Investigatory Powers Bill July 2016
Thank you for contacting me recently regarding the Investigatory Powers Bill.
I appreciate that a number of organisations and campaigns, including the 'Don't Spy on Us' coalition, have expressed a range concerns over this Bill.
I have long supported in principle the aim of delivering an up-to-date and comprehensive legal framework to enable the police and security services to have the powers they need in the digital age to prevent and investigate serious crime. However, I have also consistently believed that strong powers must be balanced with strong safeguards to protect privacy and long-held liberties. It is clear that huge changes in technology have left our laws governing investigatory powers outdated, and the Snowden revelations also highlighted that a clearer legal basis, greater transparency and more tightly drawn definitions of all powers and capabilities are also needed.
My colleagues in the Shadow Home Office team have taken a responsible and constructive approach to this legislation, securing several important concessions from the Government - the introduction of a new overarching privacy requirement, ensuring privacy is at the heart of the Bill; a requirement for Judicial Commissioners to scrutinise the decision to issue a warrant, not just the process; an agreement that NHS records should only be accessed in exceptional circumstances; and a commitment to introduce further safeguards for journalists and lawyers.
I accept that the bulk powers in the Bill are very wide and given the breadth of them I have long believed that their operational case needs to be properly made and reviewed. I am pleased, therefore, that the Government has also accepted the Opposition's calls for an independent review of the bulk powers, and has confirmed that this will be led by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson QC.
It is also welcome that the Government has committed to working with my Shadow Frontbench colleagues to find an appropriate threshold for accessing communications data and internet communication records (ICRs), ensuring they can only be used when investigating serious crimes.
I therefore voted to support the Bill on 7 June, as I believe to have not done so would have denied us these safeguards and left us with much weaker legislation. I accept that the Bill is not perfect and needs further changes, and I can assure you that I will continue to follow its progress as it is scrutinised and improved in the House of Lords. However, I believe we are now significantly closer to having a balanced, modern, world-leading framework for the use of investigatory powers that the country needs in the digital age.
Thank you once again for writing to me and for sharing your views.