With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the publication of the Anderson report and the parliamentary consideration of investigatory powers. As the House will know, it is this Government’s intention to bring forward legislation relating to the security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies’ use of investigatory powers and to have that legislation enacted before the sunset provision in the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 takes effect on 31 December 2016.
In 2014, the Government asked the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson QC, to conduct a review of the operation and regulation of law enforcement and agency investigatory powers, with specific reference to the interception of communications and the separate issue of communications data. David Anderson has completed that review, and this morning my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made a written ministerial statement to lay that report before the House.
The report makes 124 recommendations, covering sensitive intelligence capabilities, and it extends to more than 300 pages. Following careful consideration by the Government and the security and intelligence agencies, I can confirm that no redactions have been made to the report prior to publication. I would like to put on record my, and the Government’s, thanks to David Anderson for his thoroughness and dedication in undertaking this important work.
As the report highlights, there is a range of threats against the UK and its interests from terrorism, both at home and overseas, to cyber-attacks from criminals. Many groups, not just the Government, have a role to play in ensuring that the right capabilities are in place to tackle those threats. We will continue to work closely with all partners, including the intelligence agencies, law enforcement and industry, to take all these issues forward and to continue to keep us safe from those who would do us harm.
David Anderson’s report is complemented by two further independent reviews in this area. In March, the Intelligence and Security Committee published its “Privacy and Security” report. This set out a comprehensive review of the intelligence agencies’ capabilities and the legal and privacy frameworks that govern their use. Later this summer, a panel co-ordinated by the Royal United Services Institute and established by the former Deputy Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr Clegg), will report on the legality, effectiveness and privacy implications of the UK’s surveillance programmes and assess how law enforcement and intelligence capability can be maintained in the face of technological change. These independent reviews are each important and valuable contributions to the continuing debate about the role of our security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies, their use of investigatory powers and their oversight. The Government will need to give proper consideration to their recommendations, but I believe that collectively they will provide a firm basis for consultation on legislation.
I would now like to turn to the parliamentary handling of this legislation. The operation and regulation of the investigatory powers used by the police and the intelligence and security agencies is a matter of great importance to the security of this country and, I know, an issue of great interest to many Members. As David Anderson makes clear, it is imperative that the use of sensitive powers is overseen and fully declared under arrangements set by Parliament. It is therefore entirely right that Parliament should have the opportunity to debate those arrangements in full.
The Anderson review was undertaken with cross-party support and I believe that it provides a sound basis for taking this issue forward in the same manner. To ensure that that is the case, the Government will publish a draft Bill in the autumn for pre-legislative scrutiny by a Joint Committee of Parliament, with the intention of introducing a Bill early in the new year. Given the sunset clause in the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014, the new legislation will need to be in place by the end of December 2016.
I have said many times before that it is impossible to debate the balance between privacy and security—including the rights and wrongs of intrusive powers and the oversight arrangements that govern them—without also considering the threats that we face as a country. Those threats remain considerable, and they are evolving. They include not only terrorism—from overseas and home-grown in the UK—but industrial, military and state espionage. They include not only organised criminality but the proliferation of once-physical crimes online, such as child sexual exploitation, and the technological challenges that that brings. In the face of such threats, we have a duty to ensure that the agencies whose job it is to keep us safe have the powers they need to do the job.
I would like to finish by paying tribute to the vital work of the men and women of the intelligence and law enforcement community, whose work is not always known, whose successes often go unrecognised and whose efforts day in and day out are fundamental to keeping everyone in this country safe. I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Home Secretary for her statement and join her in paying tribute to the agencies and police and the vital work that they do to keep us safe. Because their work is so important, they need a robust and up-to-date legal framework for that work, and that is what they want as well. Their job is to protect our liberty as well as our security in a democracy.
I strongly welcome the publication of David Anderson’s report, which we all need to consider in detail. We called for the report in our amendment to the emergency legislation last summer, and we did so because we believed that the existing framework was no longer fit for purpose. The Intelligence and Security Committee has also called for a new framework. Technology has moved on, but neither the law nor the oversight has done so. The law is, in David Anderson’s words,
“incomprehensible to all but a tiny band of initiates...and—in the long run—intolerable.”
