Requirements that must be met by warrants

Investigatory Powers Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 10:45 am ar 26 Ebrill 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office) 10:45, 26 Ebrill 2016

I beg to move amendment 680, in clause 141, page 111, line 35, after “specify”, insert—

“by name or description the person, persons or single set of premises to which it relates and”.

With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 681, in clause 141, page 111, line 39, leave out—

“but the purposes may still be general purposes” and insert—

“and any specification must be described in as much detail as is reasonably practicable”.

Amendment 682, in clause 141, page 111, line 39, leave out “but the purposes may still be general purposes” and insert—

“The descriptions must specify—

(a) a basis for the reasonable suspicion that the target is connected to a serious crime or a specific threat to national security,

(b) a high probability that evidence of the serious crime or specific threat to national security will be obtained by the conduct authorised, and

(c) the manner in which all less intrusive methods of obtaining the information sought have been exhausted or can be shown to be futile.”

Amendment 683, in clause 141, page 111, line 41, leave out “may” and insert “must”.

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

Ms Dorries, you permitted me to stray into discussion of clause 141 and therefore I will be brief on this amendment, because the point that I was making was that the specific operational purposes required under subsection (4) of the clause are still general, and the purpose of these amendments is to rectify that position. The best example of that is amendment 681.

The point that I made last week is that if there is to be movement on clause 141, as I suggest there should be, what we should try to do is to draft a clause that would be workable in practice and that I hope would reflect practice as it is.

I will say no more about it, because, as I say, I strayed into discussing these amendments when I was dealing with clause 138.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

It is a pleasure, Ms Dorries, to serve once again under your chairmanship.

As the hon. and learned Gentleman says, we echoed some of these arguments last week in relation to bulk interception warrants. I will say two things. First, we respectfully submit that the amendments are unnecessary. There are also some technical deficiencies within them, and I have some concerns about those.

As we know, what we are talking about—this is perhaps my first opportunity to say this—is fragments of initial intelligence. That is what bulk acquisition is all about. It is about taking those fragments and then being able to identify potential subjects of interest that might pose a threat to the UK.

Limiting the examination of data collected under a bulk warrant to circumstances in which an operation or investigation is already under way, or tying a warrant to individual persons or premises, would mean that a bulk acquisition warrant just could not be used in that way, and it almost goes without saying that it would then severely limit the capabilities of the security and intelligence agencies to keep us safe.

Clause 151—helpfully, we have already jumped to clause 141—is also an important clause. It makes it clear that selection for examination may take place only for one or more of the operational purposes specified in the warrant.

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

I, too, went to clause 151, expecting a further safeguard, but all one gets in subsection (2) is the repetition and reference back to clause 141. That is the point that I hope I am consistently making. We do not get a graded safeguard that ups the threshold at each stage; we get a threshold that refers back to the previous threshold.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

I take the hon. and learned Gentleman’s point; it is one that we understand. Again, however, I must make the point that at the point at which warrants are served in this context, it is not possible to know what part of the data that is being collected will be examined and for what purpose. Therefore, the question of detail is not a question of reluctance on the part of the authorities—it is just about practicability. It is not possible, of course, to anticipate that.

May I just deal with amendment 683? Under the Bill, a warrant will only include the operational purposes for which it may be necessary to examine the data. The Bill makes it clear that that may include all of the possible operational purposes for which data may be selected for examination. The effect of the amendment would be to require all possible operational purposes to be specified on a warrant, regardless of whether they were necessary. I am sure that that is not the intention of the hon. and learned Gentleman, but that was the point that I was making about the amendment perhaps not quite achieving the purpose for which it was tabled.

Having said that, I would argue that in clause 141, in combination with clause 151, we have an adequate and sufficient safeguard to ensure sufficient granularity when applications are made. It will not be good enough for the authorities simply blithely to quote “national security”; there will have to be greater granularity in applications. I would say that that is clear from the Bill, and combined with the code of practice I think there is enough here for hon. Members to be reassured that this process is not a mere rubber-stamp exercise and is a proper and effective safeguard.

The hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West made remarks in her interesting speech about the United States experience. It is important that I briefly put on record the important distinction between the United States regime of collecting domestic telephone records, which was pursuant to the Patriot Act—that has now been repealed by Congress—and the particular powers under section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act 1978, as amended. Those powers are what the US Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board addressed in its reports in July 2014 and more latterly this year.

Those powers to collect the content of electronic communications from targets outside the US are germane to the questions in this debate. As my right hon. Friend the Minister for Security said, the American board clearly found that there was value in and an important role for that particular programme. It is important that we take care to draw distinctions between different functions.

Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Justice and Home Affairs)

I agree we must take care. The Solicitor General was careful to say that the conclusions he just mentioned were drawn in relation to the gathering of data outwith the United States of America. He would agree that the USA has strict constitutional rules about the gathering of its own citizens’ data, which is what we are concerned with here. It is not just about overseas, but our own citizens’ data.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

I share that anxious concern, which is why I think we not only have avowal here, but an enhancement of safeguards. There is no doubt about it: the Bill represents a dramatic improvement on blithe reliance on the 1984 Act, to which the hon. and learned Lady correctly referred, and then nothing ever being said or debated in this House or the other place about the extent of those powers and the important judicial safeguards we have here.

Underpinning all that—this is within the code of practice—is the oversight of the commissioner, who will be able to inspect and review and ensure that the powers are not being abused in a way that the hon. and learned Lady and I would find abhorrent. It is always a pleasure to hear a Scot quote the great Unionist Robbie Burns—[Laughter.] As a great patriot, he would have shared the Government’s anxiety to ensure that the security of our citizens is protected in a proportionate and necessary way. I therefore think that the clause strikes the right balance.

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

Granularity is a great word, and increasingly popular. It implies something crunchy and grain-like. I have made this point, but though clause 141(4) says that it is not sufficient to simply say “national security”, it does not say much else, and therein is the nub of the problem that the amendments are intended to correct.

I have made my submissions. I heard what the Minister said and I have listened carefully to the Solicitor General. We have been over the territory. I will not press the amendments at this stage, but I may be minded to at a later stage, because getting this issue right is critically important. It may be better if we try to get it right before that stage. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

The Committee divided:

Ayes 8, Noes 2.

Rhif adran 56 Christmas Tree Industry — Requirements that must be met by warrants

Ie: 8 MPs

Na: 2 MPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 141 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 142