Wednesday’s Budget inevitably attracts much media attention, but in fact the previous day’s business will have equally lasting consequences. The Investigatory Powers Bill seeks to deliver an up to date and comprehensive legal framework for the police and security services in their fight against serious and terrorist related crime. The Bill will give a statutory footing for emergency legislation, due to expire at the end of this year.
Some critics say the legislation is being rushed. Nothing could be further from the truth. The current laws have been independently reviewed. A Joint Committee of the Commons and Lords Chaired by Paul Murphy, the former Northern Ireland Secretary, spent four months looking at the Bill. The Intelligence and Security Committee has also scrutinised the proposals. There is an agreed view that the legislation is necessary but has to be proportionate with robust safeguards. Extra time has been built in for thorough parliamentary scrutiny.
Inevitably as the Bill has to respect privacy but also provide security some will object. There are concerns about access to bulk personal data, such as IP addresses which people use, at a time when more and more crime is moving online. There is clearly a need for greater judicial authorisation to establish what the police and security services can and cannot do.
The police and security services keep us safe. We owe it to them to give them the powers to continue to do so.