Implementation of warrants

Investigatory Powers Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 12:30 pm ar 14 Ebrill 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office) 12:30, 14 Ebrill 2016

I beg to move amendment 252, in clause 34, page 28, line 37, at end insert—

“(4A) Subsection (4) shall not apply where the person outside the United Kingdom is established for the provision of services in a country or territory with which the United Kingdom has entered in to an international mutual assistance agreement or is subject to an EU mutual assistance instrument.”

This amendment establishes international mutual assistance agreements—as recommended by Sir Nigel Sheinwald and currently under negotiation between the UK and US—as the primary route by which UK agencies obtain data from overseas CSPs. It would continue to enable the imposition of warrant on CSPs in non-MLA countries.

Photo of Albert Owen Albert Owen Llafur, Ynys Môn

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: Amendment 253, in clause 35, page 29, line 5, at end insert—

“(1A) Where such a warrant is to be given to a person outside the United Kingdom, the warrant shall be served at that person’s principal office outside the United Kingdom where it is established for the provision of services.”

This amendment would make the Home Secretary’s confirmation at Second Reading — that a UK agency would only serve a notice on an overseas entity that is capable of providing assistance under the warrant — clear on the face of the Bill (as well as being in the relevant code of practice) clarifying provisions in the Bill. UK agencies today routinely use secure means of communication to transmit notices directly to the main office of overseas CSPs.

Amendment 254, in clause 35, page 29, line 6, at beginning insert—

“Where it is considered unfeasible or inappropriate in the circumstances,”.

See the explanatory statement for amendment 253.

Amendment 255, in clause 36, page 29, line 44, at end insert—

“which for a relevant operator outside the United Kingdom shall include—

(a) any steps which would cause the operator to act contrary to any laws or restrictions under the law of the country or territory where it has its principal office for the provision of telecommunication services; or

(b) where a warrant could be served pursuant to an international mutual assistance agreement or subject to an EU mutual assistance instrument.”

Amendment 256, in clause 36, page 30, line 1, leave out subsection (5).

This amendment clarifies the reasonableness test for overseas CSPs and establishes that international mutual assistance agreements, where they exist, should be the primary route to obtain data from these CSPs.

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

I will be straight and open with the Committee about where the amendments come from. I have been contacted by and have discussed the issues in the Bill with a number of service providers and tech companies in this country and in America. As the Minister will know, they are concerned about how the Bill will operate; no doubt they have been having discussions with the Government as well. They have drafted the amendments and want the Committee to consider them in relation to the operation of the provisions. The amendment have been proposed jointly by Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo!, as well as techUK, which have clubbed together to raise their concerns through me. It seems to me that their concerns are perfectly legitimate and need serious consideration. That is the context of the amendments.

The first point that the companies make is that companies providing digital services to users are increasingly global in their corporate structure, so it will be rare for the provisions in clauses 34 to 36 to be applied to providers that are completely within the United Kingdom; it is likely that they will touch on others in other jurisdictions. For the record, the companies accept that the current legal framework is fragmented and needs modification. They also say that the mutual legal assistance treaties have not been adapted to handle the huge increase in demand, and that there are already delays and difficulties, particularly in relation to extraterritorial jurisdiction. The background is that various Governments around the world are now aggressively asserting extraterritorial jurisdiction. The word “aggressive” is not intended for this Government, I think, but a number of Governments are going down the road of asserting extraterritorial jurisdiction in different ways over service providers.

In the UK, the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 made explicit extraterritorial powers that the Government said were implicit in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. Those are restated and further extended to the avowed powers. Therefore, the provisions are important for the companies. Their concerns can be set out in the following way. First, they are concerned that if there is a model in this Bill that either does not work or goes further than is appropriate, others will look to it and adopt the same approach. Therefore, other countries and jurisdictions will assert the same extraterritorial jurisdiction, which will create overlapping and conflicting laws. One of the points that they pressed on me—if there is an answer to this, I am all ears—is that if we assert extraterritorial jurisdiction over someone in silicon valley, who is subject to various US laws, and another country does the same, that person’s main headquarters will be subject to a number of different legal regimes, which will create huge problems of conflict for the entities concerned.

