Annual and other reports

Investigatory Powers Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:45 pm ar 28 Ebrill 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office) 2:45, 28 Ebrill 2016

I beg to move amendment 808, in clause 201, page 156, line 37, leave out “the Prime Minister” and insert “Parliament”.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 801, in clause 201, page 157, line 3, leave out subsection (3).

Amendment 809, in clause 201, page 157, line 6, leave out “the Prime Minister” and insert “Parliament”.

Amendment 810, in clause 201, page 157, line 13, leave out subsection (6) and insert—

“(6) The Investigatory Powers Commissioner must lay a copy of the report before Parliament together with a statement as to whether any part of the report has been excluded from publication under subsection (7).”

Amendment 811, in clause 201, page 157, line 19, leave out “The Prime Minister” and insert “The Investigatory Powers Commissioner”.

Amendment 812, in clause 201, page 157, line 19, leave out “Investigatory Powers Commissioner” and insert “The Prime Minister”.

Amendment 813, in clause 201, page 157, line 22, leave out “Prime Minister” and insert “Investigatory Powers Commissioner”.

Amendment 804, in clause 201, page 157, line 23, leave out

“contrary to the public interest or” and insert “seriously”.

Amendment 805, in clause 201, page 157, line 27, leave out subsections (7)(c) and (7)(d).

Amendment 815, in clause 201, page 157, line 28, leave out subsection (7)(d).

This amendment would delete “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” as grounds for excluding a part of a report issued under this Part from publication.

Amendment 806, in clause 201, page 157, line 30, at end insert—

“(7A) In subsection (7) any publication will be considered “seriously prejudicial” where it would involve a significant risk to the life or of serious physical injury of any person.”.

Amendment 807, in clause 201, page 157, line 40, leave out

“if requested to do so by the Prime Minister”.

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

It is welcome that the Government have accepted and implemented recommendation 67 of the Joint Committee on the draft Bill, which was for the annual report to include information on the use and oversight of investigatory powers. However, it is disappointing that there is no provision to require the number of errors to be included in the annual report. A moment ago, in resisting an amendment to a previous clause, the Minister said that the errors could be included in the report; perhaps that should be a requirement under the clause—just the number of errors, of course, not the details. Similarly, there is no requirement for the number of requested authorisations to be reported. That information is vital in gauging the proportion of requests that are granted; without it, the stringency of the double lock cannot realistically be assessed.

The amendments would require that the report be made directly to Parliament and would tighten up clause 201(7), which is very similar to the clause we were looking at a moment ago. Like previous amendments, amendment 804 would leave out the words

“contrary to the public interest or” and would tighten the test by replacing “prejudicial” with “seriously prejudicial”. Amendment 805 is consistent with previous amendments in that it would remove our old friend “economic wellbeing” from the clause. Amendment 807 speaks for itself.

The annual reporting provisions are a step in the right direction; we acknowledge that the Government have taken action as a result of the Joint Committee’s recommendations. We have tabled these amendments to suggest that more could be included in the report, that the reporting should be directly to Parliament and that exclusion from publication should be subject to a stricter test than the one currently set out in clause 201.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

Let me address a couple of factual issues. Clause 198(8)(a) refers to

“the number of relevant errors of which the Investigatory Powers Commissioner has become aware during the year to which the report relates”.

The number of errors must be published by dint of that requirement. That is what I was referring to.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

It is reinforced, for the sake of accuracy, by clause 201(2)(a), which has further details on

“the number of warrants or authorisations issued, given, considered or approved during the year”.

I entirely agree that it is important that scale is dealt with in the way the hon. and learned Gentleman requests.

I am quite sympathetic to the amendment. This is one of those discussions in Committee that boils down to—I have used the phrase “boils down to” once, so for the sake of Hansard, I will change it, because I do not like to repeat myself. This discussion can be reduced to—boiling has the effect of reducing, as all those who are cooks will know—a debate about what it is in the codes and what is in the Bill. As the hon. and learned Gentleman rightly says, the Joint Committee looked at this. I have its recommendation before me. He is right to say that the Committee wanted more information about the records kept in this regard.

In essence, as the hon. and learned Gentleman generously suggested, the Government have responded by publishing the draft codes of practice, which address these matters. The amendment would put these matters in the Bill. My argument for rejecting the amendment is that it is adequate for them to be in the codes. We are back to the debate of what we put in the Bill and what we put in supplementary material.

I am not unsympathetic to the amendment. I have no doubt that the hon. and learned Gentleman will want to continue this discussion. I am not sure I want to vote in favour of the amendment today, but in the spirit that I have tried to adopt throughout the consideration of this part of the Bill, I reassure him that the Government remain open-minded to how we get this right.

This is new territory, but not in the sense that there has not previously been oversight. Rather, the reforms to oversight made by the Bill are of some significance. We are in the business, as a Committee and as a Parliament, of considering exactly how to construct that oversight in an effective way. On that basis, I am prepared to listen to argument. I will not accept the amendment, but I am open to further consideration. I hope, given the tone and content of what I said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman will see fit to withdraw his amendment.

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

Again, I am grateful to the Minister for his observations. I record my appreciation that on occasions when we have pressed matters, both the Minister for Security and the Solicitor General have indicated a willingness to look again at clauses or provisions with a view to changing or perfecting them. That is a useful part of the process. I gauge that my chances of success in improving the clause are greater through that process than by pressing the amendment to a vote.

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

Therefore, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

I rise to speak to amendment 814, in clause 201, page 156, line 42, after “authorisations”, insert “requested and”

This amendment would require the Annual Report to include information on the number of requests for warrants or authorisations made.

I have spoken to this amendment in the round and therefore will not say anything more about it.

The amendment is not moved.

Clause 201 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 202 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 203