Subject-matter of warrants

Investigatory Powers Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:30 pm ar 12 Ebrill 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Justice and Home Affairs) 2:30, 12 Ebrill 2016

I beg to move amendment 4, in clause 15, page 12, line 3, leave out “or organisation”.

This amendment, and others to Clause 15, seek to preserve the capacity of a single warrant to permit the interception of multiple individuals while requiring an identifiable subject matter or premises to be provided.

With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following: amendment 5, in clause 15, page 12, line 8, after “activity” insert

“where each person is named or otherwise identified”.

Amendment 6, in clause 15, page 12, line 9, leave out “or organisation”.

Amendment 7, in clause 15, page 12, line 11, after “operation”, insert

“where each person is named or otherwise identified”.

Amendment 8, in clause 15, page 12, line 12, leave out paragraph (2)(c).

Amendment 9, in clause 15, page 12, line 13, leave out subsection (3).

Amendment 52, in clause 27, page 21, line 7, leave out ‘or organisation’.

Amendment 53, in clause 27, page 21, line 8, leave out ‘or organisation’.

Amendment 54, in clause 27, page 21, line 13, leave out

‘or describe as many of those persons as is reasonably practicable to name or describe’ and insert ‘or otherwise identify all of those persons’.

Amendment 55, in clause 27, page 21, line 15, leave out ‘or organisation’.

Amendment 56, in clause 27, page 21, line 19, leave out

‘or describe as many of those persons or organisations or as many of those sets of premises, as it is reasonably practicable to name or describe’ and insert ‘all of those persons or sets of premises’.

Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Justice and Home Affairs)

The effect of these amendments to clause 15 would be to retain the capacity of a single warrant to permit the interception of multiple individuals but require an identifiable subject matter or premises to be provided. Associated amendments to clause 27 would be required. This would narrow the current provisions, which, in my submission, effectively permit a limitless number of unidentified individuals to have their communications intercepted.

As drafted, clause 15 permits warrants to be issued in respect of people whose names are not known or knowable when the warrant is sought. That is confirmed by clause 27, which provides that a thematic warrant must describe the relevant purpose or activity, and

“name or describe as many of those persons…as…is reasonably practicable”.

The creation of thematic warrants in the Bill means that communications intercepted in their billions under part 6 could be trawled thematically for groups sharing a common purpose or carrying out a particular activity. The difficulty with that is that it provides for an open-ended warrant that could encompass many hundreds or thousands of people, and the expansive scope of these warrants, combined with the broad grounds with which they can be authorised, does not impose sufficient limits on the authorities’ interception powers.

The existence of thematic interception warrants was avowed by the Secretary of State in March 2015. The Intelligence and Security Committee has reported that the significant majority of section 8(1) warrants under RIPA relate to one specific individual but that some do not apply to named individuals or specific premises, and instead apply to groups of people. The current Home Secretary has apparently derived the authority to do so from a broad definition given to the word “person” that is found elsewhere in RIPA, despite the unequivocal reference to “one person” in section 8(1) of RIPA. I suggest that what has gone on in the past is a very unorthodox statutory construction.

Be that as it may, in considering the terms of this Bill the ISC has reported that the Interception of Communications Commissioner has

“made some strong recommendations about the management of thematic warrants” and in some has cases recommended that they be cancelled. The ISC has expressed further concerns about the extent to which this capability is used and the associated safeguards that go along with it. It has suggested that thematic warrants must be used sparingly and should be authorised for a shorter time than a standard section 8(1) warrant.

Reporting on the draft version of the Bill, the ISC noted that “unfortunately”—the Committee’s word—its previous recommendation about thematic warrants

“has not been reflected in the draft Bill”; nor has it been reflected in the revised Bill, in which the scope for thematic warrants remains unchanged. It is not only the ISC that has concerns about this issue. The Joint Committee on the draft Bill also recommended that

“the language of the Bill be amended so that targeted interception and targeted equipment interference warrants cannot be used as a way to issue thematic warrants”.

Many lawyers believe that the scope of warrants permitted under clause 15 as drafted would fail to comply with both the common law and European Court of Human Rights standards, as expounded in a very recent decision in Zakharov v. Russia from 4 December 2015. In that case, the ECHR found that Russia’s interception scheme was in violation of article 8 of the European convention on human rights. Also, the Court cited the fact that Russian courts sometimes grant interception authorisations that do not mention a specific person or a specific telephone number to be tapped but authorise interception of all telephone communications in the area where a criminal offence has been committed. Although thematic warrants do not relate to geographical location, in my view and that of many far more distinguished lawyers, they are sufficiently broad to violate article 8 of the convention. Our amendments are required to make clauses 15 and 27 compatible with that article.

