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 7:15 pm ar 25 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Llafur, North Durham 7:15, 25 Mawrth 2024

I agree, but that then places an unnecessary burden on the system. The current process with the Secretary of State, the judicial commissioner and the Prime Minister is robust enough to ensure that people are not doing this to find out what someone ordered on Amazon Prime this weekend or to look at their Tesco account, so I think those assurances are fine.

New clause 4 would

“remove the ability of the Secretary of State to authorise the interception of the communications of, or the obtaining of communications intended for, or private information belonging to, Members of Parliament.”

Again, it is good to have this debate, but I would support such a measure for the reasons I have outlined.

The other change in the Bill concerns bulk data. The right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings covered the original investigatory powers in detail, but there are now big data sets held not only by public authorities but by others, and that has made it more important that our security services are able to access them. Whenever we do this, however, it means more intrusion, so let me deal with the issue of oversight in the Bill, and with the broader, more intrusive powers to obtain internet connection records for the discovery of targets.

Again, that is something that I and other ISC members totally support, but the authorisation process is internal. One stance that the ISC has taken throughout all this is that if we are to give more powers to our security services, there must be a balance. There will not be a situation whereby what people have seen can be identified, but this power will drag in a lot of people who, as the right hon. Gentleman said earlier, are completely innocent. As I said, there is a need for such a power, but we thought there should be more oversight from the Investigatory Powers Commissioner. Therefore, the points I made about amendment 15 are important.

The Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office does a great job of ensuring public support for what we do, but, again, there is an issue around bulk datasets. Some of the examples that were given to ISC members—thanks must go to the Minister, who arranged a meeting for the Committee to be briefed on this—make sense when it comes to the issue of low or no reasonable expectation of privacy. It is burdensome, for example, to access the electoral register, but today the Government have said that somehow that is a secret document. Well, that is not the case under this Bill, in which case it is important that the security services should be able to use it, rather than having to go through the warrantry process. That goes to the point, which my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central raised earlier on, about the definition of “low expectation”.

Another perfectly legitimate reason that the security services need these measures is related to testing new AI models of learning. They need access to these new big datasets, which are out there and which companies use, and the Bill will allow them to have it without going through the warrantry system. If intelligence is going to be on the front foot when it comes to AI, we will have to have these big datasets that will teach the systems how to do it.

The problem comes back my hon. Friend’s question of what is deemed a low or no reasonable expectation of privacy. That is something we have considered throughout this process. One thing the ISC has considered is adding to the existing categories. One suggestion we put forward was that, when the agencies do this, they should have to email the Investigatory Powers Commissioner to notify them that they have done it.