Next moves for the IPB: Split, Delay or Publish?

 With criticism like that and their credibility undermined, we’re expecting Theresa May and the Home Office to do one of three things with the Bill: Split it, Delay it or Publish it.

1. Split
They divide the Bill up into two or more different laws.

Theresa May is rushing to get the IPB on the statute book by December. The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) – the law compelling ISPs to store our communications data for a year – expires at the end of 2016.

As DRIPA reaches its sunset, the Home Office wants to have another new law in place that keeps that arrangement going. They may take the data retention parts of the IPB and try to pass that separately from the rest of the Bill in the next few months. 

This would give them more time to make changes to the rest of the Bill. If they do this, they will have failed to pass a single comprehensive surveillance law – one of the Home Office’s stated intentions when they first published the draft Bill. More importantly though, it’s likely that they’d try to pass the new ‘Snooper’s Charter’ parts of the draft IPB along with the data retention parts.

This would mean that we’d have a big fight on our hands in the next few months to stop the Government compelling the collection of the nation’s web use.

2. Delay
They take into account the recommendations of the committees and delay the Bill so that they can re-draft properly.

Re-writing a better version of this Bill should take them some time. They will have to go back to the drawing board and make real changes that deal with the criticisms received from Parliament. They would also have to extend the sunset clause in DRIPA. This would likely be the best outcome for us, as it would give the civil servants more time to deal with the serious criticisms of the entire Bill such as the Intelligence and Security Committee’s complaint that it was treating privacy as an add-on rather than the backbone of the Bill. 

3. Publish
They decide to press ahead, quickly make a few small changes to the draft Bill and present it to Parliament in the next few weeks.

If this happens we will wait for the new Bill to see what they come up with. But it’s unlikely that they’ll address all 123 recommendations – showing that they are rushing ahead without fully listening to concerns. This would be the worst possible outcome. The Home Office would be rushing through legislation that has been criticised from all quarters without consideration for the very reasonable complaints made by Parliament.

ORG and other civil society groups have been invited to meet with the Home Office later this week where we expect to get a better idea of what’s going to happen. It will be a critical point where we’ll learn what the future of this Bill will be and whether the Home Office has listened to the well-deserved criticism of the Bill. We’ll write to update you about what’s happening next.