Reforms are needed. First, as the report confirms, it is clear that proportionate surveillance and interception are vital to saving lives and to averting and disrupting dreadful attacks. The Home Secretary is right to highlight the changing threats, and communications data have been used to tackle some awful crimes. The report refers to a case in which the US authorities found a movie file of a woman sexually abusing a four-month-old girl. Communications data were used to track the source of an email to a man in Northampton and, as a result, he and his girlfriend were convicted of serious sexual abuse of three children, all less than four years old. There is no doubt therefore that powers are needed and that they need to keep up with new technology. We cannot allow the sunset clause to let existing powers lapse without new legislation in their place.
Secondly, we have argued that, alongside strong powers, we need strong checks and balances and significantly stronger oversight of how the system works. I welcome the report’s proposals to strengthen oversight by introducing a new, stronger independent surveillance and intelligence commission, merging the existing system of commissioners, which I have long argued is not strong or transparent enough, and by introducing judicial authorisation of warrants. Both would be important steps, but their detail needs to be right, so that they do not add delays to urgent processes or detract from the Home Secretary’s wider responsibility to assess risks to national security and be answerable to Parliament. I believe that those reforms would strengthen the legitimacy of a long-term framework, and I urge the Home Secretary to consider and agree to them.
Thirdly, the report confirms some of the problems with the original draft Communications Data Bill, which the Joint Committee that scrutinised it at the time stated was too widely drawn—we agreed. David Anderson says:
“There should be no question of progressing proposals for the compulsory retention of third party data before a compelling operational case for it has been made out (as it has not been to date)”.
I agree with David Anderson and, again, I urge the Home Secretary to accept that recommendation.
I welcome the points that the Home Secretary made about a future investigatory powers Bill based in large part on David Anderson’s report being subject to pre-legislative scrutiny by a Joint Committee of both Houses and about how we will have the opportunity for cross-party debate. I also urge her to ask the business managers to schedule a day’s debate on the Anderson report, so that Members of all parties may discuss it fully and to foster a wider public debate to get the widest possible consent and legitimacy for the new framework. There has been a wider public debate in other countries, including the US, than there has so far been here.
Finally, David Anderson’s report calls for greater public avowal and transparency of capabilities and legal powers. Everyone understands that many national security operations need to be secret to be effective, but I urge the Home Secretary to consider that recommendation closely, too, as there needs to be sufficient transparency for us in Parliament to take responsible decisions on getting the legislation right.
We need freedom and security in our democracy, the powers to keep people safe and the checks and balances to protect people’s privacy and to ensure that the powers are not abused. The digital age is a wonderful source of freedom and opportunity, but it also brings new challenges from new crimes and new threats to our security. David Anderson’s report helps us to face both. We in this House now need to ensure that the report helps us to navigate both the opportunities and the challenges to sustain and to strengthen our democracy in a digital age.
I thank the shadow Secretary of State for the tone and approach she has adopted on these matters, which—as we all accept across the House—are incredibly serious. It is important that we have full debates about them, as we will be able to do. In the timetable I have set out, people will have an opportunity to reflect fully on the David Anderson report, and other reports that have already been published or will be published, so that when they come to look at the Government’s proposals, they will be able to do so against that firm background.
It is important to draw to the House’s attention the fact that David Anderson looked into all investigatory powers and techniques. He recognised the necessity of the powers and techniques. The issue he was looking at was whether the legislative framework we have is the right one. He has made the point that the current legislative framework is found in a number of different Acts of Parliament, so it is sometimes difficult for people to see the complete picture. Obviously, one of his purposes in his recommendations is to bring that picture together, and to look at the questions of authorisation and oversight.
The right hon. Lady mentioned two particular issues, one of which was access to third party data. David Anderson does not say that this should not be permissible or possible; he says that he would like to see a better case made for it than has been made in the past, but he does not reject the use of access to third party data. On judicial authorisations, he has come down with a particular point of view in that area, and it happens that the ISC took a different view. In looking at this carefully, the point that we will want to reach is ensuring that any decision taken in this area does not adversely affect the relationship between the Executive and the judiciary in relation to other aspects of Government powers and what they need to do, and where any arrangements made are seen to have clear legitimacy and also reflect the issue that the shadow Home Secretary referred to—that the individual who bears the risk, regardless of who takes the authorisation, is of course the Home Secretary. So we have to look at those proposals in the context of that complex mix of areas that we need to consider.
