Power to issue bulk equipment interference warrants

Part of Investigatory Powers Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:30 pm ar 26 Ebrill 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office) 2:30, 26 Ebrill 2016

These amendments are intended to tighten up clause 156. I will not take up a great deal of time on them. These amendments go to the intervention that I was making which was too lengthy to do justice to the point, but it was such an important point that I want to go through it one more time. If I am right about it, I hope that others will listen and take this away. If I am wrong about it, I will not repeat the argument. The proposition about which I am concerned is as follows. If one looks at subsection 156(1) then, as set out in the “Operational Case for Bulk Powers”, the test that the Secretary of State is applying at the outset will be applied in some,

“circumstances where the Secretary of State or Judicial Commissioner is not able to assess the necessity and proportionality to a sufficient degree at the time of issuing the warrant.”

So that is the test. To issue a bulk equipment interference warrant, the Secretary of State must be satisfied that it is to “obtain overseas-related communications”, as set out in paragraph 156(1)(a); that it is necessary on the broad grounds—of which the Minister just reminded me—of national security, preventing crime and promoting economic wellbeing, as set out in paragraph (b); and, as paragraph (c) sets out, that it is proportionate. Paragraph 156(1)(d) continues the stages that the Secretary of State must carry out, and requires that the Secretary of State considers that,

“(i) each of the specified operational purposes (see section 161) is a purpose for which the examination of material obtained under the warrant is or may be necessary, and

(ii) the examination of such material for each such purpose is necessary on any of the grounds on which the Secretary of State considers the warrant to be necessary”.

So at the outset the Secretary of State is considering necessity against the broad canvas of national security. She is also considering the operational purposes and asking herself whether such a warrant is necessary against those operational purposes, and going on to the examination of whether it is necessary on any of the grounds on which the Secretary of State considers the warrants to be necessary. The Secretary of State is taking into account the operational purposes and applying a necessity test to this. That is the test applied at the outset, and that is the test that the operational case understandably says may be difficult to apply in certain circumstances. I do not quarrel with that, and I understand why that might be the case.

Going on to clause 161, what are the operational purposes which the Secretary of State is to take into account and test necessity against? There the operational purposes are requirements of the warrant, and they go beyond the provisions in clause 156(1)(b) or (2) and may be general. So the Secretary of State has in mind a very broad national security issue, and then the operational purposes, and asks herself whether it comes under both of those heads. The second head can be a general one. We have quarrelled about that—or argued about it or made points about it—but those points remain as good or as bad as they were the last time they were made. The point I am seeking to make is that the “Operational Case” suggests—and this may indeed be the case in practice—that at the examination stage some higher or different test is applied, and that that adds a safeguard. Again, if there is something in that then I hope that somebody will take this away and think about it, and if there is not then I will not repeat it. My concern is that subsection 170(1), on the safeguards relating to examination of materials, states:

“For the purposes of section 168, the requirements of this section are met in relation to the material obtained under a warrant if—” which is followed by a number of requirements, including:

“(b) the selection of any of the material for examination is necessary and proportionate in all the circumstances”.

Clause 170(2) states:

“The selection of material obtained under the warrant is carried out only for the specified purposes if the material is selected for examination only so far as is necessary for the operational purposes specified in the warrant in accordance with section 161”.

So the test for selection for examination is curtailed by the provision in sub-paragraph (ii) that it is only so far as is necessary for the operational purposes specified in the warrant, as set out in clause 161. I accept that “specified” means the warrant at the time of selection of material, as set out underneath. For the record, I therefore acknowledge the possibility that the operational case may be differently described at the time of the second test. However, on the face of it, the same test is being applied at the examination stage as was applied by the Secretary of State. That is the cause of my concern and the reason why, in my argument, some further thought must be given to strengthening the threshold when it comes to the access provision. Because the only way that the operational case can be different at the point of selection of material from the point at which the Secretary of State is involved, is if it has been modified, which means it has not gone through the same procedure as the warrant in the first place. That is the real cause of concern. I have labelled it that but I do not think that on the intervention I made it as clear as I should have done.

If there is a material difference in the test, that ought to be spelled out in the Bill and it is not. The amendments are intended to tighten up the specifics in clause 156. I will not press them to a vote but I have read this into the record because it is a matter of concern. There is either an answer, which means I am wrong about this and should stop repeating my submission, or it is something that others need to take away and have a serious look at in terms of the test.