Subject-matter of warrants

Part of Investigatory Powers Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 6:15 pm ar 19 Ebrill 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Justice and Home Affairs) 6:15, 19 Ebrill 2016

I want to add my voice in support of the hon. and learned Gentleman’s suspicions—sorry, submissions! We share suspicions about this clause. The clause, unamended, permits thematic, suspicion-less warrants and these shade into general warrants. General warrants are anathema to the common law of England and Scotland and fall foul of international human rights law.

I am pleased that the hon. and learned Gentleman prayed in aid what David Anderson, QC said about clause 90. If Members have read his supplementary written evidence to the Committee, they will have seen that at paragraph 5a he expressed grave concern about clause 90, describing it as “extremely broad” and continuing:

“The ISC noted this in relation to the EI power in February 2016…The Operational Case lodged with the Bill also acknowledged…that a targeted thematic EI”— equipment interference—

“warrant may ‘cover a large geographical area or involve the collection of a large volume of data’. This matters, because as the Operational Case also acknowledged…the protections inherent in a thematic warrant are in some respects less than those inherent in a bulk warrant. The very broad clause 90 definition effectively imports an alternative means of performing bulk EI, with fewer safeguards. The Government’s explanation for this–that it will opt for a bulk warrant where extra safeguards are deemed necessary–may be argued to place excessive weight on the discretion of decision-makers.”

That concern—that it gives excessive discretion to decision makers—is one that the Scottish National party has as a thread running through the Bill. David Anderson goes on to say:

“If bulk EI warrants are judged necessary, then it should be possible to reduce the scope of clause 90 so as to permit only such warrants as could safely be issued without the extra safeguards associated with bulk.”

Even if the Minister does not consider the SNP’s and the Labour party’s concerns valid, what does he have to say about the lengthy passage that David Anderson has devoted to the matter in his supplementary written evidence?