In support of what I am saying, I remind the Committee of the evidence of Sir Stanley Burnton and Lord Judge on 24 March in the afternoon session. I have printed their evidence, because I do not like working on my iPad when it is as detailed as this. The hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras asked:

“One final swift question on thematic warrants and the breadth of the powers proposed in the Bill. Do any of the witnesses have headline concerns that the Committee can take away to work on as we consider the Bill line by line?”

Sir Stanley Burnton said:

“First, the existing formulation in RIPA is very unsatisfactory and unclear, and it does not cover many cases in which it would be sensible to have a so-called thematic warrant. However, the wording of clause 15(2) is very wide. If you just have a warrant that gives a name to a group of persons, you have not identified—certainly not in the warrant—all those persons to whom it is going to apply. There could be substantial changes in the application of the warrant without any modification. At the moment, the code of conduct envisages a requirement that names will be given so far as practicable. Our view is that the warrant should name or otherwise identify all those persons to whom the warrant will apply, as known to the applicant at that date.”

There we have a pretty unequivocal view from the Interception of Communications Commissioner.

Lord Judge then intervened to indicate that he agreed with Sir Stanley on clause 15(2). He did not agree with the second point Sir Stanley made in relation to clause 30—we can come back to that later. He said in relation to clause 32,

“a part of the process that all of us involved in supervising surveillance attach a great deal of weight to is that we are looking at individuals. There has to be evidence that X requires this, that there is a situation in which it is necessary for this to happen, that it is proportionate in this particular individual’s case and that there is no collateral interference. For example—there are many different examples—why should a women who happens to be married to or living with a man who is suspected and so on have her life entirely opened up in this way? Not having specific identified individuals ?leaves a very delicate situation. I suspect that the commissioners would find it very difficult to just say, ‘Well, we’re satisfied. There’s this gang here and they’re all pretty dangerous.’ They might not be, and we have to be very alert to that.”—[Official Report, Investigatory Powers Bill Committee, 24 March 2016; c. 70, Q222.]

There we also have pretty trenchant concerns expressed by the Chief Surveillance Commissioner.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins Ceidwadwyr, Louth and Horncastle 2:45, 12 Ebrill 2016

Is the purpose of the clause to address those circumstances where, for example, the security services or police know that someone has been kidnapped, but they do not know the names of the kidnap gang or even perhaps the number of gang members? The clause is designed to enable the security services to make the inquiries they need to make to save a life.

Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Justice and Home Affairs)

I think I am correct in saying that this section is directed more towards security concerns than serious crime. I will no doubt be corrected, but I can only stand by what others who deal with surveillance issues have said in their evidence to the Committee. I would also like to point to what David Anderson QC said in his follow-up evidence to the Committee at paragraphs 4 and 5.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins Ceidwadwyr, Louth and Horncastle

rose—

Order, the hon. and learned Lady will continue.

Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Justice and Home Affairs)

David Anderson, in his typically helpful, studious and hard-working way followed up his oral evidence to us with some additional thoughts in written evidence. He has a section headed “Thematic Targeted Powers” in which he says:

“I recommended that the practice of issuing thematic warrants be continued into the new legislative regime…I envisaged their utility as being ‘against a defined group or network whose characteristics are such that the extent of the interference can reasonably be foreseen, and assessed as necessary or proportionate, in advance’—for example, a specific organised crime group”.

Perhaps that answers the hon. Lady’s question. He went on to say:

“I also recommended that the addition of new persons or premises to the warrant should…require the approval of a judicial commissioner, so that the use of a thematic warrant did not dilute the strict authorisation procedure that would otherwise accompany the issue of a warrant targeted on a particular individual or premises”.

His following statement is very important. He says:

“On both counts, the Bill is considerably more permissive than I had envisaged. Thus: The wording of clause 15 (interception) and still more so clause 90 (EI) is extremely broad”.

