David Anderson, Britain's watchdog on terrorism laws, has said the proposed abolition of his job could weaken scrutiny of the security services, as the emergency surveillance bill reached the statute book after only three days' consideration.
Anderson, backed by his predecessor, Lord Carlile, has warned that the effectiveness of the replacement privacy and civil liberties board will be undermined if the security services fail to give it "unfettered access to secret papers and discussions".
The emergency Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (Drip) requires internet and phone companies including US-based firms such as Google to store all personal communications data for 12 months so it can be accessed by police and security services.
The new law has an expiry date of December 2016. This week's parliamentary debates demonstrated that there is now widespread consensus that the main surveillance law, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (Ripa), is a "broken and bleeding sore", as one ex-Home Office minister put it, and urgently needs replacing.
A review by Anderson of the surveillance legislation dating back to Ripa is to be completed by the general election. It will be followed by an inquiry by a committee of MPs and peers who will report before a new surveillance bill is introduced. The intelligence and security committee (ISC) is to hold open public evidence sessions on the issue this autumn.
A Home Office letter to peers on Thursday made clear that local authorities would continue to get access by way of a central portal to personal communications data to investigate benefit fraud and environmental crimes such as fly-tipping. This is despite assurances from ministers that the 600 bodies that currently have access would be scaled back and the powers used mostly to tackle terrorism and serious crime.
During the rapid passage of Drip through the House of Lords without any votes or amendment, peers said they were horrified that the principal security oversight mechanism, the ISC, had failed to issue any report on its implications when it was "our eyes and ears behind the security wall".
Lord Butler of Brockwell, an ISC member and former cabinet secretary, revealed that the committee – made up of MPs and peers appointed by the prime minister – had been convinced of the urgent need for the bill after meeting the director-general of GCHQ, Sir Iain Lobban, on Tuesday morning.
Lobban told them that recent developments "such as the activities of " had affected the willingness of internet companies to meet requests for personal data of their customers.
The Home Office terms of reference for the new privacy and civil liberties board state: "It will not duplicate the current independent role of the ISC, or commissioners responsible for oversight of the agencies. Nor would it replace the current arrangements for seeking redress in particular cases."
The former terrorism laws watchdog Lord Carlile said it was crucial that the four-strong board had high-level vetted access to the security services to fully scrutinise counter-terrorism activity: "Otherwise, what has been announced is a serious retrograde step," he said.
Anderson, writing on his , said the same level of access would have to be extended to every member of the board, backed by watertight guarantees and by the full institutional co-operation of the security agencies. "Should these not be forthcoming, the establishment of the board risks promoting the appearance of effective scrutiny while diminishing its reality," he wrote.
The Home Office minister Lord Taylor told peers that the powers of the board would be discussed in detail when legislation was introduced in the autumn.