Power to issue warrants to law enforcement officers

Part of Investigatory Powers Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 12:15 pm ar 21 Ebrill 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Justice and Home Affairs) 12:15, 21 Ebrill 2016

The bulk of the amendments in this group are SNP-only amendments. I think I am right in saying that the Labour party probably supports them, but I will leave it to the Labour party to confirm that.

Put simply, the set of amendments proposed by the Scottish National party would remove the power to issue equipment interference warrants from law enforcement chiefs, immigration officers, officers of Revenue and Customs, customs officials, the chair of the Competition and Markets Authority and the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner, and instead judicial commissioners would be responsible for issuing warrants on application from law enforcement chiefs. It is a disturbing anomaly that the Bill proposes that authorisation for the most intrusive form of surveillance—hacking—should be self-issued by a range of public bodies. Could the Government clarify the reason for that anomaly?

This process would put a range of actors, from chief constables to immigration officers, in charge of issuing hacking warrants. The proposal would give these individuals greater powers of intrusion than the security services have under later parts of the legislation—they are at least required to seek the authorisation of the Secretary of State for hacking activities. It is in my argument self-evident that the process should be for law enforcement officials to make an application for a judicial commissioner to decide the application.

I mentioned immigration officers. The Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association has produced a briefing for members of the Committee, and it has drawn to our attention the fact that under clause 96 persons appointed as immigration officers under paragraph 1 of schedule 2 to the Immigration Act 1971 are among those who can apply for these warrants for a serious crime that is

“an immigration or nationality offence” as defined, or where the warrant is considered

“necessary for the purpose of preventing death or any injury or damage to a person’s physical or mental health or of mitigating any injury or damage to a person’s physical or mental health”.

The Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association has a long history of briefing, with some distinction, hon. Members on immigration matters. The issue that it identifies is that the wording of the clause does not identify which immigration offences are considered to be serious crimes or, indeed, whether they are all considered to be serious crimes, so there is a lack of transparency in the legislation.

I should address one other amendment, which is on a slightly different point. SNP amendment 435 is an attempt to import into clause 96 the proportionality and technical assessment requirements that I addressed in some detail in my argument in support of amendment 465 to clause 91. I will not rehearse that again.

To help the Minister, we have already dealt with amendment 435.