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 It is clear however that huge changes in technology have left our laws governing investigatory powers outdated, and the Snowden revelations also highlighted that a clearer legal basis, greater transparency and more tightly drawn definitions of all powers and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.
Keir Starmer MP, who leads for Labour on this issue in Parliament, led a campaign to get a number of concessions from the government during the Commons stages. You can read his argument for modifying the bill here: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/15/investigatory-powers-bill-labour-law?CMP=share_btn_fb#_=_
In addition, I am a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and we produced a report on the Bill two weeks ago. You can read this on the JCHR webpage or here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt201617/jtselect/jtrights/104/10402.htm
Some of the key changes to the Bill included:
* 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 very 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 these powers, I completely accept that the way that government agencies will operate in putting them into effect needs to be properly supervised and reviewed. I am pleased, therefore, that the Government has also accepted our 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 Labour 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 accept that the Bill is not perfect and needs further changes, but also that not to have supported it overall earlier this month would have denied us these additional safeguards and left us with much weaker legislation. 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.