Parliament calls for written evidence on draft Investigatory Powers Bill

News by Tom Reeve

The parliamentary committee examining the draft Investigatory Powers Bill has issued a call for written evidence and has given interested parties three weeks to make their submissions.

Chaired by Lord Murphy of Torfaen, the Joint Committee on the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill is examining the bill which was presented to the Lords and the House of Commons last month. The IPB has drawn mixed views from the cyber-security industry.

The draft IPB will be examined by the Committee which will send its recommendations to the government in early 2016. The government will consider the recommendations in writing the final bill which they will reintroduce to the House of Commons in autumn 2016. It's understood the government is aiming to pass the bill by end of 2016 in time to replace existing legislation which is subject to a sunset clause.

The government says the bill would rationalise myriad laws which regulate interception of communications by police and intelligence services, bringing clarity to what has been a murky domain. It has also proposed the creation of an investigatory powers commissioner and a new ‘double lock' mechanism to provide oversight of ministerial authorisations of intercept warrants.

Critics point to new provisions in the proposed law which would require communications service providers to retain connection records detailing individuals' communications activity for the past 12 months. It would also explicitly give the intelligence services and police powers to collect large volumes of personal communications data and to interfere with computers and phones. It would also require companies to help police and intelligence services bypass encryption.

The call for written evidence asks 26 questions including:

  • Are the powers sought necessary?
  • Are they legal?
  • Are they workable and carefully defined?
  • Are the powers sought sufficiently supervised?
  • Are there sufficient operational justifications for accessing communications data in bulk?
  • Is the authorisation process for accessing communications data appropriate?
  • Is the use of bulk personal datasets by the security and intelligence services appropriate? Are the safeguards sufficient for the retention and access of potentially highly sensitive data?
  • Would the proposed Judicial Commission have sufficient powers, resources and independence to perform its role satisfactorily?
The committee has asked for short submissions, with a deadline of 21 December. Guidelines can be found on the Parliament UK website.

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