AS MPs are set to debate the so-called “snoopers’ charter” in Parliament this afternoon, human rights organisation Liberty say most Britons are unaware of the new powers the government want to grant the security and intelligence services.

According to a new poll 92 per cent of Brits are aware of the introduction of a “snoopers’ charter”, but 72 per cent of respondents said they knew nothing about what the

Investigatory Powers Bill contained.

The Commons debate and vote on the Bill today and tomorrow is the final major piece of Parliamentary business before the EU referendum on June 23.

If the Bill passes, the new law will give security services and intelligence agencies more power to monitor the communications of every person in the UK. These include greater access to web browsing records.

Communications companies and internet service providers would have to store every single person’s communications data, including records of calls, texts, emails and their internet connection records – effectively their entire browsing history for a year.

With a significant Tory backbench rebellion possible, home secretary Theresa May has been forced to make concessions.

Some of those include introducing safeguards to introduce a “privacy clause” to make sure the new mass-surveillance powers are a last resort, and not authorised for use where other means could be used.

Critics say only if a particular individual is suspected of criminality or has committed a crime that records should be kept, while this Bill will see everybody’s records kept and dozens of public bodies would have access to the data.

In a column in today’s National, the SNP’s home affairs spokesperson said her party might vote against the Bill, unless serious concession were made.

Joanna Cherry has written to May, calling for her to make amendments and to give greater oversight of the agencies who would have access to the enhanced surveillance in the Bill.

She says there needs to be “extra protection to citizens who communicate with journalists, lawyers or parliamentarians” before the SNP can back the bill.

May has yet to reply.

Liberty’s Bella Sankey said: “This Bill would create a detailed profile on each of us which could be made available to hundreds of organisations to speculatively trawl and analyse. It will all but end online privacy, put our personal security at risk and swamp law enforcement with swathes of useless information.”

Joanna Cherry QC, MP: Some sections of Bill remain ‘concerning’

AT THE second reading of the Investigatory Powers Bill the SNP expressed grave concerns and abstained on the basis we would work at committee stage to amend it – and if it was not amended satisfactorily we would vote it down at a later stage. It appears that stage has now been reached.

There are aspects of this Bill which we want to support because they are necessary for law enforcement across these islands and to replace some powers already in force in Scotland.We also think that the attempt to consolidate a number of statutes and to have a modern and comprehensive law is laudable.

However, we are very concerned that some of the powers in the Bill run contrary to decisions of the Court of Justice of the EU and the European Court of Human Rights.They also significantly exceed powers provided for in other western democracies.

The retention of internet connection records and bulk powers, which have been the subject of criticism by the UN special rapporteur on privacy, both fall into these categories.

We believe that provision for the retention of internet connection records (ICRs) should be removed from the face of the Bill.What is proposed is unacceptably intrusive and practically unworkable. The scheme proposed is of questionable legality and it is noteworthy that our allies do not feel the need to authorise such intrusion into the privacy of their citizens for the purposes of law enforcement or the prevention of terrorism.

In response to pressure from the SNP and Labour, the Government have agreed to commission a review of the operational necessity of bulk powers. This is welcome but the SNP do not think that bulk powers should be in the Bill until such time as a convincing case has been made for them. We doubt whether this can be done, having regard in particular to the experience of bulk powers in the USA which led to a recognition that, as well as being extremely intrusive, they were not effective.

The SNP believe that law enforcement and the intelligence and security services should have necessary and proportionate powers to fight serious crime and terrorism. However, we also believe that, in order to protect civil liberties and data security, surveillance should be targeted, by means of warrants that are focused, specific and based on reasonable suspicion. Oversight and safeguards should be independent of the executive and robust.

In committee the SNP tabled numerous amendments to attempt to achieve these principles as a thread running throughout the Bill and to remove those provisions which were not in accordance with law and unjustifiable.

Not one was accepted.

Last week I wrote to the home secretary listing what would need to be done before the SNP could contemplate giving this Bill our support. I have yet to receive a reply.

As well as seeking to remove ICRs and bulk powers from the Bill we have tabled amendments to improve the safeguards afforded by judicial authorisation of warrants, to afford extra protection to citizens who communicate with journalists, lawyers or parliamentarians, to tighten up the overly broad hacking powers and to improve oversight and transparency.

It remains to be seen what sort of a response our amendments will receive.

Joanna Cherry QC is MP for Edinburgh South West and SNP spokesperson on justice and home affairs.