The companies point to the Sheinwald review. I think that the next big challenge in this field will be how the extraterritorial provisions work in practice. Clauses 34, 35 and 36 go together and put in place a framework under which the person to whom the warrant is addressed can serve the warrant. By doing so, they require tech companies to comply with various operational demands. The failure to comply is a criminal offence, which is why the tech companies are so concerned. It is anticipated under the Bill that they will be served with warrants and be expected to carry out the required activities. If they fail to do so, they will be committing a criminal offence, notwithstanding the fact that they are not within the jurisdiction. In the end, if they are sitting in a different jurisdiction and a number of different countries assert the same sort of extraterritorial powers, there is the potential for such conflict that only international agreements will be capable of cutting through this in a way that makes it workable not only for the tech companies but for the security and intelligence services.

That is why reference was made to the Sheinwald process. The Prime Minister engaged Sir Nigel Sheinwald back in 2014—that was welcome—to examine this issue and to move it forward. So far, that review has concluded that the mutual assistance provisions have not kept pace, so we are behind on international mutual assistance.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins Ceidwadwyr, Louth and Horncastle 12:45, 14 Ebrill 2016

This is just a gentle observation to those who have lobbied the hon. and learned Gentleman. It is a very great shame that they did not feel able to give oral evidence to the Joint Committee to explain those points themselves. They declined our invitation, and now they are relying on the hon. and learned Gentleman to make those points for them. Is it not a shame that they declined the opportunity to make those points themselves?

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

I am afraid I am not in a position to answer one way or the other. I do not know the background to that. I will make the points to the best of my ability in the time available, but I will also encourage them—

Photo of Albert Owen Albert Owen Llafur, Ynys Môn

Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman tabled the amendments in his own name, and they are in order.

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

I am grateful for that guidance, Mr Owen. If there is any further information that the tech companies can provide, they will do so. To be absolutely clear, these concerns were raised with me by a particular company but, after reflecting on them, I put them forward in my own name because I think they are genuine concerns. The conflict of laws is a real concern.

This comes up in a later clause, so we can look at it in detail then, but the problem the companies foresee is that if they are asked to do something that puts them in breach of the law in the country in which they are based, they will have a real dilemma. The Bill as drafted does not give them a way out of that dilemma. I am raising their concerns; it is appropriate for a scrutiny Committee to know the real concerns of those who are going to be called upon to implement the warrants, and to consider them.

Amendment 252 states:

“Subsection (4) shall not apply where the person outside the United Kingdom is established for the provision of services in a country or territory with which the United Kingdom has entered in to an international mutual assistance agreement or is subject to an EU mutual assistance instrument.”

It intends to ensure that, where there is a mutual legal systems’ provision that bites, this Bill should not be the route for enforcing the requirements of the warrant. It is a perfectly practical and sensible provision; if that enforcement is provided for by an international mutual assistance arrangement, that should be the primary route, because it will, one hopes, have in-built ways of dealing with the conflict point that I articulated.

Amendment 252 is to clause 34. I will deal with the amendments to clauses 35 and 36 when we get to them, if I may. There is a theme running through.

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

Thank you, Mr Owen, and I welcome you to the chair.

There are two points at the outset. I am grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman for being clear about the genesis of these amendments. I also asked my officials that question; I assumed that the amendments had come from that source. Secondly, he will be aware that extra-territorial matters regarding overseas organisations or companies are always challenging, but, equally, he will recognise that in this context it is critically important that we address that point, because the ownership of companies that have a profound effect on the matters we are debating is often outside the UK.

