The House of Lords will “go into battle” with the government if its onlinesurveillance plans allow spy agencies to store everyone’s web history.
Liberal Democrat peer Lord Scriven told WIRED those in the Upper House may scupper the new legislation, due to be published later this week, if it doesn’t balance “the issues of national security and civil liberties”.
The peer’s comments come as Home Secretary Theresa May claims to have watered down the draft Investigatory Powers bill, which will reform the surveillance powers of the security services.
Scriven told WIRED that May’s comments should be carefully watched when the details of the legislation are officially announced on Wednesday.
“I’m a sceptic when it comes to the Home Office and particular Theresa May on these issues because she’s never willing to be flexible and listen to sense before,” he said.
“Maybe she has had a revelation and things will be better than we are anticipating but until the bill comes out we’ve all got to be vigilant.”
The Home Secretary, speaking on the BBC, said the government has dropped the “contentious” parts of the legislation. According to May these concessions include not forcing a full browsing history to be stored by communications providers and also dropping plans to ban or weaken encryption.
However, critics have branded the comments from May as ‘spin’. Shami Chakrabarti, the director of civil rights group Liberty, told the Guardian that the Home Office was asking for the “most outrageous” powers to begin with so that smaller concessions “seem more reasonable”.
Scriven went not to say that if the balancing of civil liberties and the need for national security are not been met “then I think we go into battle and deal with what’s before us.”
One particularly contentious point of the legislation relates to whether May will give up the requirement that politicians issue warrants for surveillance. Reports by independent groups have said judges, not politicians, should have the power the issue warrants but it has beenreported by the Sun that May will not alter the current position, which sees her spending hours a day signing warrants. David Davis, the former shadow home secretary,said the bill will fail unless judicial oversight is allowed.
In the speculation around the bill it has been suggested that the Lords may repeat their block of a government bill for the second time in as many weeks. Previously, Lords stopped the government’s cuts to tax credits being introduced.