Commencement, extent and short title

Investigatory Powers Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 7:15 pm ar 3 Mai 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

With this it will be convenient to consider:

New clause 24—Duration of this Act—

“(1) This Act expires at the end of one year beginning with the day on which it is passed (but this is subject to subsection (2)).

(2) Her Majesty may by Order in Council provide that, instead of expiring at the time it would otherwise expire, this Act shall expire at the end of a period of not more than one year from that time.

(3) Such an Order may not provide for the continuation of this Act beyond the end of the year 2022.

(4) No recommendation may be made to Her Majesty in Council to make an Order under subsection (2) unless a draft of the Order has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.”

Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Justice and Home Affairs)

New clause 24 is a true sunset clause, modelled on clause 1 of the Armed Forces Bill currently before Parliament. We had a spirited debate before the break about potential replacements for clause 222, which is a clause of review. The new clause is another alternative—a sunset clause in the true meaning of the term, which would provide for the Act to expire at the end of a certain period, subject to certain provisos. I do not intend to push the new clause further at this point, given the position we took in relation to new clause 23.

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

Clearly, the sunset clause that the new clause proposes is being debated—briefly, I hope—as we approach the sunset of our consideration of this important Bill. A sunset provision is often a feature of emergency legislation and has indeed been appeared in legislation of the kind that we are now debating. It is usually because the legislation has been introduced to meet some particular short-term challenge and Parliament is given limited time in which to consider the legislation responding to that challenge. That is not the case in respect of this Bill, which has had extensive prelegislative scrutiny, both before its draft incarnation and since. It has now had considerable scrutiny by the Committee, and will no doubt continue to be scrutinised as it progresses through its further stages. I am therefore not sure a sunset clause is appropriate.

The hon. and learned Lady is well aware of the three independent reviews that preceded the publication of the Bill, and of the three Committees of this House that have considered the Bill in considerable detail since then. One of those—the Joint Committee—considered at length a sunset clause and a review of the legislation. We debated that a few minutes ago under an earlier group of amendments. As I said at that time, rather than proposing a sunset clause, the Joint Committee suggested a review of the legislation. I understand that suggestion, given the dynamism of the circumstances that the Bill is designed to address—the need to deal with changing technology and so on and so forth. Indeed, the Government, taking full account of the sagacity of the Joint Committee, have built that into the Bill in clause 222, which we have debated at some length.

The complexities of this legislation are acknowledged and understood. I can see why the hon. and learned Lady makes a case for this sort of consideration. In David Anderson’s report on these matters, which I will not quote at immense length unless the members of the Committee wish me to do so, he makes clear that although it is important to consider the effects of the Bill, it is not necessary to accelerate that process in the way that the new clause would. He also makes clear, as others have, that it is vital that the legislation stands the test of time and is fit for the future. I am therefore uncomfortable with introducing specific deadlines of the kind proposed in the new clause.

The hon. and learned Lady has repeatedly and rightly argued that many of the provisions of the Bill require considerable investment. The obligations such as those in respect to data retention require a lot of thought, a good deal of planning and an investment of time and effort from communications service providers and others. Putting that infrastructure into place is a testing business; it is the right thing to do, but it is testing none the less—a point made by the hon. Member for City of Chester and others during the course of the Committee’s consideration. Then to say that we are going to look at all of that again in 12 months’ time sends out a very unhelpful signal to those we are missioning to do that work. We have gone about this business thoroughly. We have discussed this at length with communications services providers throughout the process and time and again they have said that they want certainty; they want a reasonable degree of surety about what is expected of them. I think they would be reticent about investing in the way that they need to if they felt that this all might change in 12 months’ time.

The Home Secretary put the case as well as it can be put when she told the Joint Committee that “advances in technology” are not

“going to move according to sunset clauses established by Parliament.”

Although it is important that these matters are reviewed—as I said on clause 222, we have set into motion the means by which they will be reviewed—I do not think a sunset clause of the type proposed is the right way forward. On that basis, given the assurances that I have offered, I hope the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West will see fit not to press the new clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 233 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

New Clause 12