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British politicians sign off on surveillance law, now it's over to the Queen

Monarch's rubber stamp expected to turn bill into law within weeks

Her Majesty the Queen. Crown copyright/MoD

The UK's Investigatory Powers Bill has completed its passage through parliament and now only awaits Her Majesty's stamp of approval before becoming law.

Also known as the Snoopers' Charter, the legislation has been criticised as being among the most onerous in the world upon the civilian population, and will require British ISPs to retain a curtailed form of their customers' internet browsing histories – including what websites they had visited – for 12 months so that various authorities could request it for investigative purposes.

Additional powers are legislated for, including offensive hacking, despite concerns about the State finding an appropriate balance between creating and patching exploits, and the collection of bulk personal data by government spies for the sake of running enormous queries on surveillance data sets.

Despite opposition from other parties, the majority Conservative and second-majority Labour parties saw the bill pass through in both of the houses of parliament – the Conservative party by voting for it, the Labour party by refusing to vote against it and instead abstaining.

Although there was a minor delay in which the House of Lords quibbled with the government over the separate issue of the regulation of the press, the bill is now set to become law by the end-of-year deadline set by Theresa May, with the Lords having recognised that they couldn't throw a tantrum at the Commons indefinitely.

May had published the first draft of the Investigatory Powers Bill in November 2015, alongside a confession that successive British governments had been issuing secret directives to telcos to intercept their users' communications.

Lawmakers applauded themselves that such secret surveillance was now being more explicitly codified in statute. They spoke with similar tact when Theresa May – then Home Secretary – claimed that it only introduced the one new power "requiring communications service providers to retain internet connection records when given a notice by the Secretary of State." ®

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