On 27 May, the newly elected UK government unveiled its legislative agenda for the forthcoming parliamentary session. In doing so, it confirmed that it will introduce a new law intended to reform the current legal framework governing the investigatory capabilities of UK law enforcement agencies.

The announcement in the Queen’s Speech merely referred to the introduction of “new legislation to modernise the law on communications data”. However, additional briefing notes released at the same time refer to an Investigatory Powers Bill covering all investigatory powers, including those relating to communications data, intended to achieve various objectives including:

  • modernising the existing law and ensuring it is fit for purpose.
  • addressing capability gaps that severely degrade the ability of intelligence agencies and law enforcement to combat terrorism and other serious crime.
  • maintaining the ability of the intelligence agencies to target the online communications of terrorists, and other relevant capabilities.
  • providing for appropriate oversight and safeguard arrangements.

Whilst the precise scope and detail of the draft bill remain unclear, it seems likely that it will attempt to fulfil two previously stated policy goals of the UK government:

  • the introduction of new laws requiring communication service providers and internet service providers to retain the web browsing history associated with subscribers’ devices; and
  • a wide ranging reform of the existing legislation in this area, in particular the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014, to be made law before the end of 2016. (Indeed, as previously discussed, the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act contains a sunset provision in it which causes its provisions to expire at the end of 2016.)

The briefing materials note that the draft bill will also respond to issues raised in an official report by David Anderson Q.C., the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism, which was recently submitted to the Prime Minister, and which is due to be made publicly available shortly.

We anticipate making further posts on this topic as more detail on the actual content of the Investigatory Powers Bill becomes publicly available.