Additional directed oversight functions

Part of Investigatory Powers Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:00 pm ar 28 Ebrill 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Justice and Home Affairs) 2:00, 28 Ebrill 2016

The clause deals with additional directed oversight functions. It binds the Investigatory Powers Commissioner to conducting reviews of the work of the intelligence services or the armed forces, subject to the direction of the Prime Minister. While the commissioner may request that the Prime Minister gives such a direction, the Prime Minister will only issue a direction at his or her discretion. The amendments to subsection (1) would make it read as follows: “So far as requested to do so by the Prime Minister and subject to subsection (2), the Investigatory Powers Commissioner may keep under review the carrying out of any aspects of the functions of” the intelligence services and so on.

The amendments to subsection (4) would make it read: “The Prime Minister must publish any direction under this section except so far as it appears to the Prime Minister that such publication would be seriously prejudicial to national security, or the prevention or detection of serious crime”.

The amendments would remove the power to direct that such reviews take place, and replace it with the power to request that the Investigatory Powers Commissioner undertake such a review. At present, the Bill provides that any direction made may be published only in such a form as is deemed appropriate by the Prime Minister, and may be redacted for a number of very broad reasons, including that it may be prejudicial to

“the continued discharge of the functions of any public authority whose activities include activities that are subject to review by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner.”

That could include, for example, the Food Standards Agency.

The amendments to subsection (4) would limit the power to keep any request or direction secret. That would increase the effectiveness of the mechanisms for transparency and accountability in public decision making, including in respect of the conduct of the intelligence agencies and the armed forces. The provision in the Bill for the Prime Minister to direct the commissioner to undertake work that is outside the ordinary scope of its statutory duties would undermine the perception that the commissioner is independent, whereas a power to request, with discretion, keeps the perception—and reality—of the independence of the commissioner. The alternative would be to remove the clause from the Bill completely. I hope that the amendments will be acceptable to the Government, and that there will be no need to vote the clause down.