Warrants that may be issued under this Chapter

Part of Investigatory Powers Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:15 pm ar 12 Ebrill 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Minister of State (Home Office) (Security) 2:15, 12 Ebrill 2016

We legally have different responsibilities with respect to UK citizens. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. UK citizens are protected by all kinds of legal provisions, not only those in this Bill, far from it. He is absolutely right that different circumstances prevail. However, it is slightly more complicated than that, as he knows. We may be talking about people who are British but not in Britain at a particular time, or people who are not British but in Britain at a particular time. We may be speaking about people who are moving in and out of the country. These are often quite complex webs about which we are trying to establish more information. Of course, things such as surveillance and agent reporting will pay a part in this. All the conventional means by which these things are investigated would interface with the tools that the agencies currently use and are given greater detail and more safeguards in the Bill. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that we should have an approach that is appropriate to the circumstances and the kind of people we are dealing with.

It is important to emphasise again that applications for targeting reception warrants will be supported by a detailed intelligence case. There has to be a clear operational purpose—a case needs to be made. That means that the Secretary of State must be satisfied that the use of these powers is appropriate. The Bill quite rightly ensures that the agencies must provide the same detailed case if they want to examine communications of a person in the UK that have been intercepted under a bulk warrant.

The hon. Gentleman’s point about threats outside the UK is important, because it is often only through bulk powers of the kind detailed in the Bill that we are able to discover threats outside the UK, particularly in countries such as Syria where we may have little or no physical presence and limited cover in respect of the security services, for obvious reasons. In those circumstances, the amount of information we have to deal with being very limited, bulk interception plays a critical part. It will often be necessary to examine the communications of individuals outside the UK, for obvious reasons, based on partial intelligence—the limited intelligence we have—in order to determine whether they merit further investigation or in order sometimes to eliminate people from the inquiries. Many of the powers that I am describing—indeed many of the powers in the Bill—as well as identifying, qualifying and making further steps more exact, are about eliminating people from consideration, because once we know more, we know they do not pose a real or current threat. It is therefore really important that we understand that this plays a vital role in mitigating the threat to the UK from overseas.

Requiring an analyst to seek permission from the Secretary of State or the judicial commissioner every time they consider it necessary to examine the content of a communication sent by a person outside the UK would inhibit the ability of the security and intelligence agencies to identify new and emerging threats from outside the UK.

I want to emphasise that the scale and character of the threats we face have changed and continue to do so. This is partly because of changing technology, the way in which people communicate, the adaptability of those who threaten us and the complexities of the modern world. Unless we have powers that match—indeed, outmatch—the powers that are in the hands of those who seek to do us harm, we will simply not be able to mitigate those threats in the way that is needed in defence of our country and countrymen.

The current bulk access safeguards under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 have recently been scrutinised. The Investigatory Powers Tribunal found in particular that there was sufficient justification for enhanced safeguards to be applied only where an analyst is seeking to examine the content of people in the British Isles. Nevertheless, the Bill enhances the safeguards and while I am sympathetic to the aims of amendments 59 and 60, they present practical challenges in their own right.

As hon. Members will appreciate, overseas-based individuals discovered in the course of an investigation do not uniformly present their nationality and passport details to agencies, so in practical terms the agencies will simply not be able to do what the amendments require. The amendments could also give rise to discrimination issues. As I explained, there is a clear justification for applying different safeguards to persons located outside the UK, but it is by no means clear that it is necessary to apply different protections to people of a particular nationality. Accordingly, providing for such a distinction in law could place the UK in breach of its international obligations, particularly our obligation not to discriminate on grounds of nationality.

It is right that we take a view about people who are operating in a way that is injurious to our interests from outside the UK, but it is equally right that we do not make prejudgments. Again, we are trying to strike a balance in this part of the Bill. The aim of the Bill is to place vital powers on a statutory footing that will stand the test of time. I believe that the strongest safeguards for the examination of communications, taking into account the challenges of identifying threats outside the UK, are necessary, and that we are in the right place with the Bill.

Finally, amendment 83 relates to the clause 14 definition of secondary data, which sets out how it can be obtained through an interception warrant provided for in part 2 of the Bill. The amendment seeks to replace the current definition in the Bill with a narrower one.