The Investigatory Powers Act, which has just passed into law, brings some of the most extreme and invasive surveillance powers ever given to spies in a democratic state.
But, buried in the small print of the law, MPs voted themselves a get out clause which will save them from having the porn collections and illegal business deals from being made public.
The new law requires that those using them must be given a warrant. If a copper wants a to see someone’s full internet browsing history, they must ask the secretary of state to give them access to the IPSs records.
But members of parliament and other politicians have insisted that extra rules have been introduced. This will require the warrants must be approved by the prime minister. This means that the PM can decide if she really wants a treasured cabinet minister to be forced to spend more time with his family pending a court decision for forming an improper relationship with a known terrorist or a farm yard animal by squashing an investigation.
That rule applies not only to members of the Westminster parliament but also politicians in the devolved assembly and members of the European Parliament.
To be fair the protections afforded to politicians were less than they wanted. Earlier in the process, the only amendment that MPs had submitted was one that would allow extra safeguards for politicians – forcing any request to monitor MP’s communications to go through the speaker of the House of Commons as well as the prime minister.