Mr Anderson said in the preamble to his excellent report:
“The current law is fragmented, obscure, under constant challenge and variable in the protections that it affords the innocent.”
He went on to say:
“A multitude of alternative powers, some of them without statutory safeguards, confuse the picture further. This state of affairs is undemocratic, unnecessary and—in the long run—intolerable.”
Of his 124 recommendations, the shadow Home Secretary picked up on perhaps the most important—the one relating to this issue of judicial authorisation. This country relies on ministerial authorisation more than any other country in the world, with the possible exception of Zimbabwe. Will the Home Secretary please look hard at this recommendation, with a strong recommendation that it is carried out and the transfer of power from ministerial authority to proper judicial authority takes place as soon as possible?
As I indicated in my response to the shadow Home Secretary, we will look at that recommendation carefully, as indeed we will look at all 124 recommendations. Obviously, we will reflect on what David Anderson has said and on any further debate that takes place in relation to this. As I said to her, it is important that we recognise that the question of the relationship between the Executive and the judiciary is not just one that relates to the powers that David Anderson has been looking at, and we need to think carefully about this issue. I recognise the force with which my right hon. Friend encourages me to go down that route, but today I am not in a position, and do not intend, to say that the Government are going to do one thing or another. I think it is right that we reflect more fully on these aspects and make our proposals in the draft Bill that we will publish in the autumn.
The Scottish National party also welcomes the publication of this report, but we will oppose any plans to introduce what is sometimes referred to as a snoopers charter, that being a charter that would sanction the mass collection of data and mass spying on people’s private communications. Although the SNP is supportive of law enforcement and security services having appropriate access to the information they require, the appropriate checks and safeguards must be in place to ensure that the requirement to keep our community safe is balanced against the civil liberties to which we are all entitled.
This report seems to urge much stronger oversight of the activities of the police and the security services, which we welcome and, like others, I wish to single out the recommendation that warrants be authorised by senior judges. However, the new legislation is required to be more than just a change of name. There must be substantial changes in substance from the previous draft Bill, which threatened to impinge on civil liberties.
Cross-party co-operation in this Parliament has already forced the Government to backtrack on their plans to repeal the Human Rights Act—at least for the time being. In reaching out across the Chamber to MPs with concerns about civil liberties, my party will also seek to defeat any Government plans to curb civil liberties in the Bill. However, we wish to take a constructive approach, and I have four specific questions for the Secretary of State. First, will she confirm that the new legislation, which is to be introduced this autumn, will be more than just a name change and that it will contain substantial safeguards for civil liberties?
Secondly, under the summary of proposals, paragraph 10 says:
“A comprehensive and comprehensible new law should be drafted from scratch, replacing the multitude of current powers and providing for clear limits and safeguards on any intrusive power that it may be necessary for public authorities to use.”
Will the Home Secretary commit to implementing that proposal?
Thirdly, will the Home Secretary commit to engaging fully with her Scottish Government counterparts in so far as measures in any legislation impinge on the devolved competences? Finally, she has announced plans for pre-legislative scrutiny by a Joint Committee of Parliament. Will she confirm that representatives of the SNP will be invited to be part of that scrutiny?
I welcome the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) to the House and to her Front-Bench role. I was not able to do that when she spoke in the Queen’s Speech debate, and I am pleased to have the opportunity to do it now. I have to say, however, that she is wrong to refer to the snoopers charter. There was never any proposal for such a charter. The Government wish to ensure that our law enforcement and security and intelligence agencies continue to have the capabilities that they need to keep us safe as people’s activities in communications increasingly move from the physical to the digital. It is about ensuring that the law and the powers are up to date.
The hon. and learned Lady asked me four specific questions. I have already said in my response to the shadow Home Secretary that one of the issues, as David Anderson has also said, is that legislation is spread over several different Acts, and it is necessary to bring it together in a single law. We intend to look very carefully at David Anderson’s proposals in relation to increased or changed oversight arrangements. We are talking about not simply rebranding an existing law but looking to see what legislation is necessary to ensure that these powers continue to be available with the right regulatory framework, the right oversight and the right authorisation arrangements into the future.