This answers the hon. Lady’s point. Even David Anderson, who envisaged thematic warrants having some utility against a defined group or network such as an organised crime group, says that the wording of clause 15 is considerably more permissive than he had envisaged.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins Ceidwadwyr, Louth and Horncastle

The hon. and learned Lady states the opinion that clause 15 is really aimed at dealing with the security services point. It is but, may \o refer her to clause 18, which deals with the grounds on which warrants may be issued by the Secretary of State? It is very clear that it can be done for national security reasons but also for the purposes of preventing or detecting serious crime.

Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Justice and Home Affairs)

The hon. Lady is absolutely right. I stand corrected. Fortunately I have the assistance of David Anderson on this issue. He has made the point that whereas he sees envisaged their utility in identifying a defined group or network—for example, a specific organised crime group—he remains of the view that the wording of clause 15 is “extremely broad”. It should concern all members of this Committee that the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation considers the wording of this clause to be extremely broad. If the Government will not take the Scottish National party’s word for it, then they can take the word of the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation. I seek the Government’s assurance that they will go away and look again at clause 15 and clause 27 very carefully, in the light not only of what I have said but, more importantly, what has been said by Sir Stanley Burnton, Lord Judge and David Anderson.

Photo of Lucy Frazer Lucy Frazer Ceidwadwyr, South East Cambridgeshire

I thank the hon. and learned Lady for her very detailed points. Does she accept that even though David Anderson thinks that the wording is too broad, the amendments that she proposes would make the provision too narrow? If the words “or organisation” are taken out then only a person or a premises will be identified, which would not catch the circumstances that David Anderson is thinking about. In her submission, the hon. and learned Lady identified that while the current wording was too broad, some of the organisations that she mentioned did recognise that in some circumstances the thematic powers were useful.

Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Justice and Home Affairs)

The hon. and learned Lady makes a point that I have to take on board to a certain extent. I suspect that my amendments to clause 15 go further than David Anderson would if he were drafting an amendment to this clause. We are at a very early stage in this procedure. I am really seeking an assurance from the Government that they will take on board, if not my concerns, then at the very least the concerns of Sir Stanley Burnton, Lord Judge and David Anderson, and that they will take away clause 15 and clause 27 and look at them again.

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office)

I will be brief because a lot of the detailed work has been done. I listened very carefully to the Minister, not only today but on other occasions, and he indicated that the Government want to improve the Bill and that they do not have a fixed view. I therefore make these submissions in the hope that the Minister and the Government will not circle the wagons around the existing formula in clause 15 simply because those are the words on the page. The warrants are supposed to be targeted, but when reading clause 15(2) it is clear that they are very wide. I will not repeat the concerns of Lord Judge, Sir Stanley Burnton and David Anderson, but they are three individuals with huge experience of the operation of these warrants.

I take the point about kidnap cases or examples of that type. They are exactly the cases that Lord Judge and Sir Stanley Burnton will have seen in real time and reviewed, and that David Anderson will have reviewed after the event. When those three distinguished individuals say that they have concerns about the breadth of the clauses, they do so against huge and probably unparalleled experience of what the warrants provide for. I doubt that anyone would suggest that they are not alive to concerns about the warrants being practical and effective in the sort of circumstances that have been described.

Photo of Simon Hoare Simon Hoare Ceidwadwyr, North Dorset 3:00, 12 Ebrill 2016

May I put a slightly counter idea to the hon. and learned Gentleman and the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West? I accept the comments of David Anderson and others, but in some instances it will not be terribly wrong to have broad definitions in the Bill. Getting legislation made in this place is a difficult and lengthy process. We must fetter those who wish this country and its citizens ill, so it is potentially a good idea to have some breadth in the definitions.

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office)

I understand the spirit underpinning the hon. Gentleman’s intervention, which is that in certain circumstances a broad power can be helpful because future situations are not known. In this case, the breadth of the provision matters above all else, however, because it concerns the subject matter of the warrant. Lest anyone think otherwise, when one looks at the code of practice, one does not find that it restricts what is in the Bill. Paragraph 5.12 of the draft code says, in stark terms:

“There is not a limit to the number of locations, persons or organisations that can be provided for by a thematic warrant.”

In certain circumstances, the Minister and the Government might be able to point to things that are broad in the Bill but restricted by the code, but that would not be appropriate for the subject matter of a warrant and is not the situation in this case. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the intervention, however, because I need to put my concern on the table, and I invite the Government to take the matter away and have another look at it.

