Subject-matter of warrants

Part of Investigatory Powers Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 6:00 pm ar 19 Ebrill 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office) 6:00, 19 Ebrill 2016

We move to a different topic within the same general subject matter of thematic warrants.

Clause 90(1) sets out that a

“targeted equipment interference warrant may relate to” and thereafter follows a long list from paragraph (a) to paragraph (h). Paragraph (a) specifies

“equipment belonging to, used by or in the possession of a particular person or organisation”.

Paragraph (b) deals with groups or those

“who share a common purpose or who carry on…a particular activity”.

Paragraph (c) deals with equipment

“in the possession of more than one person or organisation, where the interference is for the purpose of a single investigation or operation”.

Paragraph (d) deals with

“equipment in a particular location”.

And on it goes. In other words, the clause allows a very broad range of matters to be included in what is intended to be a targeted equipment interference warrant.

The evidence from the independent reviewer, David Anderson, was, in essence, that clause 90, or its forerunner, was so wide that he thought it was difficult to suggest anything that could not be included in a thematic targeted interference warrant. That gives rise to the suggestion that, in truth, this is a disguised bulk power. It is called a targeted equipment interference warrant, but it is so wide as to be tantamount to a bulk power. In so far as this sort of interference has been carried out in the past, it has been carried out under provisions of this sort rather than any bulk provision. It is an extremely wide and permissive thematic warrant that allows interference with equipment in a very wide range of circumstances, which of course includes monitoring, observing, listening to and so on. It is far too wide.

Amendments 385 and 386 are intended to cut out part of the wide thematic approach in subsection (1). Subsection (2) deals with a targeted examination warrant, and again there is a wide range of matters that the warrant may relate to, including

“a particular person or organisation…a group of persons” and so on. As far as subsection (2) is concerned, the examination warrant is to operate in conjunction with or following on from a bulk warrant, so subsection (2) indicates the matters to which such a targeted warrant may relate, notwithstanding the wide breadth of the bulk warrant.

The powers are far too wide and they need to be better specified. The amendments are intended to draw in and narrow the scope of the thematic warrants, because otherwise it is hard to resist David Anderson’s conclusion that it is hard to think what would not be included in one or other of the descriptions I have outlined.