We have had to introduce two new pieces of legislation in the data and counter-terrorism area in the past 18 months. I hope that we can establish a law that can stand for some time, and that we will not have to come back to Parliament repeatedly with new legislation. When matters are devolved, we will hold discussions with the Scottish Government. As the hon. and learned Lady will be aware, national security is a reserved matter. She referred to pre-legislative scrutiny. I understand that discussions are taking place about the nature of the Joint Committee, and that is a matter for the business managers.
Speaking as somebody who during my four years in office was supposed to be an initiate of the regulatory framework under which our agencies are supposed to work, I heartily endorse what David Anderson has said about its comprehensibility. For that reason, I greatly welcome the Government’s move towards a new legislative framework. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is important that that framework should carry with it clarity and a degree of predictability and understanding, because without that the public will not be reassured that it might not sed? Equally, she might also agree that if we put together such a framework it is right and proper that we should give our agencies the powers they need to protect us, and not simply allow this to be an opportunity to prevent them from doing the job of protecting us, which in my experience they have been doing very well and ethically.
I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for his comments and, in particular, for his last point. It is absolutely the case that our agencies have been and are working lawfully and ethically in everything they do. They have a difficult job to do and it is important, as he says, that we give them the powers they need. It is in everyone’s interests that the legislation is as clear as possible, but I am tempted to say that although I start off thinking that it will be simple to provide a clear piece of legislation, once parliamentary counsel and the lawyers in this House and in the other place get hold of it, the clarity tends to get a little lost. We shall see what happens.
My right hon. and learned Friend raises another important issue, which is the question of foreseeability. People should be able to understand not just how powers might be being used but how they might be used in future, and that is of course an issue that would need to be considered.
I join the Home Secretary and the shadow Home Secretary in thanking Mr Anderson for this excellent report. It is right that we should consider judicial scrutiny, and the approach of the Home Secretary to give this to a Joint Committee is the right one. It cannot be handled by one Committee. She will note that Committees in the previous Parliament—and individual Members—have talked about the fact that the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act was introduced in 2000 and needs to be updated. Does she agree that that is also on the agenda and that, as she consolidates these pieces of legislation, it is important that we consider that Act to ensure that our agencies have the right powers and that there is also a proper balance?
The right hon. Gentleman is right and, of course, under his chairmanship the Home Affairs Committee touched on some of those issues. Some of the powers that David Anderson is talking about relate to RIPA and how it operates, and of course they will be considered as part of the new legislation.
May I draw the Home Secretary’s attention to recommendation 66, which appears in paragraph 14.82? The report recommends the abandonment of judicial approval for local authorities seeking to obtain communications data. My right hon. Friend will remember the abuses by local authorities and the reasons we introduced these safeguards. I do not think that the public would mind local authorities using those powers on matters to do with Prevent, but they would rather object to them being used in relation to a person applying for a school place.
My right hon. Friend makes a pertinent point and I was pleased to work with him to ensure that we could introduce those extra safeguards in the operation of access to communications data and ending the intrusive use of these powers by local authorities. He is absolutely right. People will not want us to go backwards in how local authorities might use these powers. When intrusive powers are being used, it is essential that their use is necessary and proportionate, and I think that everybody would agree that their use in whether people were getting the right school places was neither of those.
I, too, welcome the work that David Anderson has carried out on this important issue. Does the Home Secretary accept that there are many complications in all this, not least administratively, judicially, ethically and procedurally? As a former member of the Intelligence and Security Committee, may I ask her whether she will accept that the timetable she has laid down for the consideration of a draft Bill might be too tight? Will she give some consideration to whether it might be possible to renew the existing legislation if pre-legislative scrutiny needs to take more time?
