Labour asks for more concessions on the UK's Snoopers' Charter

Andy Burnham writes open letter to Terrible Theresa

Theresa May
Home Secretary 'Terrible' Theresa May

IPB After winning a review of Blighty's Investigatory Powers Bill, the Shadow Home Secretary has repeated Labour's discomfort over the Snoopers' Charter.

In an open letter to Home Secretary Theresa May, Andy Burnham stated he was “grateful for the changes that [the Home Secretary had] agreed to make on the two issues that you outlined in your letter.”

May conceded an independent review into the bill's bulk surveillance provisions, to be led by David Anderson QC along “with at least two expert panel members,” though Burnham seemed to warn that he looked forward “to agreeing the terms of reference for the review panel before it begins.”

The terms of reference of the review panel will be a contentious area of the review and critics of the bill are keen to ensure they provide enough scope to address what they perceive as the potential for over-reach.

Burnham also complained: “The Bill in its current form does not adequately address the concerns raised about privacy. I continue to believe that an overarching privacy clause must be included at the start.”

Also in for criticism were Internet Connection Records (ICRs), which many have alleged provide the State with citizens' entire browsing histories. Burnham continued: "To have concerns about the wording in the Bill in this area and in particular the reference to ‘judicial review’ principles. I am clear that Lord Judge’s concerns need to be addressed, namely that a clear test for review be spelt out on the face of the Bill. The judicial commissioners should be able to consider the merits of the case and not just the process."

The bill has also failed to address privacy concerns raised by the National Union of Journalists, said Burnham, though those concerns are shared by other organisations, and the powers included in the bill could be used to unmask journalists' sources.

With the changes you have recently announced, I believe we are making progress towards a modern legal framework for the use of investigatory powers which balances the needs of the police and security services with strong safeguards for the public. But we are not there yet. Unless there is significant movement by the Government, we will table strong amendments in each of the remaining five areas.

Burnham added that if such amendments are defeated in Parliamentary votes then Labour could oppose the passage of the bill by refusing to allow it to become law this year. As the current set of snooping powers will "sunset" – automatically expire – at the end of this year, this is not a threat May can afford to ignore. ®

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