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Draft Investigatory Powers Bill on right track but significant changes needed says joint committee


A Joint Committee made up of Members of both Houses of Parliament says that the Government was right to bring forward the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill, but that the Bill will need significant amendments and further work if it is to live up to the Government's aspirations.

The report, published today, supports the intention behind the draft Bill, which is to bring together the numerous provisions in statute governing intrusive powers which already exist into one clear piece of legislation. But the Committee found that important clarity was lacking in a number of areas. It 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. The single biggest safeguard is the much greater involvement of judges in authorising warrants for intrusive capabilities, which the Committee has welcomed.

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.”

The Committee has identified a number of areas on which it would like to see the Government provide greater clarity, including:

Encryption:

The Home Secretary assured the Committee that its approach to encryption is not designed to compromise security or require the creation of ‘backdoors'. The Committee welcomed this clarification, but was concerned that this needs to be made clear in the drafting of the legislation.

Bulk Powers:

The Committee recommends that if bulk powers are to be included in the Bill, a fuller justification for each should also be published alongside the Bill. It recognises that the Intelligence and Security Committee has recently published its report, which the Committee believes will be of significant value to the two Houses when the Bill is introduced and scrutinised.

Internet Connection Records (ICRs):

The Committee can see the desirability of ICRs, but has not been persuaded that enough work has been done to conclusively prove the case for them. The Committee would like to see the Government work harder with industry in order to provide more robust information.

Review provision:

The Committee recommends the establishment of a joint committee of the two Houses to review the operation of the powers in the Bill five years after its enacted.

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