Mindful of those points, let me move to the amendments. Amendment 252 seeks to remove the ability to serve warrants on an overseas provider, where a mutual legal assistance agreement is in place. It is important to understand that that would have several consequences. One possible consequence would be to slow the process down. The second, more fundamental, consequence would be for us to lose the ability to serve a search warrant on a company based outside the UK that provides services to users in the UK. Contextually, many of the people who pose the greatest threat to us use services which are based in companies outside this country, especially, as the hon. and learned Gentleman suggested in his opening remarks, in the United States of America. The mutual legal assistance treaty does not provide a course for interception warrants. It is a route to secure evidence, as he will be very much aware from prosecutions. It is used to obtain communications data and store them for use in prosecution. It is of little or no use in very fast-moving counter-terrorism circumstances or in serious crimes operations, which we are frequently dealing with. I do not need to go into immense detail because, I think, the demand for brevity is such that that would be superfluous. Any number of the pieces of evidence offered in the work done so far on the Bill make it absolutely clear that, in both of those kinds of cases, communications data are absolutely central, which is true to an increasing degree, and it is often provided by companies from outside the United Kingdom.

In his report, with which you will be familiar, Chairman, David Anderson addresses that point precisely. He argues that the mutual legal assistance treaty route is

“currently ineffective. Principally this is because it is too slow to meet the needs of an investigation, particularly in relation to a dynamic conspiracy” of the very kind I have described in relation to organised crime and terrorism. He argues that it does not address intelligence needs. He notes that progress has been made and he cites the Irish Government in the context of the EU protocols for legal assistance. The hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras made reference to the work that the Prime Minister’s envoy is doing in this regard, but the Prime Minister’s envoy has said:

“While we should improve our current Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, it will never be fast enough or have a scope wide enough to allow for urgent counter-terrorism and similar requests.”

The final point is critical. As well as being too slow, the MLAT route is limited to a request for evidence in relation to serious crime prosecutions; it does not provide for national security or investigations that are at an intelligence-gathering stage rather than those in which the focus is on obtaining evidence. As I said, it is essentially about prosecutions, so it cannot deal with that earlier work. Other similar agreements—for example, the European mutual legal assistance convention—have similar drawbacks. Although I appreciate that the amendment is probing, relying on this route simply would not deliver the effectiveness that we need.

Clause 35 makes provision for the service of a targeted interception warrant or a mutual assistance warrant on a person outside the UK. The amendment would require a warrant to be served on an overseas communications provider at their principal overseas office in the first instance. The ways in which an interception warrant may be served on a person outside the UK are already set out in the clause, providing a number of alternative methods, allow flexibility.

It is interesting that the hon. and learned Gentleman spoke about companies that have been deep in discussion. He will know that there is quite a difference of opinion among companies about this. Some want flexibility and some take a different view. It is a mixed picture. He will also know that we have had extensive discussions with the sector and providers over a considerable period of time about various aspects of the Bill, including this one, and there is a difference of opinion among companies about that. Service to the principal office overseas is already possible under the clause, so there is nothing added to the Bill in that sense, but stipulating a mandatory method for how a warrant is served is unnecessary and possibly even unhelpful.

On the amendments to clause 36, I have set out the importance of the need for flexibility, and I hope that I have also made the case about vital intelligence work and so on. I can see the hon. and learned Gentleman beginning to stir.

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

The last time I was in a Bill Committee, I moved my arm in a particular way and somebody thought it meant I wanted to intervene. On this occasion, I do.

On clause 36, there is a concern, and anything the Minister can say on the record would be helpful. The problem is subsection (5), which is an attempt to help or to get round a problem, but does not go all the way. It states:

“In determining for the purposes of subsection (4) whether it is reasonably practicable for a relevant operator outside the United Kingdom to take any steps in a country or territory outside the United Kingdom for giving effect to a warrant,”— because it is only reasonable steps they must take—

“the matters to be taken into account include the...requirements or restrictions under the law of that country”.

The concern is about asking for something that is unlawful.

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

I was going to refer to that, of course, because that is the part of the Bill that explicitly deals with the legal conflict issue, as he describes.

Photo of Albert Owen Albert Owen Llafur, Ynys Môn

Order. Just to help the Minister, we are still on amendments 252 to 256 to clause 34. We will come to the future clauses.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Minister of State (Home Office) (Security) 1:00, 14 Ebrill 2016

Without question, we will return to the matters in hand. The hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras is very helpful, but I appreciate your guidance, Mr Owen.

