Spying laws: Internet browsing history to be protected

Home Secretary Theresa May on the Andrew Marr Show said the Bill includes oversight provision. Picture: BBC
Home Secretary Theresa May on the Andrew Marr Show said the Bill includes oversight provision. Picture: BBC
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SPYING laws will not give the authorities powers to trawl through people’s internet browsing histories, the Home Secretary has insisted.

New measures, which come after the coalition ditched previous plans amid claims they amounted to a “snoopers’ charter”, will have “world leading” oversight arrangements, Theresa May said.

The Investigatory Powers Bill, due to be set out on Wednesday, will not include powers to restrict encryption, she confirmed.

“Encryption is important for people to be able to keep themselves safe when they are dealing with these modern communications in the digital age but what we will be doing is setting out the current position, which does enable the authorities with proper authorisation to issue warrants,” Mrs May said.

The Home Secretary told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday that the government “will not be giving powers to go through people’s browsing history”.

She said: “If there are more intrusive requirements, then of course, warrants are required for those.”

“What I am clear about is that there will be in this Bill strong oversight and authorisation arrangements,” she added.

“What the Bill will do on Wednesday is, it sets a modern legal framework but, crucially, it has very strong oversight arrangements within it.

“I think it will be world leading oversight arrangements within the Bill. It will be clear and more comprehensive and comprehensible than the previous legislation has been.”

More than 1,400 warrants authorising more intrusive measures cross the Home Secretary’s desk a year, she said.

Mrs May said she spent “as long as is necessary” considering each one and time was set aside in her diary every day to allow that to happen.

Ministers have looked at all the arguments about handing over that responsibility to independent judges and the decision will be announced on Wednesday, she added.

Shadow home secretary Andy Burnham said there was a “broad acceptance” that a new law was needed.

He said: “I’m not going to play politics with this issue.”

Mr Burnham said he had “outlined” his approach to party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

He called for the Government to “ensure that judges have the final say” on the most intrusive warrants.

Former director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer said there was a “strong case” for a new law but demanded judicial oversight.