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Draft Communications Data Bill

Volume 548: debated on Monday 9 July 2012

We published the draft Communications Data Bill on 14 June. The draft Bill will now be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny by a Joint Committee of both Houses and a parallel inquiry by the Intelligence and Security Committee. The Joint Committee has begun its work and is due to report in November.

I am grateful to the Minister for his answer. He will know that the draft Bill, particularly in clause 1, gives very wide powers to the Secretary of State by order. Will he tell us whether the Secretary of State has yet written those orders? In any event, will he give the undertaking that they will be published at the earliest available date?

It is worth underlining that communications data are an essential tool in solving and prosecuting crime. It is important that that is not eroded by changing technologies, which is why we need the flexibility to respond to change. We are working closely with the Joint Committee. We are absolutely committed to the pre-legislative scrutiny and to ensuring that the Committee can conduct robust scrutiny of the Bill.

The Minister said that he was working with the Joint Committee on which I serve. He will be aware that the Joint Committee has not been given sight of the order. Will he promise that we will have a chance to see it while we are carrying out the pre-legislative scrutiny?

As my hon. Friend will know, scrutiny of the draft legislation is only just starting. I understand that the first sitting of the Joint Committee is due to take place this week. Officials from the Department will consider this matter and give evidence to the Committee. I will commit to keeping the issue under review as the legislative process develops, because we recognise the need to ensure that the Bill and the scrutiny that we will respond to are effective. We need to recognise that this is an important matter in ensuring that crimes continue to be prosecuted.