On 10 July 2014 the Government announced that emergency legislation would be introduced on access to telecommunications data. The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill, with accompanying Explanatory Notes, was published in draft on 10 July. The final Bill, with further accompanying documents, was published and given first reading on 14 July. All remaining Commons stages were set for 15 July. The Lords will consider it on the two following days and it will return to the Commons if necessary on 17 July for consideration of Lords amendments (if any).
The Government argues that emergency legislation is needed to ensure that UK law enforcement and intelligence agencies can maintain their ability to access the telecommunications data they need to investigate criminal activity and protect the public. There is cross-party agreement on the need for the Bill.
In April 2014, the European Court of Justice declared invalid a Directive enabling communication service providers to retain communications data for law enforcement purposes for periods of between six months and two years. This Directive has been transposed into UK law by way of secondary legislation. The Bill provides powers to replace those 2009 Regulations.
The ability to access content (rather than metadata) requires a warrant signed by a Secretary of State. The Bill amends the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) to put beyond doubt that requests for interception and communications data to overseas companies that are providing communications services within the UK are subject to the legislation.
At the same time the Prime Minister announced other measures, including a review of RIPA with a view to reforming and updating it, the establishment of a Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, annual “transparency reports” on the use of surveillance powers and a restriction on the number of public bodies able to request communications data.
This note summarises the background, the Bill and criticisms that have been made of it.