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Communications Data

Volume 594: debated on Monday 23 March 2015

Our law enforcement and intelligence agencies continue to face a decline in their ability to obtain the communications data they need. This is caused by the use of modern technology and changes in the way in which people communicate. We believe that further changes to the law are needed to maintain capabilities. We cannot let cyberspace become a haven for terrorists and criminals.

Can my hon. Friend assure me that the next Conservative Government will introduce the appropriate legislation to restore our declining communications data capability?

It is very clear that although this Government have taken some steps to close the gap, significant gaps remain. The Joint Committee on the draft Communications Data Bill identified that, but we have not been able to bring those measures through in this Parliament. We need to remedy that. Given that about 95% of serious crime cases involve the use of communications data, those measures are an essential tool in fighting crime, and we are determined to take further action to close the gap and make sure that our police and security agencies have the powers they need.

What discussions has the Minister had with the Scottish Government in relation to the risk and responsibility for communications data?

On issues of national security, there are reserved powers. We therefore retain that focus on ensuring that security is assured. Clearly, communications data and other measures play an important part. I am sure that discussions with others, including devolved Administrations, will take place in future, but ultimately this is a matter for the UK Government.

The Minister and his boss must be aware that our police, under-resourced as they now are, are still in a mode of fighting traditional crime. Cybercrime, as we all know, has been the great challenge. Throughout the country we are unequipped to deal with it, and it is what most citizens will face in the form of fraud and other criminal activity.

This Government have invested heavily in capabilities to deal with cybercrime through the establishment of the new cybercrime unit in the National Crime Agency and the work of police forces throughout the country to ensure that we have the digital forensics—the digital information to fight the new crime types. The hon. Gentleman clearly does not recognise the important achievements of this Government in cutting crime, at a time of having to save money to deal with the deficit that we inherited from Labour.