The UK Government’s draft Investigatory Powers Bill will be subjected to an “independent review”, Home Secretary Theresa May has promised.

She said the review would examine the powers that allow for the bulk collection of data. It comes after fierce criticism of the bill, dubbed the Snoopers Charter 2.0.

Independent Review

Theresa May made the concession of an independent review in a letter to shadow home secretary Andy Burnham, who has demanded a number of amendments to the controversial bill.

The independent review will be carried out by the government’s reviewer of anti-terrorism legislation, David Anderson, with two of his colleagues. They will examine how the powers to allow Britain’s intelligence agencies to harvest huge amounts of data from email and other communications, will actually work in practice.

He will report his findings over the summer.

“Her commitment to an independent review of the case for bulk powers is a major concession but the right thing to do and something which will build trust in this process,” Labour’s Burnham was reported as saying by the Guardian newspaper.

Burnham did not reveal whether Labour would back surveillance bill after the review, but he hinted that May’s pledge that the powers would not be used to spy on trade unions, had eased Labour’s concerns about the bill.

“She knows of my concerns on the targeting of trade unions in the past by the security services, and her acceptance of a specific reference in the bill that investigatory powers cannot be used to monitor legitimate trade union activity will go a considerable way to reassuring members on this side of the house about this bill,” he reportedly said.

“There are other areas in which we wish to see significant movement and we will continue to work in a constructive spirit to achieve it,” he added. “But this letter shows that the home secretary is listening and that bodes well for the rest of this bill’s passage.”

Fierce Criticism

The draft Bill has faced fierce criticism from leading tech firms (including Apple), ISPs, privacy campaigners, and indeed MPs, who have said the Bill is ‘draconian’ in nature and has been ‘rushed’ through Parliament.

The Bill requires Internet Service Providers to store the web browsing history of all their customers, for 12 months, for government spooks.

Earlier this year the Joint Select Committee of MPs said that the “Home Office has further work to do before Parliament can be confident that the scheme has been adequately thought through.”

That criticism came after the House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee had earlier concluded that the draft bill was too vague in its provisions and would require detailed codes of practice in order to ensure it doesn’t prove a disastrous burden on the nation’s IT industry.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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