Investigatory Powers

The Investigatory Powers Bill was passed by Parliament in November 2016. It primarily concerns the powers available to law enforcement and intelligence agencies to intercept, collect and store communications data.

The draft Bill, published in autumn 2015, caused much debate around balancing the needs of the police and intelligence agencies to access communications data in the interest of national security with the potential harm to citizens’ privacy and freedom from these data collection activities.

Proponents of the legislation were concerned that the work of the security services was hampered by a disjointed array of investigatory powers which were not fit for purpose in the digital age. Its detractors argued that the Bill undermined the ability of journalists to protect sources and hold power to account while also compromising citizens’ right to privacy.

The Centre’s work on this theme includes a collection of material and commentary relating to the first draft of the Bill in November 2015 and a documentation of the legal provenance of the Bill’s clauses. We have also featured analysis from legal experts on the Centre’s blog as the Bill has progressed through Parliament.

IALS Resources

External Resources

Past IALS Events

  • Surveillance and Human Rights, a collaborative Seminar organised by the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, the Information Law and Policy Centre and the Human Rights Consortium of the School of Advanced Study. The seminar considered the challenge for modern democracies of balancing civil liberties with the proper scope of government surveillance. With Kirsty Brimelow QC, Silkie Carlo (Policy Officer in Technology and Surveillance at Liberty). Chaired by Judith Townend (Director of the Information Law and Policy Centre), IALS, London, UK, 8 March 2016.
  • Whose Investigatory Power Is It Anyway? Security, Source Protection and Surveillance, an event held in collaboration with the Media Society that considered the debate over investigatory powers within and between UK intelligence agencies, government departments and media organisations after the publication of the Anderson Review. With Kate Allen, (Director, Amnesty International UK), Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP, (Former Attorney General), Ewen MacAskill, (Defence and Intelligence Correspondent, The Guardian), and Jessica Simor QC, (Barrister, Matrix Chambers), IALS, London, UK, 9 October 2015.