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Investigatory powers enhanced "to keep people safer" Published Date: 29/04/2024

New laws to protect our citizens from threats such as terrorism and child sexual abuse have been passed as part of an update to the Investigatory Powers Act 2016.  

As technology has rapidly advanced and the type of threats the UK faces evolved, it is crucial the UK stays ahead of our adversaries to keep the British people safe.   

Urgent, targeted changes made to the Investigatory Powers Act after the Investigatory Powers (Amendment) Act received royal assent today (25th April) will ensure the intelligence services and law enforcement have the powers they need to keep pace with a range of evolving threats from terrorists, hostile state actors, child abusers and criminal gangs.  

The act will also help to protect the privacy of British citizens by strengthening the world-leading safeguards within the 2016 Act.   

The new act makes focused amendments to the existing regime to ensure that it remains fit-for-purpose following an independent review of the law by Lord Anderson of Ipswich KBE KC. 

The updates: 

  • Make changes to the bulk personal dataset regime, to improve the intelligence agencies’ ability to respond with greater agility and speed to existing and emerging threats to national security. They will improve the quality and speed of analysts’ decision making, improving their ability to keep the public safe in a digital age, whilst adhering to strong, proportionate safeguards and with independent oversight.

  • Will enhance the existing world leading safeguards to support the Investigatory Powers Commissioner in carrying out oversight of public authorities’ use of investigatory powers.

  • Modify the notices regimes to ensure the efficacy of the existing powers in the context of new technologies and the commercial structures of a modern digital economy. This includes ensuring that exceptional lawful access is maintained where necessary and proportionate for public safety, while also protecting the privacy of citizens and the ability of companies to develop cutting-edge technologies.

  • Increase the resilience of the warrantry authorisation processes to allow greater operational agility for the intelligence agencies and National Crime Agency. This will help to ensure they can always get lawful access to information in a timely way so that they can respond to the most serious national security and organised crime threats.

  • Update the conditions for use of Internet Connection Records to ensure that these can be used effectively to target the most serious types of criminal activity and national security threats without a corresponding increase in levels of intrusion, underpinned by a robust independent oversight regime.

The updated conditions for the use of internet connection records will enable the National Crime Agency to track down child sex abusers more quickly, boosting our efforts to protect children at risk of harm and bring offenders to justice.

Security Minister Tom Tugendhat said: 

As Security Minister, my first priority is to keep the British public safe.  

The world-leading Investigatory Powers regime is crucial to keeping the public safe. That’s why we’re making urgent, targeted changes to the Investigatory Powers Act to ensure our laws keep pace with rapidly changing technology and to guard against modern threats to national security.   

These changes mean that not only will our citizens be better protected from serious dangers such as terrorism and child sexual abuse online – their privacy will be better protected too.

The UK was already a world leader in ensuring privacy can be protected without compromising security. The amendments passed today will maintain and enhance the existing high standards for safeguarding privacy.

The reforms to the act will ensure the powers continue to be subject to robust independent oversight. Access to individuals’ data will happen only, where it is proportionate, necessary to prevent the most serious forms of crime, and with robust protections in place.