Investigatory Powers Bill receives Royal Assent

In a direct statement by Her Majesty’s Government, The Home Office has confirmed that the Investigatory Powers Bill, which sets out the regulations which govern the UK’s police, security and intelligence agencies on matters of electronic communications, has received Royal Assent.

HM Government comments: ‘The Investigatory Powers Act 2016 will ensure that law enforcement and the security and intelligence agencies have the powers they need in a digital age to disrupt terrorist attacks, subject to strict safeguards and world-leading oversight.

‘The new legislation brings together and updates existing powers while radically overhauling how they are authorised and overseen. It also creates one new power: the introduction of Internet Connection Records, which will be accessible by law enforcement and the intelligence agencies to disrupt terrorist attacks and prosecute suspects.’

The new act introduces a number of new features which include:

  • a “double-lock” for the most intrusive powers, so that warrants issued by a Secretary of State will also require the approval of a senior judge
  • a powerful new Investigatory Powers Commissioner, to oversee how the powers are used
  • new protections for journalistic and legally privileged material, and a requirement for judicial authorisation for acquisition of communications data that identify journalists’ sources
  • tough sanctions – including the creation of new criminal offences – for those misusing the powers

The bill, initially put forward in 2014 has been subject to three independent reviews, and was passed through Parliament on the 16th of November 2016.

On achieving Royal Assent, Home Secretary Amber Rudd commented: ‘This government is clear that, at a time of heightened security threat, it is essential our law enforcement, security and intelligence services have the powers they need to keep people safe.

‘The Investigatory Powers Act is world-leading legislation that provides unprecedented transparency and substantial privacy protection.’

A number of major political and economic players around the world still oppose the bill, read more about their views here.