Warrants that may be issued under this Chapter

Part of Investigatory Powers Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:00 pm ar 12 Ebrill 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Minister of State (Home Office) (Security) 2:00, 12 Ebrill 2016

I wondered whether the ISC might be raised in this respect. Of course the hon. and learned Lady is right. With her typical diligence she has identified that the ISC does indeed make that point. The answer to the question is that we welcome scrutiny and we invite consideration of these proposals. All of the Committees that looked at these matters made a whole series of recommendations, some of which the Government accepted with alacrity, some of which the Government continue to consider, and some of which the Government do not agree with. It is true that that point has been made, and I said that this might reasonably be argued. However, I think that we have gone far enough in this area in balancing the proper desire for effective safeguards with the operational effectiveness of the agencies.

Bulk collection is really important. Without giving away too much sensitive information, I can happily let the Committee know that as Security Minister I have visited GCHQ, as the Committee would expect me to do. I have looked at the kind of work the staff there do in respect of bulk data collection, and I have seen the effect it has. Contrary to what might be described as a rather crude view of what bulk collection is all about, it is not searching for a needle in any haystack; it is being highly selective about which haystacks are looked at. It is about trying to establish connections, networks and relationships between organisations and individuals; places and people. I have no doubt that without these powers the work of our intelligence and security services would be inhibited. However, I accept that safeguards are needed: I do not for a moment suggest anything else.

I turn now to amendments 58, 59 and 60. These amendments seek to extend the circumstances in which a targeted examination warrant is required beyond the current situation in the Bill, such that they are not limited to persons in the UK. The intention of amendment 58 appears to be that an individual targeted examination warrant would be required from the Secretary of State and a judicial commissioner each time an analyst in an intelligence agency wished to examine the content of any communications acquired under a bulk data interception warrant. This would apply irrespective of where in the world the sender or recipient of the communication was located. As currently drafted, the Bill makes it clear that a targeted examination warrant must be sought if an analyst wished to examine the content of communications of individuals in the British islands which had been obtained under a bulk interception warrant.

Amending the scope of a targeted examination warrant as proposed would, in my view, fundamentally alter the operation of the bulk regime. I am advised to that effect by those who use these powers. There is plainly a rational justification for treating the communications of persons known to be in the British Isles differently to those of persons who are believed to be overseas. Within the UK, the interception of communications is a tool that is used to advance investigations into known threats, usually in conjunction with other capabilities and other tools. Of course, serious investigations of the kind we are talking about are complicated, and very often this will be only one of the means that are used to establish the patterns of activity of the networks I have described and the threats that I have outlined.