INVESTIGATORY POWERS BILL
Thank you for your letter confirming some of the details we discussed at our constructive meeting last week. I am grateful for the changes that you have agreed to make on the two issues that you outlined in your letter.
I welcome your agreement to establish an Independent Review with David Anderson QC leading that work with at least two other expert panel members. I look forward to agreeing the terms of reference for the review panel before it begins.
Your acknowledgment of our deeply-held concerns about monitoring of legitimate trade union activity is welcome and I look forward to an amendment to the Bill that explicitly excludes it.
Progress on both of these issues will undoubtedly help build confidence in the Bill in Parliament and in the wider public. But I have to reiterate that there will need to be further major changes before it will be acceptable to us.
1. Privacy Clause
The Bill in its current form does not adequately address the concerns raised about privacy. I continue to believe that an overarching privacy clause must be included at the start.
2. Internet Connection Records
I remain firmly of the view that a higher access threshold is required restricting the use of ICRs to the investigation of serious crime. However, I accept your point that the search for missing persons and the investigation of harassment or stalking should not be excluded by the drafting of the legislation.
We believe it should be possible to provide wording which captures these points and makes sure that the records reflect the operational needs.
3. Judicial authorisation and modification of warrants
I continue to have concerns about the wording in the Bill in this area and in particular the reference to ‘judicial review’ principles. I am clear that Lord Judge’s concerns need to be addressed, namely that a clear test for review be spelt out on the face of the Bill. The judicial commissioners should be able to consider the merits of the case and not just the process.
Improvements also need to be made to the wording of the Bill regarding the subsequent modification of warrants. It is essential that there is a tightening of the provisions in this area.
4. Protection for sensitive professions
The Bill has not yet fully addressed the concern expressed by the National Union of Journalists that powers could be used to reveal journalistic sources. Furthermore, changes are needed better to protect legal privilege and ensure Prime Ministerial sign-off on warrants involving elected Members.
5. Health records
The Bill needs to reflect that NHS records can only be approved in exceptional or compelling circumstances.
With the changes you have recently announced, I believe we are making progress towards a modern legal framework for the use of investigatory powers which balances the needs of the police and security services with strong safeguards for the public. But we are not there yet. Unless there is significant movement by the Government, we will table strong amendments in each of the remaining five areas. If these are defeated and no progress is made, we will be unable to support a timetable that puts this Bill into law by the end of this year.
Rt Hon Andy Burnham MP
Shadow Home Secretary