The first session of the new Parliament was opened by the Queen today and, as expected, a renewed push for a Snoopers' Charter was high on the agenda.
Her Majesty said:
Measures will also be brought forward to promote social cohesion and protect people by tackling extremism.
New legislation will modernise the law on communications data, improve the law on policing and criminal justice.
The new programme of laws is the first such package a Tory government has presented for a Queen's Speech since 1996, after the Conservative Party secured a slim majority in the House of Commons on 8 May this year.
Significantly, legislative proposals from David Cameron's government are no longer hampered by the Lib Dems – his party's junior coalition partner from the previous Parliament.
Former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg had rejected Home Secretary Theresa May's hated draft communications data bill in late 2012 – effectively mothballing the proposals.
All of which explains why the Snoopers' Charter was given a fresh push today.
The planned legislation will be dubbed the Investigatory Powers Bill. According to the Queen's Speech briefing pack, it will:
- Provide the police and intelligence agencies with the tools to keep you and your family safe.
- Address ongoing capability gaps that are severely degrading the ability of law enforcement and intelligence agencies ability to combat terrorism and other serious crime.
- Maintain the ability of our intelligence agencies and law enforcement to target the online communications of terrorists, paedophiles and other serious criminals.
- Modernise our law in these areas and ensure it is fit for purpose.
- Provide for appropriate oversight and safeguard arrangements.
It said that benefits of the planned law included:
Better equipping law enforcement and intelligence agencies to meet their key operational requirements, and addressing the gap in these agencies’ ability to build intelligence and evidence where subjects of interest, suspects and vulnerable people have communicated online.
Maintain the ability of our intelligence agencies to target the online communications of terrorists, and other relevant capabilities.
The government once again trotted out its well-worn political jargon that such legislation was needed to "close a capability gap".
Lobby group the Internet Service Providers' Association, which represents the UK's biggest telcos, told The Register:
ISPA welcomes government’s commitment to update the legislation, the safeguards and oversight arrangements.
We also welcome the fact that government will factor in the Anderson review.
ISPA looks forward to scrutinising the Bill when it is published in full and call on the government to allow Parliament, industry and other stakeholders enough time to have a full, open and comprehensive debate on the new legislation.
There is a need to properly balance security, privacy, costs to industry and preserve the UK's reputation as a leading place to do business online.