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 John Hayes John Hayes Minister of State (Home Office) (Security) 2:00, 28 Ebrill 2016

As the hon. and learned Lady says, the clause makes provision for the Prime Minister to direct the Investigatory Powers Commissioner to undertake additional oversight of the security and intelligence agencies. I say “additional” with emphasis, because clause 196 creates a range of oversight functions that are supplemented by clause 197. I think there may be a misapprehension here that the oversight is exclusively at the diktat of the Prime Minister. That is certainly not the case.

The principal oversight functions are given legislative life in clause 196. Clause 197 provides a further opportunity for oversight through investigations, as a result of the direction that the hon. and learned Lady referred to. That has many virtues. It adds alacrity, because of course it would not always be appropriate to wait for the annual report of the commissioner. It means that where matters of imminent concern are drawn to the attention of the Executive through the Prime Minister, or indeed to the attention of the Prime Minister, he can exercise this function with speed and diligence. To take out the whole clause, which would be the effect of the amendment, would take out the additional directed oversight functions that supplement clause 196 in a beneficial way.

Of course, the Prime Minister’s ability to make such directions is subject to the public interest and defined by need. It is important to add that anything the Prime Minister does in this regard cannot be prejudicial to national security, the prevention or detection of serious crime or the economic wellbeing of the UK. Indeed, the opposite is true. He acts in defence and promotion of those things. Once again, I understand that the hon. and learned Lady is probing, and it is right that she does so. However, on careful reflection, she will come to the conclusion that rather than adding to the Bill, this literal subtraction would be unhelpful.

The Joint Committee said nothing about this matter. Although it looked at these things with impressive diligence, it came across no evidence of which I am aware that suggested that such a measure was imperative. The amendment certainly would not enhance oversight. Part of my job here is to protect the hon. and learned Lady. The amendments we debated immediately before our brief lunch would have had the effect of minimising consideration of public interest. In this case, she would be minimising the ability to exercise additional oversight. On that basis, and in defence of the existing provisions, of what is right, and—might I say mildly—of the hon. and learned Lady’s own interests, I invite her to withdraw her amendment.