• Investigatory Powers Bill lets agencies hack into computers
  • Opposition abstains and requests changes to proposals

Legislation giving Britain’s intelligence agencies the power to examine Internet browsing histories and hack phones and computers was on course to pass its first parliamentary hurdle, after the main opposition Labour Party said it would abstain in an initial vote with the goal of watering down the proposal as it progresses.

The Investigatory Powers Bill has been subject to opposition from the tech industry and some lawmakers who argue variously that it will cost too much to implement, weakens encryption and gives too much power to law-enforcement agencies, Home Secretary Theresa May insisted it was proportionate.

“The scrutiny that this bill has received may well be without precedent,” she told the House of Commons in London as she opened the debate on Tuesday. “This bill will provide world-leading legislation.”

Labour’s home-affairs spokesman, Andy Burnham, said that his party won’t vote against the bill at this stage -- known as the second reading -- because he supports the aim of an up-to-date law to regulate communication interception in the modern age. He rejected the idea it’s a “snoopers’ charter,” saying this demeans the security services. Still, he questioned why bodies such as the Food Standards Agency and the Gambling Commission would be given powers to see people’s Internet connection records.

The Scottish National Party, the third-largest parliamentary grouping, will also abstain in the initial vote.

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