I understand the point that the right hon. Gentleman makes. We have the deadline of December 2016, which was put in consciously by the previous Parliament because it believed that it was necessary to look again at the legislative framework and that that should be done within a limited timetable. So I hesitate to suggest that we should at this stage say that that timetable should be changed. We should do what we can to ensure that we meet the timetable. I fully recognise that these matters are complex, and they raise issues in relation not just to what David Anderson has put in his report, but to other circumstances. It always behoves Government to make sure there are no unintended adverse consequences of any decisions that are taken in relation to that, and we will try to ensure that the maximum amount of time is available. At this stage, we should retain that December 2016 deadline because Parliament set it for very good reason.
This is a first-rate and comprehensive report, but I accept what the Home Secretary said; this should not be the last word on the matter. There are other reports and we will want to try to get this consolidated. Despite my involvement on the Intelligence and Security Committee, I am increasingly of the view that we need to get public trust to ensure that judicial involvement is not simply a matter of oversight in relation to warrants. I very much agree with the comments of the right hon. Member for Knowsley (Mr Howarth). We need to get this right. We need consolidating legislation. It will be difficult, but we need to get it right both in this House and in the other place. That may take a little longer than the very ambitious timetable that my right hon. Friend has put in place, and I am glad that she is turning her mind to it in this way. Above all, we need consolidating legislation that does not potentially lead to what we have had in the past—a sense that arbitrage has been used because one piece of legislation is easier than another for the security services.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his comments. I thank him and the right hon. Member for Knowsley (Mr Howarth) for the contribution they made on the Intelligence and Security Committee, which produced its own report in relation to these matters. My right hon. Friend is right about ensuring that there is public confidence and public trust. Some interesting figures are quoted in the David Anderson report from a poll taken of the public, which shows the significant trust and confidence that they have in our agencies, and the belief of the overwhelming majority that the agencies should have the powers they need to keep us safe. It is a feature of the British public that they have a more sanguine approach to the necessity of powers being held by the authorities than we may see reported elsewhere. But he is right: we need to look at these issues very carefully and ensure that that confidence is there.
The overwhelming majority of the population at the time would no doubt have supported 90 days pre-charge detention. It is the job of the House of Commons to determine what is right—to get the right balance between the acute danger of terrorism and civil liberties, not to talk about what the large majority of the public may or may not want. We are elected to make the decision that we consider to be correct. Is it not the case that the Home Secretary intends to bring in a measure—rightly, in my view, described as the snoopers charter—which the previous Government could not introduce in the last Parliament because their coalition partner would not agree? As far as I am concerned—obviously, there will be a good deal of controversy about this—the snoopers charter is a greater affront to civil liberties than any measure that has been introduced or proposed in recent years.
The response I give on that misnomer of a piece of legislation is the same as I gave the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry): it is no such thing as it has been described. It is about ensuring merely that, as matters increasingly move into the digital age, the agencies are able to have access to the same sort of data as they have had access to in the past, which is used in the vast majority of serious crime cases—not just in investigation, but in bringing prosecutions of serious criminals—and in counter-terrorism investigations.
The hon. Gentleman refers to the 90 days of pre-charge detention. I point out to him that the Conservative party opposed that measure, and I remind him that it was his Labour Government who introduced 28 days of pre-charge detention, and the coalition Government who reduced it to 14 days.
Good luck on both fronts, Mr Speaker, but thank you.
Is it not the case that the greatest civil liberty of all is the right to life? The Home Secretary is absolutely right that to call extra investigatory and surveillance powers for the intelligence services, with the right to legal oversights, a snooper’s a misnomer. Would the measure not be better termed a security charter?
The Home Secretary has, in a welcome move, promised the House pre-legislative scrutiny of the legislation that will follow from Anderson’s excellent report. She says that it will include consideration not only of that report, but of the ISC’s recent report and the forthcoming report from the Royal United Services Institute. There is another report, however, which is still secret: Sir Nigel Sheinwald’s report. Although I understand that some of the details of that report are commercially confidential and cannot be released, can she make sure that Sir Nigel’s conclusions are available to those conducting the pre-legislative scrutiny?
I will look at that. The Prime Minister’s written statement today refers to the work that Sir Nigel Sheinwald undertook as the Prime Minister’s data envoy. As my right hon. Friend makes clear—I did not refer to this—in parallel to the new legislation, we will be taking forward Sir Nigel’s advice, including pursuing a strengthened UK-US mutual legal assistance treaty process and a new international framework. Sir Nigel was looking particularly at the question of the powers and capabilities in relation to cross-border matters and the international framework needed for that.