I am concerned that in reality, the broadly drawn warrants will be modified. We will get to the modification procedures later. The broad warrant will be signed off by the Secretary of State and the judicial commissioner, but the modification, which may well add names as they become available, will not. There is therefore the further hidden danger that the provision is so broad that it will require modification procedures to be used more often than they should, in circumstances in which they are not adequate, for reasons that I will come on to.

At the end of the day, if someone with the authority and experience of Lord Judge, Sir Stanley Burnton and David Anderson—who have more authority and experience than anyone in this room—says that they have concerns about the breadth of the warrants, for the Government simply to say, “We’re not going to have another look at it”, runs counter to the spirit in which they have so far approached the scrutiny of the Bill.

Photo of Lucy Frazer Lucy Frazer Ceidwadwyr, South East Cambridgeshire

I wonder whether clause 15(1) is as wide as we think, given that subsection (2) seems to relate to a category of people that is not caught by subsection (1). We would not need subsection (2) unless it referred to a wider group than subsection (1). If that is right, someone must have particular characteristics to be caught under subsection (2), which suggests that subsection (1) is in fact narrow.

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office)

That is absolutely right. If subsection (1) was wide enough to incorporate subsection (2) we would not need it. Subsection (2) is there to enable a warrant to be granted in circumstances that would be constrained by subsection (1). It is permissive—that is why the word “may” is used.

It is subsection (2) that has been singled out. Sir Stanley Burnton was absolutely clear that the wording of the subsection was wide, and that was what he focused his attention on. If someone with the experience of the experts I have named says that there is a problem because the provision is too broad, I invite the Government, in the spirit of constructing a better Bill, to go away and think about that. Those people have unrivalled experience of seeing warrants in practice.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

I do not want to detain the Committee too long on these amendments, but this is an important debate, because investigation of the kind we are discussing may not at the outset be able to identify particular individuals. The effect of the amendments would be to limit the ability of warrant requesting agencies to apply for a warrant against organisations, and to require the naming of individuals. It is not always possible to do that. That includes individuals using communication devices—it may be known that someone has received a telephone call from a particular number, but not necessarily know who or where they are.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins Ceidwadwyr, Louth and Horncastle

Would a horribly pertinent example be the man in the hat in Belgium? Until this week the security services abroad did not know who that person was and were desperately trying to find out his identity.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

That is an example of what I meant. There could well be people, either here or travelling here, whose identity is known only in the broadest terms. They are part of a network, a wider group or organisation, but no detail is known about them. That does not apply only to terrorist investigations; it might apply to serious organised crime investigations, in which by their nature we are dealing with organisations that desire anonymity. That means that investigations are challenging and makes the powers in the Bill absolutely necessary.

It is perfectly possible that a terrorist or criminal organisation might be seeking to travel in or out of the United Kingdom. It might not be clear at the outset which individuals will be travelling, or that all those travelling share an identified common purpose and will be carrying on the same activity, as required by the definition of “group of persons”.

It is also important to note that the Bill imposes strict limits on the scope of the warrant in relation to organisations. We need to be clear that activity against an organisation must be for the purpose of a single investigation or operation, and the Secretary of State and judicial commissioner will both need to be satisfied that the warrant is sufficiently limited to be able to meet the necessity and proportionality case. It is not just that it needs to be necessary and proportionate; it must be sufficiently limited to legitimise that.

Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Justice and Home Affairs)

I am thinking about the example of the man in the hat. Is that really apposite here? We are talking about targeted interception warrants and targeted examination warrants. We cannot intercept someone’s communications, or examine them, before we have identified who or where they are. Simply knowing that there is a man in a hat is of absolutely no use to us until we find some way to narrow it down and identify who the man in the hat is, even if just that he is a man living in a particular place.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

The hon. and learned Lady may have misunderstood. Part 2 targeted warrants, even if they are thematic, cannot be used to trawl information collected en masse or in bulk. Targeted interception warrant applications must specify the scope of the activity to be intercepted. They cannot be open-ended; they are time-limited and must provide sufficient information for the Secretary of State to assess that the activity proposed is necessary. Indeed, all targeted interception warrants will be time-limited to six months.

