Today the Investigatory Powers Bill (IPB) will be debated in the House of Commons for the first time. This is called the "second reading" and is the first of a number of stages.
The table below shows how the IPB will have to work its way through each stage in Parliament before it becomes law.
I support the principle of legislation that can deliver an up-to-date and comprehensive legal framework for the police and security services to prevent and investigate serious and terrorism-related crime.
I also believe that any such legislation must be subject to robust safeguards and independent scrutiny and that it must be transparent, necessary and proportionate.
The primary test for the IPB is whether it adequately protects our privacy, security and democracy.
I have a number of serious concerns about key areas of the IPB, reflecting many of the points raised by three independent reports into the Government's draft Bill (see below).
I will therefore be robustly challenging the Government on these, and other areas, as the IPB progresses. As Shadow Solicitor General, I will be working alongside my Labour frontbench colleague Keir Starmer QC on the Bill Committee. The committee will scrutinise the IPB, line by line, and challenge the Government Minister and their Solicitor General, during eight Committee sessions starting on 12th April.
The Committee is made up of a maximum of eighteen MPs drawn from all parties. Therefore, if you have specific concerns about the IPB, please e-mail me with the specific details and I will seek to incorporate them in my speeches and questions to the Minister and Committee.
My key concerns about the IPB include (though are not limited to):
- Privacy protection
- The operational case for bulk powers
- Judicial authorisation, oversight and the "double lock"
- Internet Connection Records (ICRs); bulk equipment interference; and bulk personal datasets
- Basic definitions, thresholds and proportionality
- Protection of sensitive material
It is essential that the Government provides further material and explanation in these, and other areas, in order to ensure the final Bill strikes the right balance for our privacy, security and democracy.
At today's second reading, Labour will be abstaining on the vote. This is because we support, in principle, the need for 21st century legislation (which is why we are not voting against the IPB at this early stage).
We do not believe, however, that the IPB as currently drafted strikes the right balance between privacy, security and democracy. We will therefore seek to amend the Bill as it makes it way through the various stages, so that it does.
Labour's 2015 Manifesto included a commitment to "update our investigative laws to keep up with changing technology, strengthening both the powers available, and the safeguards that protect people's privacy" and to "strengthen the oversight of our intelligence agencies to make sure the public can continue to have confidence in the vital work that they do to keep us safe".
Surveillance legislation fit for the 21st century, which strikes the right balance between privacy, security and democracy is a prize worth fighting for, and Labour will work constructively with the Government to achieve it. But for that to happen, the Government needs to allow sufficient time for proper parliamentary scrutiny and, equally importantly, to shift their position on a number of critical issues. If it fails to do so, it can expect an extremely robust challenge from Labour.
My colleague Keir Starmer QC has written about the IPB and our approach to it in an article in today's Guardian which you might find interesting. Click here to read the post.