In welcoming the report, I note that electronic communications and social media are powerful tools for the terrorist and their use and sophistication have been expanding very rapidly, but there remain concerns that the machinery within Government, and even more so within Parliament, to monitor and regulate through legislation is unable to keep up with that pace of change, which leads to concerns about safeguarding civil liberties. How does my right hon. Friend intend to use the opportunity of the report to address the mechanisms of reporting and oversight?
The previous Government acted to improve the mechanisms of parliamentary oversight by giving extra powers to the Intelligence and Security Committee. The ISC’s report on its consideration of matters surrounding the terrible murder of Drummer Lee Rigby showed a step change in the sort of information available and investigation of the operations of the agencies by the ISC and gave Parliament a much greater ability to look at such matters. However, I will reflect on my hon. Friend’s comment on the mechanisms overall and whether anything is needed in that respect.
In coalition, the Liberal Democrats were right to block the snooper’s charter and in government the Conservatives are wrong to forge ahead with it.
On the subject of web logs, of which only Russia of the liberal democracies mandates the retention, will the Home Secretary allow proposals to track the browsing habits of 40 million UK citizens every week to be brought forward only if there is, as set out in paragraph 13b of the executive summary:
“a detailed operational case…and…rigorous assessment conducted of the lawfulness, likely effectiveness, intrusiveness and cost”
of the measures? Will she also confirm that, as David Anderson urges, no progress at all will be made on the question of third-party data until a compelling operational case has been made?
The right hon. Gentleman will not be surprised to hear that I take a different view from him on the communications data capabilities of the security and intelligence agencies and of law enforcement. These are important powers and it is clear that those powers are degrading, so the ability of law enforcement to catch paedophiles and serious criminals has been reduced, as has the ability of our agencies to deal with the matters they deal with.
The right hon. Gentleman refers to web logs. In the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, we took one step to increase the capabilities of the agencies in respect of IP addresses, but it remains the case that not all those IP addresses can be recognised and reconciled because of the inability to introduce the further legislation that his party blocked when we were in coalition.
Finally, it is not the case that that legislation was about investigating, mapping or monitoring the web browsing habits of 40 million citizens every week of the year. That is a complete misdescription of what was proposed, and I suggest that if the right hon. Gentleman wants a proper debate, he stops using those terms.
In my previous life, I prosecuted criminals for a living and I relied on evidence obtained under RIPA to convict the guilty. What assessment has my right hon. Friend made of the importance of communications data in the fight against terrorism and serious organised crime, including helping those who prosecute criminals to bring them to justice in court?
I thank my hon. Friend for bringing her experience to this House. It is important that people recognise that this is not just a debate about what this House puts into legislation; it is a debate about the powers that our agencies have and the ability prosecutors then have to bring people to justice. Some 95% of serious and organised crime investigations make use of communications data, and such information is essential for prosecution in many of those cases. I am sorry that the hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) is not in the Chamber today, because in his former incarnation as Director of Public Prosecutions, he was clear about the importance of communications data not only in investigating but in prosecuting criminals.
As one of those who have struggled with the legislation for some time, I join in the welcome for David Anderson’s recommendation that the new legislation be written in non-technical language that can be understood by intelligent readers across the world. I also welcome his recommendations that RIPA parts 1 and 4 be replaced and for increased judicial oversight—something that I think RIPA lacked, so I am glad that it will be looked at again. Also, I will read with great care what is said about the bulk collection of data.
This is an important measure, which needs to be debated much more widely than is currently the case. I support the calls for a day’s debate in this Chamber, so that we all have an opportunity to debate the many issues relating to it. This is too important to be captured by a few voices. We need to have a more profound debate.
I am tempted to ask the hon. Lady that if she, a lawyer, could not understand the legislation, how does she think the rest of us managed? She will have seen the Leader of the House in the Chamber when the shadow Home Secretary called for a day’s debate, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend will reflect on that point.
