A number of organisations and campaigns, have expressed a number of concerns regarding proposed changes to surveillance and data retention laws contained in the Government’s draft Investigatory Powers Bill.
Our intelligence and security services undertake vital, often unrecognised, work to protect our security and to counter the growing threats that we face, both internationally and domestically. I believe that the huge changes we have seen in technology have left our laws governing investigatory powers outdated, and it is important that the agencies and police have the appropriate up-to-date powers that they need to tackle terrorism, child sexual abuse, serious online crime, and to help locate missing people.
However, it is crucial that a new framework for providing these powers can command public trust by balancing strong powers with strong safeguards to protect privacy and long-held liberties.
There has been a great emphasis on the authorisation of interception warrants, which allow for the use of the most intrusive powers. I have long believed that the full legal authorisation of warrants by a judge would be a key test for this Bill, but unfortunately the Government’s proposals for a ‘double-lock’ do not seem to match up to this.
I will therefore be pressuring the Government to amend the Bill so that it allows for a judge to review the evidence before choosing to authorise, or not, the approval of a warrant. This will provide the proper ‘double-lock’ that the Government has led us to believe they have provided.
I also believe that there need to be stronger safeguards on the powers in the draft Bill, including clearly defined thresholds justifying their use. This should include the police’s access to people’s internet connection records, and the Government should also consider limiting access to these records only to police officers of a specified seniority.
The draft Bill will now be considered by a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament, and it will of course be important to continue to scrutinise its measures in further detail. I hope the Government agrees to amend the Bill as it progresses through Parliament to build trust in this new legal framework.
I will be following the debate around this issue and the progress of these proposals very carefully.