Draft Investigatory Powers Bill: Joint Committee says “significant amendments” needed

A Joint Committee made up of Members of both Houses of Parliament has said that the government is right to bring together the numerous statutory provisions governing intrusive powers under the umbrella of the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill but that significant amendments are needed.

The Draft Investigatory Powers Bill, which will bring together powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIPA); Telecommunications Act 1984; Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984; Intelligence Services Act 1994, Terrorism Act 2000 and Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006, is intended to govern the use and oversight of investigatory powers by law enforcement and the security and intelligence agencies.

If passed, it will replace RIPA, which only obliges service providers to disclose how much data is acquired and disclosed, not to store that data. Earlier attempts to replace and extend the powers under RIPA failed, after the Draft Communications Data Bill 2012 – designed to significantly extend the range of data that service providers are required to store and official access to that data – was found to be too wide and lacking in sufficient safeguards.

Whereas the Draft Communications Data Bill proposed extension of the scope of powers for local authorities to make potentially intrusive use of communications data, the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill does not provide new powers to local authorities.

Nonetheless, the Joint Committee report, published today (11 February), has made 86 detailed recommendations aimed at ensuring that the powers are workable, can be clearly understood by those affected by them and have proper safeguards.

These include recommendations relating to encryption, where despite assurances from the Home Secretary that the Government’s approach is not designed to compromise security or require the creation of ‘backdoors’, the Joint Committee has recommended that this be made clearer in the drafting of the legislation.

Chairman of the Committee, Lord Murphy of Torfaen, said: “The Prime Minister described the draft Bill as being the most important in the current session. It is indeed significant in scale and scope and comes at a time when public debates over the tension between civil liberties and security are prominent.

“There is much to be commended in the draft Bill, but the Home Office has a significant amount of further work to do before Parliament can be confident that the provisions have been fully thought through. In some important cases, such as the proposal for communications service providers to create and store users’ internet connection records, the Committee saw the potential value of the proposal but also that the cost and other practical implications are still being worked out. In a number of areas the definitions used in the Bill will be important, and we have asked the Home Office to do more to address these.

“The creation of a new judicial oversight body and the much greater involvement of judges in the authorisation of warrants allowing for intrusive activities are both to be welcomed. We make a series of recommendations which aim to ensure that the new system will deliver the increased independence and oversight which has been promised.

“Much of the important detail about the way the new legislation will work is to be contained in a set of Codes of Practice. We echo the calls of other parliamentary committees that these should be published alongside the Bill.

“The next stage will be for the two Houses to consider the Bill proper when it is introduced. We hope that both Houses, and the public, find our report a useful start to the Parliamentary debate.”