We are all concerned about getting the balance correct between security and civil and human rights, and I have absolutely no doubt that the Home Secretary will devote her time to ensuring that, but is she concerned about reports that the social media websites in the United States are threatening to refuse to co-operate with legitimate requests for the provision of information about suspected terrorists and other serious criminals? If the reports are true, what conversations will she have with her American counterparts to ensure that that does not happen, and will she remind them during the course of those discussions that there is still a great deal of concern in this House and elsewhere about the lack of balance in the United Kingdom-United States extradition treaty?
On my right hon. and learned Friend’s last point, we did make changes to the extradition arrangements between the United Kingdom and the United States when we brought in the forum bar—I think that it has been an important addition—which ensures the balance between the UK and the US in the extradition treaty. We of course talk regularly with communication service providers and social media platforms, and I talk about these measures with my counterparts in the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice in the United States. Of course, it is precisely those sorts of issues that the Prime Minister asked Sir Nigel Sheinwald to look at. As I indicated in response to the right hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart), as a result of that work we will be taking forward work to enhance the mutual legal assistance treaty with the United States, but we will also be looking at a broader international framework within which the companies will operate in order to enable access to the data.
The report is a powerful vindication of the excellent work of human rights campaigners in this country who have long argued for greater proportionality in our surveillance laws. EU courts and now David Anderson have made it clear that the blanket retention of my constituents’ data is unlawful—it is against human rights laws—so will the Home Secretary confirm that she accepts that principle and will use it in future legislation?
David Anderson has been very clear that the powers that the agencies have are powers that they need. His questions are these: what is the appropriate oversight of, and authorisation for, the use of those powers; and what is the appropriate regulatory framework? That is what we will be looking at.
Consolidation of the law in a non-controversial area is an immensely difficult and technical task that is normally handed over to the Law Commission for years. The right hon. Member for Knowsley (Mr Howarth) is concerned about the amount of time we have for scrutiny after the autumn. If this law is being drafted from scratch, I do not think that my right hon. Friend has a cat in hell’s chance of producing it in the autumn. Just how advanced is the internal work on drafting the Bill?
As I said in response to the right hon. Member for Knowsley (Mr Howarth), we have a timetable that was set by Parliament, because it believed that it was important that the powers in the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 should not be allowed to continue for a significant period of time, so it was decided that the right end point should be the end of 2016. Of course, some of the issues that the report deals with have been looked at by the Home Office previously, notably in relation to communications data.
I am grateful that the importance of thorough pre-legislative scrutiny has been recognised, but may I ask the Home Secretary to consider the recommendations relating to broader parliamentary scrutiny? In relation to recommendation 120, will she be wary of anything that might dilute the focus currently provided by the Intelligence and Security Committee? In relation to recommendation 122, will she ensure not only that public bodies, where appropriate and subject to the proper safeguards, provide the information to Parliament, but that Parliament has a proper means of testing and scrutinising that information?
I thank my hon. Friend for his points about the recommendations. Of course, as I indicated in response to my right hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mark Field), we have already increased Parliament’s power to look at those issues through the enhanced capabilities we have given to the Intelligence and Security Committee. I think that it is important that the Committee retains a clear focus so that we can be confident that it is able to bring the correct oversight to these matters, which is important and has been enhanced.
My hon. Friend raises an important point that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made. We should ensure that our law enforcement agencies have the powers they need to ensure that there is no safe space for terrorists, paedophiles and other serious criminals to operate.
Obviously we regularly look at the resources available to the security and intelligence agencies. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced before Christmas, the security and intelligence agencies and the police received a budget injection to cover a variety of issues. We look at that regularly and will continue to do so, most notably in the upcoming comprehensive spending review.
My hon. Friend is right to raise that issue, because of course, as I mentioned in my statement, it is not just a question of the Government working with the police and law enforcement agencies; we also need to work with industry. We meet the communication service providers regularly to discuss the use of the powers that the various agencies have, to ensure that the legislation is appropriate, and to look at the technological changes taking place.
Striking the right balance between liberty and security is essential in a free society, but on the issue of a snoopers charter, I invite the Home Secretary to give real weight to the opinion of David Anderson’s distinguished predecessor as independent reviewer, Lord Carlile, who said that the Communications Data Bill was
“a proportionate response to enable law enforcement and prosecutors to keep pace with the ever more connected world in which we live.”
