New Clause 1 - Report on the Prime Minister’s engagement with the Intelligence and Security Committee

Part of Investigatory Powers (Amendment)Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons am 6:08 pm ar 25 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Dan Jarvis Dan Jarvis Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Security) 6:08, 25 Mawrth 2024

It is a privilege to open debate on Report of this important Bill. At the outset, it is worth reiterating that Labour supports the Bill, which updates aspects of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016. That is because it is imperative that legal frameworks are updated to ensure that our police and security services keep up with changes to communications technology. Doing so ensures that they are always one step ahead of criminals and malign forces who seek to harm us and undermine our national security.

I hope the Minister, and all Members who were present in Committee, agree with me that we had a constructive debate, testing the Bill’s proportionality and robustness. Some matters relating to third-party bulk personal datasets and the oversight process for the addition of new BPDs to existing category authorisations have been largely resolved to the satisfaction of Labour Members, but other important matters still need to be addressed. I will speak first about the new clauses and amendments that stand in my name, before dealing with some of those tabled by other Members.

New clause 1 seeks to ensure that the Secretary of State publishes an annual report on the engagement between the Prime Minister and the Intelligence and Security Committee regarding the investigatory powers regime. A very similar amendment was tabled in Committee, but was withdrawn after a lengthy debate on the ISC oversight arrangements did not make any meaningful progress despite helpful contributions from my right hon. Friend Mr Jones and Sir John Hayes. We tabled this new clause because the Government must recognise that the ISC has a vital role to play in the democratic oversight of some of the most powerful measures that the state has at its disposal to keep us safe, to intercept communications and to interfere with equipment.

The ISC is and should be the only Committee of Parliament that can appropriately hold a Prime Minister to account on investigatory powers. There must be accountability at the highest level, and the Prime Minister is no exception. However, many Members, not least members of the ISC, know that this important mechanism is not just broken but has stopped working altogether. Not since 2014 has a Prime Minister appeared before the Committee, but, when asked about successive Prime Ministers’ lack of appearance, the Minister said that such decisions were above his pay grade. That might well be true, at least for now, so if the Minister cannot commit himself to reinstating the convention of Prime Ministers’ appearing before the Committee, the new clause would, at the very minimum, ensure that this new convention of non-attendance is reviewed annually, and scrutinised by this House and the other place. I therefore give notice of our intention to push the new clause to a vote.