Investigatory powers: What will the future hold?


The controversial Investigatory Powers Bill was introduced to the House of Commons and given its First Reading on Tuesday.

For many, this may seem quick progress, given that three separate parliamentary committees had raised a number of concerns and criticisms in relation to the bill in recent weeks.  However, since then, the bill has been revised and the government has indicated that those revisions provide a response to the "vast majority" of recommendations put forward by the three committees, including providing greater clarity and making the privacy safeguards stronger and clearer. Despite this, there remains concern that some of the most controversial provisions remain.

The bill will now pass through both Houses of Parliament, where it must receive approval, before it becomes law. However, there is a deadline in play: the government has said that this new legislation must be in force by 31 December 2016 to replace existing laws which will, by then, be out-of-date.

Given the proposed provisions in this bill, there seems little doubt that debates, both within and outside the Houses of Parliament, will continue to run.

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The bill expands the purposes for which police can obtain internet connection records, which are details of the websites and online applications people use. It says they can be acquired for a "specific investigation" provided it is "necessary and proportionate". This clause was not contained in the draft legislation. Ministers say the new powers are needed to fight terrorism, but internet firms have questioned their practicality - and civil liberties campaigners say it clears the way for mass surveillance of UK citizens.