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 Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright Ceidwadwyr, Kenilworth and Southam 7:15, 25 Mawrth 2024

It is a pleasure to follow Mr Jones, who is a fellow member of the Intelligence and Security Committee. As he mentioned, we work collegiately, and one of the many advantages of that collegiate approach is that I do not need to repeat everything that he has just said; I need only say that I agree with him. I realise that that is a radical approach in this place, but I will not say it all again. I will simply say that I agree with him; he is absolutely right. His point is that, when it comes to the consideration of warrants to authorise the interception of, or interference with, the communications of Members of Parliament, there is huge significance to such a decision. That is the reason the Prime Minister has had to be involved in it, and it is the reason we should not widen too far the pool of deputies who, for sensible and understandable reasons, as the right hon. Member explained, we now need to provide for.

That is why I hope that the next concession that the Minister will make will relate to the pool of deputies, and that in the language the ISC suggests that he adopts we ensure that it is a controlled group, based on either current responsibilities or previous experience. I am sure that we can discuss with him any changes to the wording that he thinks are necessary, but as the right hon. Member for North Durham explained, the current provisions allow for only one restriction: that the member of the Cabinet in question should receive a briefing on how to conduct their warrantry responsibilities. We do not think that that is restrictive enough, given the significance of this decision-making process. I am grateful to the Minister for what he has already said about notification of the Prime Minister in the process. That is a sensible change, which I welcome.

I will say a few words about part 4 of the Bill, which has not yet been mentioned. I know that Stuart C. McDonald, who speaks for the Scottish National party, will want to say something about that part of the Bill, which deals specifically with product notification notices and product suspension pending the review of those notices in clauses 21 and 18. There is a balance to be struck here. We of course need to avoid product changes that undermine security protections. It would therefore be wrong to remove the provisions altogether, as I know the hon. Gentleman will shortly advocate, but I invite the Minister to think very carefully about those clauses. They have had relatively little discussion in the consideration of the Bill, but there is some danger that we overstep the mark in these parts of the Bill.

I invite the Minister to consider that if the powers contained in part 4 are to be used, they are very significant restrictions on commercial freedoms. If we are going to use them, it seems to me we should require three things. First, there should be a materiality threshold in the use of those powers, so that any change would not be sufficient to cause these significant infringements on commercial freedom. It should be a material change only. Secondly, there should be no indefinite hold on product development because, as I say, that is a significant infringement on commercial freedom. Thirdly, there should be a way to appeal a decision to prevent the development or roll-out of a new product.

It seems to me that, were we to have those restrictions, that would not inhibit the Government’s perfectly reasonable ability to stop people developing products that stop us applying the security controls that we all want to see to keep us safe, and would strike the balance better between the powers that the Government must have and the ability that we need commercial manufacturers and developers to have to develop new products that benefit consumers. I hope that the Minister will consider that point when he comes to think about the development of the legislation, but in view of what the right hon. Member for North Durham said, that is all I need to say.