The Investigatory Powers Bill is a Government Bill intended to 'provide a new framework to govern the use and oversight of investigatory powers by law enforcement and the security and intelligence agencies'. Many constituents have written in concerned that the new Bill will infringe upon their right to privacy. Barry sets out his opinion below.
There is always a critical tension between the rights of privacy for individuals to be free from intrusive and oppressive surveillance by the state and the need to ensure that citizens are safe and secure enough to enjoy those rights. It is a question which has been politically relevant in every generation going back hundreds of years. The changes in technology that have taken place over the last 30 years though have brought this question into even starker focus for our generation and the proposed changes to surveillance and data retention laws have quite properly raised genuine and worrying concerns
I appreciate that the intelligence and security services undertake vital, often unrecognised, work to protect our security and to counter the growing threats that we face, both internationally and domestically; and it is clear that the huge changes we have seen in technology have left our laws governing investigatory powers outdated. It is important therefore that the relevant authorities have the appropriate up-to-date powers that they need to tackle terrorism, child sexual abuse, serious online crime, and to help locate missing people.
These powers must be exercised within a new framework that commands public trust by balancing strong powers with strong safeguards to protect privacy and long-held liberties. I know that a number of reports on the Government's draft Bill raised substantial concerns and I do not believe that these can be dismissed.
Following the publication of the Government's Bill, which has now received its second reading in Parliament, I have a number of concerns.
- Instead of tightening the criteria for the use of the most intrusive powers, the Bill appears to lower the threshold and allow the authorities to access them in a much broader range of circumstances. I do not believe that the Government has adequately justified this extension to date, and this is something that I will be pressing to see greater control over.
- The widening of access to Internet Connection Records (ICRs) in the Bill is a particular area of concern. As it stands I am not persuaded that the powers in relation to the collection and use of ICRs are proportionate and justified.
This legislation will have major implications for privacy, and how we are governed and policed. We must take time to get this right and but I believe it is important to take a responsible and constructive approach in working with the Government on this issue. For this reason, when the Bill was debated on the 15th March I, along with other Labour members chose to abstain as a signal that whilst we recognise that new legislation is important and necessary, we are concerned that the government needs to respond adequately to the points that have been raised. If they do not we will withdraw support for the timetabling of the Bill.