Tory MPs believe they have sufficient numbers of would-be rebels to be able to amend the government’s Investigatory Powers Bill, which was published yesterday.
Coffee House understands that there are already around 10 Tory MPs who would be happy to join forces with Labour to change key sections of the legislation on the authorisation of interception warrants, and on the level of detail on someone’s internet history that is available to intelligence services and the police. David Davis, the Tory MP who tends to lead the charge on civil liberties matters, is concerned that a number of the points set out by the joint committee that scrutinised the Bill when it was in draft form have still not been addressed now that it has been published. He says:
‘We are not setting out to trash this bill, but there are going to be sensible, serious amendments to it.’
It’s significant that Davis isn’t setting out to trash the Bill, as it shows that many Tories have in fact been rather reassured by what the Home Office has ended up producing. Theresa May has unsurprisingly gone to some considerable lengths to listen to any backbencher who is interested in the matter, offering a series of meetings to those who have questions. Indeed, some say they have been really pleased with what has been published.
Victoria Prentis, the MP for Banbury who has an interest in this legislation, having worked as Head of Justice and Security at the Treasury Solicitors’ Department, tells me that she is ‘very relieved with the double lock on judicial authorisation: that’s completely calmed my fears’. The double lock requires warrants to be signed by judges as well as the Home Secretary – something MPs were concerned was not strong enough when the draft legislation was introduced.
The chances are that the Home Office is expecting the amendments that Davis and co will propose, and, as departments usually do when introducing controversial bits of legislation, has already planned concessions.