The effect of removing subsection (5) would leave the company alone to decide what reasonable steps were required to be taken for giving effect to the warrant. I do not think we should accept that position. Our engagement with overseas companies over the past few years has been clear. They require certainty of their obligations, and I know that is what the hon. and learned Gentleman is seeking. For that reason, Parliament enacted the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 as emergency legislation, to remove uncertainty.

I am not sure, given the threats we face, whether it is appropriate to leave a private company to determine whether it is obliged to do what is asked of it by legal instrument. The Bill already requires any requirements and restrictions under the law of the country where a company is based to be taken into account. In my view, it is wholly right that the UK Secretary of State makes that decision rather than a corporation.

The effect of the amendments in practice would be to transfer fundamental decision making to the corporation and I am not comfortable with that. I think it is right that these companies providing communications services to users in the UK should be required to comply with our law. I know that is not necessarily always their view but it is certainly mine and the Government’s. That must include UK warrants requesting the content of criminal and terrorist communications.

Members might recall the Home Secretary’s comments on Second Reading that made clear that we are working with the United States—I know the hon. and learned Gentleman wanted that assurance—to establish a new framework, which would release American companies from any perceived conflicting legal obligations.

The hon. and learned Gentleman makes a perfectly reasonable point about balancing a range of possibly competing or conflicting legal requirements but, frankly, multinational companies deal with that kind of thing all the time. These are companies dealing with all kinds of legal provisions and demands from all kinds of places in the world. This is not uncharted territory for them.

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

It is incumbent on me to challenge something the Minister has just said. As I understood him, as far as possible it is desirable for the law of the UK in this respect to have effect abroad. How would the Minister feel if the French passed legislation that they wanted to have effect in England and Scotland?

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

That would be a more appropriate question to put if we were debating different amendments. I do not want to stray too far from your guidance, Mr Owen, so I will stick strictly to the amendments, rather than being encouraged down a tributary that I would not necessarily seek or want to navigate, particularly as it is implicitly about the European Union.

Let me return to the subject in hand. I accept that this is challenging but we need flexibility in the way we go about these things, coupled with determination that everyone must play their part, including these corporations, in helping to deal with the threat we face. We are trying to do that as much as we can through co-operation, as the hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras knows. It is vitally important that we retain the ability to take action against companies that do not comply with their obligations.

Once an agreement is reached it will be placed before Parliament under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 in the normal way. On that basis, notwithstanding the hon. and learned Gentleman’s perfectly proper desire to probe the matter, I invite him to withdraw the amendment.

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

Of course, I accept the need for arrangements to be made with service providers and others in other jurisdictions. If that were not provided for, a lot of the Bill simply would not work or have any meaningful effect. I accept that proposition. I also accept that there are problems with the existing mutual legal assistance arrangements. The amendment—it was a probing amendment, so I shall not push it to a vote—envisaged further arrangements in due course. In truth, the sooner they can be progressed and agreed, the better.

I accept the proposition that we cannot necessarily leave it to the companies themselves to take decisions about which bits of any requirement they ought to comply with. The choice set up by the provisions, which may be a stark choice, is not whether to comply but which offence to commit. I am sure that, in reality, and hopefully in the consultation discussions, there will rarely, if ever, be a requirement that puts a company in breach of the law where they operate, but if it does, the company will have to make a choice: “Either we breach US law or UK law.” That is pretty invidious.

Companies do not want to be put in that position, but they will read carefully what the Minister has said. They are following progress carefully, and I know that progress is being made. On that basis, I will withdraw all three amendments, which address all three clauses, but I hope that I have made clear those companies’ concerns, which I share. Everything that can be done to fast-forward an international legal framework for this sort of requirement should be done as soon as possible. If it is not, not only tech companies but, I fear, the security and intelligence services, will be the losers. The more difficult it becomes to comply with a requirement in real time, the more likely it is that things will be lost while disputes are had about the requirements. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Albert Owen Albert Owen Llafur, Ynys Môn

Mr Starmer has indicated that he wishes to withdraw the amendment. Ms Cherry, did you wish to catch my eye?

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

Yes. I do not have any amendments, but I wish to speak on these clauses.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 34 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 35