Forthcoming legislation on the interception of communications should contain explicit protection for legal professional privilege, a joint committee of the houses of parliament said today.

The call - widely welcomed by the Law Society and other professional bodies - appears in critical assessment by the joint committee on the draft investigatory powers bill.

The committee says the government was right to bring forward the bill to pull together numerous statutes governing 'intrusive powers' but that it will need 'significant amendments and further work'.  

In December, the Law Society called for explicit statutory protection for legal professional privilege in its evidence to the joint committee, rather than a code of practice proposed in the draft bill.

In its report published this morning, the committee recommended that 'provision for the protection of legal professional privilege in relation to all categories of acquisition and interference addressed in the bill should be included on the face of the bill and not solely in a code of practice'.

Law Society president Jonathan Smithers said: 'Legal professional privilege is vital to the administration of justice. The Law Society has long called for appropriate statutory protection for legal professional privilege to be included as an explicit part of intrusive surveillance legislation.

'As recommended by the committee, we will be happy to work with the Home Office and others to determine how this can best be achieved.'

The committee's chair, Lord Murphy of Torfaen, said: 'There is much to be commended in the draft bill, but the Home Office has a significant amount of further work to do before parliament can be confident that the provisions have been fully thought through.'

Graham Smith, a partner at international law firm Bird & Bird who gave evidence to the committee, said of its findings: 'The joint committee has, in effect, sent the Home Office back to do more homework on aspects such as mandatory generation/retention of internet connection records and bulk powers. It has to address significant concerns, both technical and civil liberties.' 

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