Out-Law News 1 min. read

Investigatory Powers Bill finalised by UK parliament

New UK surveillance laws have been finalised in the UK parliament.

The Investigatory Powers Bill was passed in the House of Lords on Wednesday after peers agreed not to pursue amendments relating to press regulation within the Bill. The passing of the Bill follows a period of parliamentary 'ping-pong' concerning the Bill between the House of Lords and House of Commons.

The Investigatory Powers Bill would give UK law enforcement and intelligence agencies the power to require telecommunication service providers to retain and hand over so-called communications data to help combat terrorism, serious crime or protect the UK's economic interests, among other limited purposes provided for in the legislation.

The Bill also sets out new rules to govern the interception of communications and use of equipment interference powers. It also outlines UK intelligence agencies' qualified right to obtain personal datasets in bulk for national security reasons under warrants that would be issued by UK ministers.

The Bill has still to receive Royal Assent before it can be brought into force.

MPs in the House of Commons had rejected previous proposed changes to the Bill put forward in the Lords on the issue of press regulation. Some peers had expressed concern that legal costs reforms recommended in the Leveson inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press had not been implemented by the UK government.

The government has opened a consultation on whether or not to implement legislation relevant to the press' legal costs that is already on the statute book.

Under section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, newspapers that are members of a recognised self-regulator would be exempt from paying their opponent's legal costs in cases brought before court, such as in libel trials. Newspapers not members of that recognised self-regulator would face having to pay the legal costs of their opponents in litigation, even if they won the underlying dispute. The legislation, however, has yet to be brought into force.

Earl Howe, UK defence minister and deputy leader of the House of Lords, said: "We want to find a model for self-regulation that has broad support and works in practice. As well as having a responsibility to the victims, the government have a responsibility to make sure that we have … a vibrant and sustainable press, ​particularly at the local level. We want to gather the evidence through a proper process, better to understand the potential impacts and explore options for next steps."

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