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Retention of Communications Data

Volume 632: debated on Thursday 30 November 2017

In order to maintain the essential capabilities of law enforcement to catch paedophiles, terrorists and criminals, the Government have announced proposed changes to the UK’s communications data retention and acquisition regime to comply with the judgment handed down by the European Court of Justice in December 2016. Communications data is used in 95% of serious and organised crime prosecution cases handled by the Crown Prosecution Service organised crime division, and has been used in every major Security Service counter-terrorism investigation over the last decade. Over 50% of data sought in child abuse cases is over six months old and may simply not have been available if the Government did not have the ability to ask providers to retain communications data.

The Government have given careful consideration to a judgment handed down by the European Court of Justice in December 2016 and are proposing new safeguards to ensure we comply with the judgment while still allowing the police to use communications data to solve crimes, catch paedophiles and protect the public.

I am therefore today announcing the publication of the Government’s consultation on:

changes it proposes to make, via regulations made under section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972, to the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 in response to the judgment; and

the draft communications data code of practice which sets out the processes and safeguards governing the retention of communications data by telecommunications operators and its acquisition by public authorities, including the police and the security and intelligence agencies.

Given the ongoing public interest in investigatory powers the Government consider it important to consult on potential changes to the legislative regime in order to inform the legislative response and subsequent parliamentary debate. The Government welcome comments on the amendments that they are proposing to the Investigatory Powers Act and on the draft code of practice. Consultation responses are particularly welcomed on the proposed amendments, although the Government will also consider other amendments that consultees consider should be made to the Act and draft code of practice more generally in response to the judgment.

The consultation will last seven weeks, taking account of the Christmas period. Copies of the consultation document, the draft code, regulations, Keeling schedule, impact assessment and case studies will be placed in the Library of the House. Online versions will be available on the website.