Monetary penalties for certain unlawful interceptions

Part of Investigatory Powers Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 10:15 am ar 12 Ebrill 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office) 10:15, 12 Ebrill 2016

Again no amendments are tabled to the clause, but there are some questions that arise from it. The explanatory notes say, and it is clear in the Bill, that the clause creates a power for the Investigatory Powers Commissioner to impose fines where an interception has been carried out, but there was no intention. It relates to action that might otherwise be an offence, but the intention element is not made out. Against that background, I have some questions for the Solicitor General.

If the power applies where an interception is carried out but there was no intention to do so, it is hardly likely to have a deterrent effect because the person did not intend to do it in the first place, so what is the rationale and purpose of this provision? It is clear in schedule 1, which is related to clause 6, that the commissioner has very wide discretion in relation to the operation of the powers under the clause including, in paragraph 13, powers to require information from individuals

“for the purpose of deciding whether to serve” an enforcement notice. Thus we have a provision that is premised on a non-intentional interception that then triggers quite extensive powers to require information with penalties for failure to provide that information. Schedule 1 states that guidance will be published on how the powers are to be exercised, but what is the real rationale and purpose? Why are the powers as extensive as they are and will the Minister commit to the guidance envisaged under schedule 1 being made public?

In clause 6(3)(c) there is reference to a consideration by the Commissioner that

“the person was not…making an attempt to act in accordance with an interception warrant”,

which suggests that that is outside the scheme of the provision. We have also noted that the provision relates only to a public telecommunications system. It is in many ways supplementary or complementary and we are not questioning it in that sense, but there is a number of unanswered questions. If we are to scrutinise and probe, it would be helpful to have those answered now if possible, and if it is not answered in writing.