Bulk equipment interference warrants: general

Investigatory Powers Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 11:15 am ar 26 Ebrill 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

The question is that the clause stand part of the Bill. As many as are of that opinion say Aye. [Hon. Members: “Aye.”] Of the contrary No. I think the Ayes have it, the Ayes—

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

I am sorry, Ms Dorries. I was catching the shadow Minister’s eye to establish who is to speak first on this clause. That is why I did not stand up.

I have had no indication that anybody is speaking to this clause.

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

I am sorry, Mr Dorries. It is my fault. We had a very late night last night on other matters. I should have notified you this morning about who is to be leading on each of these provisions, and I did not do that. If it helps the Committee, I can indicate that when we get to each of the bulk powers, the clause that introduces the bulk power will be subject to considerable debate for obvious reasons. I anticipate, although I cannot say with certainly, that the pattern will be pretty similar to the one we have just seen, and that as we go through the following clauses we will go at much greater speed.

I have been trying to divide the work between me and the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West. We had agreed that she would lead on this clause, and she was just checking with me that that was my understanding. I apologise. We were tied up in another debate yesterday and I did not give you notice as I should have done, Ms Dorries.

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

I can confirm that that is what the hon. and leaned Gentleman and I agreed. I apologise for any inconvenience caused by my momentary inadvertence, Ms Dorries.

The Scottish National party’s approach to chapter 3 of part 6, which deals with bulk equipment interference and is introduced by clause 154, is to oppose the inclusion of bulk equipment interference warrants in the Bill until such time as a proper and adequate operational case has been produced. I will speak at some length on this matter because it is of great importance.

I remind hon. Members that when I spoke earlier this morning I said that David Anderson had reached

“no independent conclusions on the necessity for or proportionality of…bulk equipment interference”.

In paragraph 8d of his supplementary written evidence to the Joint Committee in January—he reminded us in his supplementary written evidence to this Committee in April that he still holds this view—he said that he reached no independent view

“on the necessity for or proportionality of…bulk equipment interference…which in view of pending IPT litigation and the limited nature of my remit…I touched upon only briefly in my report…The remarkable potential for this capability is evident from the Snowden allegations relating to the hacking of and implantation of malware into systems operated by persons not themselves suspected of wrongdoing”.

Hon. Members will recall that last Thursday I addressed the issue of how bulk equipment hacking could cause severe problems for our security services. I gave examples of how in the past it has led to the outage of the internet in Syria. I also referred to modern defence systems and said that it could disrupt the radar and plutonic systems of our fighter pilots in Syria, which could result in danger not only to them but, perhaps more importantly, to civilians on the ground. All of us, no matter which side of the debate on bombing Syria we were on, want to avoid that.

Similarly to chapter 2 powers, the use of targeted hacking by the agencies was only very recently acknowledged by the Government through the Home Office’s publication of an equipment interference code of practice, although it made no mention of bulk hacking capabilities, which are now to be put on a statutory footing by part 2 of the Bill. The scope of a bulk equipment interference warrant, as outlined in clause 154, is astonishingly broad and will pave the way for intrusions over and above those revealed by Edward Snowden, pinpointing hacking as the modus operandi of surveillance. As with bulk interception, clause 154—particularly subsection (1)(c)—and the clauses that follow provide that the main but not sole aim of the warrant must be to facilitate the obtaining of overseas data, but that does not prevent data on UK residents being collected as a subsidiary objective or in pursuit of the main aim. I addressed that issue at some length on Thursday last week, so I do not wish to take up the Committee’s time by unnecessarily addressing it again.

The bulk hacking warrants under clause 154 will authorise interference with any equipment whatever, because of the definition of equipment in clause 156. The provisions will afford interference with any equipment whatever for the purposes of obtaining communications equipment data or information. They will enable bulk warrants to be issued in the interests of national security or economic wellbeing, or for the prevention and detection of serious crime. The hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras and I have already spoken at some length about those grounds, so I will not reiterate those points. I shall simply repeat what I have said before: I am concerned about the economic wellbeing ground and that the prevention and detection of serious crime ground is not rooted in reasonable suspicion.

The Home Office has told us that, as bulk equipment interference has previously been practised under the Intelligence Services Act 1994, which it says allows for interference with property or wireless telegraphy, the powers in the Bill are not entirely new. The Home Office also says that the intelligence services can acquire a warrant under the 1994 Act to search a property or intercept a person’s phone calls. There is, though, no mention in that Act of bulk or mass equipment interference.

Chapter 3 of the Bill, which begins with clause 154, is therefore very much an innovation on the outdated Acts, such as the 1994 Act. There is a significant expansion of such powers as already exist. Indeed, the Snowden documents revealed that even British intelligence agencies expressed concern that such mass hacking practices as had taken place to date, purportedly under the 1994 Act, might be illegal. If the British intelligences agencies are themselves concerned about the legality of the powers under which they are currently operating, that is all the more reason for us to scrutinise carefully the legality of the powers set out in chapter 3.

Having looked at the clock, Ms Dorries, I am mindful of the fact that the Committee rises at 11.25 am. I have to be in the Chamber soon for Justice questions, so I wonder whether this might be an appropriate point at which to pause. I will perhaps have a little more to say when the Committee sits again this afternoon.

It is for the Whip to move that the debate be adjourned. It is not for me to end the Committee early.

Ordered, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Simon Kirby.)

Adjourned till this day at Two o’clock.