Clause 52 - Fingerprints and samples

National Security Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 12:30 pm ar 8 Medi 2022.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

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

Photo of Rushanara Ali Rushanara Ali Llafur, Bethnal Green and Bow

With this it will be convenient to discuss that schedule 9 be the Ninth schedule to the Bill.

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security) 12:45, 8 Medi 2022

The clause will give effect to schedule 9, which makes provision for the taking and retention of biometric material from individuals subject to a part 2 notice. I will cover the clause with the schedule.

The biometric data retention provisions relating to state threats prevention and investigation measures are in line with those existing elsewhere in the statute book, including in TPIMs, which have been well established for more than 10 years. The schedule makes separate provisions for taking the fingerprints and samples of an individual subject to a specified prevention and investigation measure in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to that of Scotland. That ensures that provisions are in line with different police procedures and legislation. constable may take biometric data, which could include physical data, from an individual subject to a part 2 notice. The individual will be informed of the reason for the fingerprints or sample being taken. Police can require an individual to attend a police station for the purpose of providing biometric data, and that material may be checked against other such material held under a variety of other powers. The schedule requires the destruction of relevant material, including fingerprints, DNA profiles or relevant physical data, unless there is a power to retain, which I shall come to.

The purpose of the provisions is to ensure the right balance between the protection of the public and individual civil liberties. Under paragraph (11), any samples taken from the individual must be destroyed as soon as a DNA profile has been derived from that sample or, if sooner, within six months of taking the sample. Paragraphs (8) and (9) contain powers to retain biometric data. Where there is no relevant previous conviction, fingerprints, DNA profiles and physical data may be retained for six months after the end of the relevant part 2 notice being in force.

Under paragraph (9), a national security determination can be made by a chief officer of police, enabling the police to retain for up to five years data relating to an individual who may pose an enduring national security threat. All national security determinations that can be reviewed must be reviewed by the biometrics commissioner, who has continued oversight of the retention and use of such data.

We recognise the importance of safeguarding individuals’ right to privacy, so paragraph (12) sets out the limitation of uses for any retained material taken from a person subject to a part 2 notice, which are in the interests of national security, for the purposes of investigation foreign power threat activity, for the purposes of a terrorism investigation, for the detection and prevention of crime, or in the interests of identification only.

Photo of Holly Lynch Holly Lynch Shadow Minister (Home Office)

I listened intently to the Minister. Schedule 9 makes provision for the taking and retention of fingerprints and non-intimate samples from individuals subject to a part 2 notice. Schedule 9, like schedule 3, is subject to several Government amendments. As the explanatory notes explain, fingerprints and non-intimate samples have the same meaning as that given in section 65 of PACE 1984. I would be grateful to the Minister for some clarity on that, which he may need to provide in writing. There is a lot going on in relation to biometrics in different parts of the Bill.

Paragraphs (6) to (11) make provision relating to the destruction and retention of material taken from individuals subject to a part 2 notice. The explanatory notes say that where an individual has no relevant previous convictions, fingerprints and DNA profiles may be kept for only six months after the part 2 notice ceases to be in force. Paragraph (11) goes on to state that, as provided in the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, material taken under PACE, for example, or that is subject to the Terrorism Act 2000 or the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008, need not be destroyed if a chief office of police determines that it is necessary to retain that material for purposes of national security. Given that we are dealing almost exclusively with matters of national security in schedule 9, can we assume that the majority of biometric evidence taken from individuals subject to part 2 notices may be held indefinitely under this provision?

I am reliably informed that the biometric retention provisions in the Bill are designed to bring the powers into line with similar provisions in terrorism legislation. Schedule 9(8) deals with the retention of biometrics collected in the course of the service of a part 2 notice under the STPIM provisions. That provides us with a retention of six months prior to a national security determination being made, and is therefore in line with the provision under schedule 6 of the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011.

A separate provision for the retention of biometrics can be found in paragraph 22 of schedule 3. It provides for a retention period of three years for those detained under schedule 4 provisions, in line with biometrics collected under section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000 and section 41 of the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008, which qualify terrorism offences.

Beyond the initial retention period, both provisions are capable of retention by way of a national security determination process. I have lost track—I do not know whether other Members have—of whether we are keeping biometrics for an initial six months, as schedule 9 seems to outline, or for three years, which is the case elsewhere in the Bill. I suspect the Minister is unable offer absolute clarity right now—although I have no doubt that the civil servants think it is absolutely crystal clear—but I would be grateful if he could outline, perhaps in writing, the rationale for the different provisions.

Government amendment 32 specifies that the chief constables of the Ministry of Defence police and the British Transport police, and the director general of the National Crime Agency, are added to paragraph 9(4) of schedule 9. The responsibilities of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary are different from those of other forces, but is the Minister certain that it does not need to be added to the list?

Photo of Stewart Hosie Stewart Hosie Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution)

I am aware that similar provisions were debated in relation to schedule 3, and concerns were raised then that the provisions may end up allowing the indefinite retention of the material of people who have accepted cautions—indeed, even youth cautions—meaning that they were never charged, never mind convicted. The Minister has not provided much of a justification for that, other than that he wants the legislation to mirror the provision in other Acts. He used the same argument in his introductory remarks.

That is not enough. Provisions on the ability to retain material indefinitely on whatever grounds must be justified in their own terms in this legislation. I know that the Minister is new to the job, so if he cannot do that now, he can write with that explanation, as the hon. Member for Halifax said. Notwithstanding the fact that we all want the maximum powers necessary to tackle the state threat and the terrorist threat, if his explanation is not compelling or convincing, the provisions will need to be revisited at a later stage.

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

I do appreciate that elements are being raised about which I will write to various Committee members, and I will follow up on areas that I have not covered in detail.

Although the operational use of biometrics remains the same across provisions, we are taking a different approach to the powers provided under STPIMs and the powers in schedule 3. That ensures the right balance and proportionality in tackling foreign state threat activity while protecting individuals’ right to privacy. Although there is the option to make a national security determination under both regimes, under our police powers the initial retention period is longer than for STPIMs to reflect the seriousness of an arrest made for suspected involvement in foreign power threat activity.

Following arrest for involvement in foreign power threat activity, an individual’s biometric data may be retained for three years, with the option of extending that, irrespective of whether there is no further action, or whether they are charged or acquitted. Certain national security offences under this Bill will be added to the list of qualifying offences in PACE to reflect the seriousness of the offence that justifies longer retention periods.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 52 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.