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Theresa May agrees to review proposed bulk data collection powers

Labour welcomes the government’s commitment to review bulk data collection powers in the draft Investigatory Powers Bill, but says more change is needed to win the party’s backing

Home secretary Theresa May has agreed to an independent review of the controversial bulk data collection powers contained in the draft Investigatory Powers Bill.

The bill moved another step closer to becoming law on 3 May 2016 when the House of Commons Public Bill Committee completed its detailed examination of the bill.

However, the bill has encountered resistance at every stage, mainly because of concerns about the wide-ranging nature of the bulk data collection powers.

The government’s decision to set up an independent review is in line with recommendations in the report by the Joint Committee appointed to examine the draft bill. It said if bulk powers were to be included in the bill, a fuller justification for each should also be published.

Shadow home secretary Andy Burnham welcomed the review to be led by David Anderson QC that will examine how the powers will operate in practice, according to the Guardian.

Burnham told the House of Commons that the review is a “major concession, but the right thing to do and something that will build trust in the process”.

He said Theresa May’s acceptance of a reference in the bill that investigatory powers cannot be used to monitor legitimate trade union activity would go a “considerable way” to reassuring Labour about the bill. But he added that there are still other areas where the party would like to see improvement.

These include greater judicial oversight, and protections for whistleblowers and journalists.

Read more about the Investigatory Powers Bill

In a review of whether new surveillance powers were necessary that was published in June 2015, Anderson said any legislation that seeks to increase the surveillance powers of the police and intelligence services must include verification, clear limits and safeguards.

Anderson and two other reviewers will look at the proposed bill in detail and are expected to report when the bill reaches the committee stage in the House of Lords.

Meanwhile, the bill will proceed to the report stage and third reading in the House of Commons before moving over to the House of Lords.

The government is aiming to get the bill passed into law by the end of 2016, when the current laws governing the collection of data in the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act is due to expire.

The Home Office said in a statement: “The home secretary has been clear she will listen to the constructive views of politicians from all sides of the House to ensure the passage of this important bill. The government will be bringing forward amendments at report stage.”

Concerns about bill’s global ramifications

In March, major US tech firms told the Public Bill Committee that their main concerns had yet to be addressed, and urged further amendments.

In a written submission, technology firms Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo reiterated their concerns.

“As we made clear in our evidence to the joint committee, the actions the UK government takes here could have far-reaching implications – for British citizens, our users and for the future of the global technology industry.

“Decisions made today about UK legislation will set precedents which may be copied elsewhere and have wider ramifications for all parties, both in the UK and overseas,” the tech firms said.

Read more on Privacy and data protection

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