Emergency data law: New bill includes clause 'expanding' jurisdiction of UK snooping laws

Clauses added relating to RIPA clarify that the Act - which covers the interception of calls, emails, and texts - also applies to foreign companies

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Critics of the emergency Data Retention and Investigation Powers (DRIP) Bill introduced this morning say that the legislation will expand UK powers to intercept calls and messages.

Although David Cameron and Nick Clegg have said the law is only intended to force UK companies to continue to store metadata about calls, texts and emails (a piece of legislation that the EU recently ruled to be illegal), the Bill also expands the jurisdiction of the controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) of 2000.

This act allows law enforcement to directly intercept the content of calls, texts and emails with the written permission of the Home Secretary, but amendments introduced in the bill clarify that RIPA now applies to “companies based outside the United Kingdom”.

The Government has said that RIPA was always intended to cover foreign firms but that “some of the largest communications providers in the market […] have questioned whether the legislation applies to them.”

David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May also stepped up the rhetoric surrounding the introduction of the Bill, saying that lives could be lost if MPs do not pass the legislation.

In a press conferences this morning, Cameron said: “We face real and credible threats to our security from serious and organised crime, from the activity of paedophiles, from the collapse of Syria, the growth of Isis in Iraq and al Shabab in East Africa.

Video: Cameron defends law on grounds of national security

"I am simply not prepared to be a prime minister who has to address the people after a terrorist incident and explain that I could have done more to prevent it.”

However, MPs have strongly criticized the Government for forcing the bill through Parliament with little consultation or scrutiny. Conservative backbencher David Davis described the situation engineered by the Government as a “theatrical emergency” while Labour MP Tom Watson called it a “stitch-up”.