Judicial approval for local authority authorisations

Investigatory Powers Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 9:45 am ar 19 Ebrill 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

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

I wish to raise two issues for the Committee’s consideration. The first is that the test in subsection (5) for a judicial authority is very weak. We are talking about restrictions on local authorities and we have moved from a test of reviewing the decision, found in other parts of the clause, to a test whether the judicial authority, in this case a justice of the peace, considers that

“there are reasonable grounds for considering requirements of this Part would be satisfied”.

The second is that the authority in this case is a JP. I accept that this a replication of another scheme in the same words, as the Solicitor General says. I will not oppose the clause, but in a Bill that is tightening safeguards, there is nothing to prevent that test being aligned with the other tests applied when judges, magistrates or other independent judicial figures oversee authorisations by bodies such as local authorities.

In fairness, I think these clauses were put in to tighten the controls on local authorities.

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

That is welcome and we support them for that reason. In tightening controls, there has been a failure, perhaps deliberate, not to align this with the test in other cases. The judicial authority would be able to say, “I would not in fact authorise, but there were reasonable grounds on which somebody else could have done so.” I am making a probing point; no amendment was tabled. I support the further protection in relation to local authorities. I just wondered whether there was a deliberate intention not to align this provision with the other safeguard provisions in the Bill.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Minister of State (Home Office) (Security) 10:00, 19 Ebrill 2016

There are two things to say. First, the measure replicates the current position under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, so it is established practice. Secondly, as the hon. and learned Gentleman conceded, it is an attempt to add an additional safeguard, for the reasons he gave. It seemed important that this was not used permissively. The only other thing I would add, given that he is probing, is that all of this would have to pass the tests of proportionality and necessity; that is a given. I am happy to look at whether we need to reinforce that, in the code or perhaps elsewhere, because proportionality and necessity underpin all of this; that is not specified in this part, but it is a prevailing and underpinning assumption about authorisation. I understand that he is probing and also appreciate that he understands what we are trying to do.

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

I am grateful to the Minister for the spirit in which he is approaching this issue. I accept that necessity and proportionality are the key tests for the application in the first place. The question for the magistrate is then whether there are reasonable grounds for considering it to be necessary and proportionate. That leaves room for the magistrate to say, “I personally do not think it is necessary and proportionate but I accept that somebody else might think there are reasonable grounds.” I do not want to take this too far because it is a relatively minor provision in the Bill and I accept that it is in the scheme of tightening the safeguards; however, I just wonder whether some thought can be given. When the other tests have been so carefully construed—and we will have further discussion on what those tests are—this is an outlier in the way that it is expressed. I accept that it reflects current practice, but I do not think that is necessarily a good reason for simply replicating that unless, on reflection, current practice is thought to be the right way forward from here.

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

I will test that. The hon. and learned Gentleman makes a reasonable point, so I will test our experience of current practice regarding this issue and I will also test and consider whether we need to provide further guidance. I would not want to go too far because, as he says, it is a minor matter, but he is right to say that it is important that it is consistent. I am more than happy to take a look at that, and on that basis I think we should move on.

Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

The Committee divided:

Ayes 9, Noes 2.

Rhif adran 18 Christmas Tree Industry — Judicial approval for local authority authorisations

Ie: 9 MPs

Na: 2 MPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 66 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 67