint Committee - involving judges in the approval of warrants for the most intrusive powers - remains on the face of the Bill and has been strengthened further in respect of urgent warrants.
The Government is working to the timetable agreed by Parliament when we introduced the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act in summer 2014. Once introduced, the Bill will be subject to full Parliamentary scrutiny, following the normal Parliamentary timetable, with a view to it receiving Royal Assent by the end of 2016.
The Investigatory Powers Bill sets out all the powers available to law enforcement and the security services to gather and access communications and communications data. And crucially, it enhances the safeguards and oversight arrangements which govern their use, establishing a world-leading regulatory regime.
While extending DRIPA would maintain existing powers, it would do so without the benefit of updating safeguards and oversight.
The Government has always said the new legislation would be subject to full public and Parliamentary scrutiny to ensure we get this right. That is why the Bill was published in draft form last November since when it has been studied in detail by a joint committee of both Houses of Parliament along with other leading Parliamentary committees.
Investigatory powers have also been the subject of three independent reviews over the last 2 years. These were completed by David Anderson QC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament (ISC) and a panel convened by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). These reviews have played an important role in developing the proposals in the Bill.