Duty not to make unauthorised disclosures

Part of Investigatory Powers Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:15 pm ar 21 Ebrill 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General 2:15, 21 Ebrill 2016

The hon. and learned Gentleman is absolutely right to refer to arguments previously made. For the record, this morning I omitted to pay my own tribute to our sovereign lady on her 90th birthday, and I wish to add it here. I am sure that colleagues will indulge that observation, and hopefully this next observation too. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Security and I agree that the world is divided between cavaliers and roundheads. We know what side we are on: our hearts lie broken on the battlefield of Naseby—but that is perhaps for another day.

We contend that amendment 650 is unnecessary. Clause 115(2)(b) provides that a disclosure is permitted if it is

“authorised by the person to whom the warrant is…addressed”.

Disclosure can also be authorised by virtue of this clause within the terms of the warrant, which will have been agreed by the person issuing the warrant and by a judicial commissioner. It is much better for an impartial senior judge to take a view on what is reasonable than it is for, say, a junior official or an employee of a telecommunications operator, no matter how diligent they might be; none the less, it is important that such people can raise concerns without fear of prosecution. That is why clause 203, in part 8, provides for an information gateway so that whistleblowers can take their concerns directly to the commissioner without fear of sanction under the Bill.

It is right that the Bill’s provisions reflect the sensitive techniques of the equipment interference agencies and maintain that it will be an offence to disclose the existence of a warrant. It is a well known and well rehearsed argument that the techniques and details of EI capabilities must be protected. The amendments in the round seek to achieve something that I submit is already well catered for in the Bill, and on that basis I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.