Funding, staff and facilities

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 833, in clause 204, page 158, line 41, leave out

“The Secretary of State must” and insert “The Treasury must”.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 834, in clause 204, page 158, line 42, leave out

“and subject to the approval of the Treasury”.

Amendment 835, in clause 204, page 158, line 43, after “with”, insert “funds to cover”.

Amendment 836, in clause 204, page 159, line 3, leave out “Secretary of State considers”.

The amendments 833 to 836 would remove the role of the Secretary of State in determining the funding, staff and facilities to be afforded to the Judicial Commissioners, leaving this to the Treasury and the IPC.

New clause 17—Remuneration or allowances for additional directed oversight functions—

“The Treasury shall make available such remuneration or allowances as necessary to meet the requirements of section 197 (Additional directed oversight functions).”.

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

The provision deals with funding, staff and facilities. The Solicitor General has mentioned funding already. We agree with the Joint Committee on the Bill that it is wrong for the budget and resources available to the judicial commissioners to be set solely by the Secretary of State when the primary function of the commissioner is reviewing decisions taken by them. The Solicitor General mentioned other arrangements by which budgets are set for independent oversight bodies, but these particular commissioners oversee the Secretary of State’s decisions. That is the whole point of the double lock, and that compromises the situation. The Government’s response to this recommendation indicated that they might be willing to consider a role for the Investigatory Powers Commissioner in helping to set the budget. Will the Solicitor General update us on whether that response is now complete and rejected, or whether it is still a consideration that the Government are dealing with? The Opposition’s amendment is straightforward and would improve matters by putting them entirely in the hands of the Treasury, in consultation with the commissioner.

New clause 17 is the freestanding clause that says the Treasury

“shall make available such remuneration or allowances as necessary to meet the requirements of section 197.”.

It is an in-principle position because of the particular function of the judicial commissioners, which is unlike those of the other oversight bodies. The Government have indicated a willingness to look at a different arrangement involving the Investigatory Powers Commissioner. We think that would be the right way forward, and new clause 17 would provide for that to happen through the involvement of the Treasury.

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

Given the commitment I made earlier to consider closely the construction of these arrangements and, in particular, to the detailed consideration about the role of the new body and its independence, I fully understand why the hon. and learned Gentlemen has raised this issue. I hesitate to cite my experience again. Last time I did that, I fed the caricature that I have been desperately trying to persuade the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West is just that—a parody—through all my kindness, generosity and sensitivity to her concerns. Notwithstanding that hesitation, I have to say that from all my experience as a Minister, the last people you want to involve in these things is the Treasury.

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

In my role as Director of Public Prosecutions, I had to engage with the Treasury. I, therefore, do have that experience, so I join the Minister in that sentiment.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Minister of State (Home Office) (Security) 3:00, 28 Ebrill 2016

I knew we would soon get on to common ground again. It took only a few minutes for the ship to go back on to an even keel. I worry that exposing the IPC to direct negotiation with the Treasury, when I suspect that the Home Office would have a closer relationship and understanding of the IPC and of the Treasury, would serve no good purpose. I can see why in theory it would reinforce independence, and I think that is what the hon. and learned Gentleman was getting at; that it is important that the IPC is not seen as merely the creature of the Home Office, and that funding reflects that independence.

I can see where the genesis of the argument springs from but, in practical terms, it would be much more straightforward for the Home Office to assist the IPC by taking the lead in the negotiations. Treasury involvement will ultimately be necessary in order to get sufficient funding for the IPC. Certainly, in terms of the assessment of resources and so on, the intimacy of the relationship between the Home Secretary, her officials and the IPC will be critical to ensuring that the budget is properly constructed and adequate for the job.

For that reason, and in the interests of brevity, I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to withdraw his amendment.

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

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

I beg to move amendment 837, in clause 204, page 159, line 4, at end insert—

‘(3) The staff of the Judicial Commissioners must include independent technical experts.

This amendment would ensure that judicial commissioners have access to technical experts.

The amendment speaks for itself. It is proposed to ensure that technical expertise is available to the judicial commissioners.

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

Here we can find common ground, in that we entirely agree that it is right that the IPC and the judicial commissioners have access to the right technical expertise. That is essential, certainly on an ongoing basis and, one might argue, particularly at the outset. This is going to be a new process and, while these will be very experienced judges, they will be dealing with matters that they have not had to deal with previously. However, I am not sure that the amendment is necessary to achieve that.

The hon. and learned Gentleman will know that clause 204 provides that the Secretary of State must consult the IPC about staffing, accommodation, equipment and other facilities that are necessary. Of course, that will mean a proper consideration of technical expertise, and I am happy to confirm that now. That process would provide the commissioner with the chance to make it clear if they believe there is a requirement for particular staff and how they want those staff to be employed. It may be that at different points in the work, different levels of technical expertise are necessary. Some of that might require full-time employment of technical experts. On other occasions, I suspect that they would want to consult technical experts on an ad hoc basis. That flexibility would not only add to the official use of resource but add to the effective completion of their functions.

To give one further assurance, I want to be very clear that, should such representations be made to the Secretary of State—we talked in the debate on the previous amendment about the Home Office being the point of contact with our paymasters, the Treasury—it is inconceivable that the Secretary of State would consider that the commissioner did not need the resources requested. While it would not be appropriate to create a statutory obligation in the Bill to provide detail of what staff should, or should not, be employed—because it is important that the commissioner makes that judgment on a discretionary basis—I can give an assurance that the commissioner will be equipped as they need to be.

The matter might also be one that changes over time. What the IPC considers necessary at a given point in time might reflect its caseload or even case history—it might feel that extra expertise needs to be taken on, depending how things change. We have all said that all such matters that we are considering are highly dynamic, so I want to allow that extra discretion, not least for that reason.

On that basis, I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will withdraw his amendments, because I think we are again on the same page.

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

I have listened carefully to what the Minister has said, and it is now on the record, so on that basis I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 204 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 205