Where the interception of calls between a particular handset and a group of individuals, for example, may help to identify a kidnapper—we have heard the example of kidnapping—or show where a kidnapper is, the details of what they are planning or where they might be holding the victim, it is of course possible to identify individuals to whim the warrant relates at the point when it is sought. Where that is the case, the warrant requesting agency will be expected to add the identities of the suspects to the warrant as they become known. That is a further assurance and an important new safeguard, as the hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras knows. It will allow the Secretary of State and the judicial commissioner to oversee the conduct taking place under the warrant. That obligation will be given statutory force through the code of practice, as he said. Even though it will be in the code of practice, it will have statutory force.

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office)

Will the Minister confirm, just so we are clear what we are talking about, that that process, as envisaged in the code, is by way of modification and does not involve the double lock?

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

That is an interesting point. I will take further advice on that in the course of my peroration, which will be marginally longer than it was going to be as a result.

Because we recognise that it is important that these warrants are not open-ended, we have added that important safeguard. The fact that it is in the code of practice and not on the face of the Bill does not weaken its significance. I emphasise that it must have force and will be an obligation, as I have described it.

I will come back to the hon. and learned Gentleman’s point, but first I will deal with amendments 8 and 9, which would remove the warrant requesting agency’s ability to apply for a warrant for testing or training purposes. It is vital that those authorised to undertake interception are able to test new equipment and ensure that those responsible for using it are properly trained in its use. There are, however, strict controls that govern the handling of material obtained during such tests. We believe that it is right that it should be possible for equipment to be tested in scenarios where it can be checked that it is working properly, for example by armed forces on the battlefield. It would have serious consequences for our military if they did not have the ability to test equipment so that risks and mistakes are avoided.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins Ceidwadwyr, Louth and Horncastle

Returning to the point made by the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West about the man in the hat, the reason for the ability to investigate communication devices and numbers to which names may not be attributed is precisely so such a person can be identified through devices seized from suspects who have already been arrested. Is my understanding correct on that? The hon. and learned Lady accused me of misunderstanding, but may I invite the Minister to clarify?

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

My hon. Friend is right, and I can enlighten the Committee by saying that I have seen this in practice. At the National Crime Agency I saw an investigation live, because it happened that while I was visiting, just such a warrant was being used. The identity of a number of those involved in a very serious potential crime was not known, and a warrant was used to piece together information from what was known to prevent an assassination. I will say no more than that for the sake of the necessary confidentiality, but that capability was needed to avert a very serious crime. That warrant was highly effective, and if I needed any persuading, it persuaded me then of the significance of the power we are discussing.

To return the point made by the hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras, thematic warrants can be modified by adding people, as I think he was suggesting, but only where it is in the scope of the original activity authorised by the warrant and the purpose does not change. It must be for the purpose that the warrant requesting agency gave without the double lock; he is right about that. However, the Secretary of State must be notified when a person is added, so there is a further check in terms of that notification. Modifications are not permitted to change the scope of the warrant. The provision is not open ended—I do not think the hon. and learned Gentleman was suggesting that it was, but he might have been interpreted as doing so.

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office) 3:15, 12 Ebrill 2016

We can probably pick up this baton when we get to clause 30, but I think the provision that the Minister has just mentioned comes from the code, rather than the Bill.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

That is true, it is in the code. I think I indicated that earlier. None the less, it is an obligation. The reason we added to the codes, largely following the Joint Committee report, was that we wanted to provide additional assurances without the rigidity of placing too much on the face of the Bill.

There is always a tension—I spoke about it in our morning session—between how much is placed on the face of a Bill, which of course provides a degree of certainty but by its nature simultaneously provides rigidity, and how much is placed in supporting documentation. Codes of practice are important supplements to a Bill, and, in their final form, to an Act. It should be emphasised that they are not merely advisory documents—they are legally binding in their effect. As I also emphasised, these are draft codes of practice that we expect to publish in full, partly as a result of this Committee’s consideration and what we learn from it.

The warrant application process will allow the Secretary of State to understand the potential risk that communications will be intercepted incidentally to the purpose of testing or training, and to approve the measures to be taken to reduce the chance of communication being accidentally intercepted. Clear safeguards are in place to protect the privacy of the citizen, so I invite the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Justice and Home Affairs)

I am not minded to withdraw the amendment. For the same reasons that the hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras gave earlier, and the reasons that I gave in relation to amendments to clause 13, I will not insist on a vote just now—I suppose that means that I do withdraw the amendment, but I reserve the right to bring it back at a later stage.

For clarification, when the hon. Lady says that she will bring it back at a later stage, it will be on Report.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 15 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 16 ordered to stand part of the Bill.