My hon. Friend is right to mention Lord Carlile’s point about the previous Communications Data Bill. I believe that it was a necessary and proportionate response to the need to ensure that the agencies and the police continue to have the powers to keep us safe, to catch paedophiles, to prevent terrorism and to catch and prosecute serious and organised criminals. Those powers have degraded as people use digital communications more, so we need to update the legislation to ensure that the agencies and the police can continue to do their job.
David Anderson rightly identifies trust as the issue at the heart of the matter. These powers obviously have a wider application, but in all the evidence to the Home Affairs Committee on Islamist radicalisation it was mistrust of the state that was used to manipulate and radicalise young Britons. While I add my voice to those welcome recommendations to strengthen judicial oversight, does the Home Secretary agree that it is essential to strengthen our counter-narrative efforts so that we can put the lie to those terror recruiters on our shores who are selling a glamorised and dishonest version of jihad, and so that we can reduce our need for these powers in the first place?
My hon. Friend makes a very important point. In the fight against those terrorists who are led by Islamist radicalisation to take action, and indeed those doing the radicalisation, we need to look very carefully at that issue. She is absolutely right about that. The Government have a commitment to bring forward a counter-extremism strategy. The strategy will be about promoting the values we share in this country; the values that make our pluralistic society what it is, and that make it a society that many people wish to live in and enjoy. We must ensure that our narrative against those plying a distorted view of Islam is strong so that we can encourage people to recognise that Islam is a peaceful religion, not a religion that is leading to acts of terrorism.
Robert Hannigan, the new head of the Government Communications Headquarters, has recently said that some technology companies are the command and control centres of terrorism because they positively fail to comply with Government requests to take material down in the post-Snowden era. Will these new measures help address that?
My hon. Friend is right. There is a very real responsibility for the communications service providers—the internet providers—in relation to the access that the authorities need for these powers. We need to make sure that the legislation is appropriate so that there can be confidence in it. The counter-terrorism internet referral unit has been, and is now, taking down about 1,000 pieces of terrorist material per week from the internet.
Technology moves on apace, and criminals are very quick to use new technology. However, the legislative process is much slower, and the Home Secretary has set out plans for detailed pre-scrutiny. What plans does she have to try to ensure that, as far as possible, the legislation is future-proofed so that we do not have to go through the process time and again?
My hon. Friend raises a very important point. In fact, David Anderson himself has referred to the need to try to ensure that legislation can be technology-neutral so that it is, as it were, future-proofed. As I said in response to the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry), I hope that the legislation we will introduce is able to stand the test of time so that we are not constantly having to come back to this House with new proposals.
Writing about technology over the past 10 years, I saw a huge number of changes. I commend this report for trying to establish principles so that the legislation does not go out of date. Does the Home Secretary believe it is right that, as a nation, we have the same powers in the age of Snapchat and WhatsApp as we had in the age of the telephone?
My hon. Friend makes the very important point that as people move on to new means of communication, we need to make sure that powers and the regulatory framework for those powers has kept up. That is what we wanted to do in the Communications Data Bill, but we were prevented by our coalition partners. We will obviously be looking to introduce the necessary requirements in the new legislation.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.
In a previous life, having worked considerably in operational terms with RIPA, one of the difficulties I found was with the communications providers. What are the Home Secretary’s ideas for the legislation to make sure that it does not create problems in future?
My hon. Friend raises an important point. This is partly to do with the legislation and partly to do with ensuring that we maintain relationships with the communications service providers, to whom we talk to regularly about these matters. It is also about ensuring that this is the right legislation to give people the confidence that the powers are being used appropriately and where they are necessary and proportionate.
I am most grateful to the Home Secretary and to colleagues. It has been a huge pleasure, both in the exchanges on the business question and in the exchanges that we have just enjoyed, to accommodate a very large number of new Members. I say in the gentlest terms, as a source of encouragement to new Members, that if they decide that they no longer wish to ask a question because it has already been asked—although that would set a dangerous precedent in the House of Commons—or for any other reason, that is fine, but if they are genuinely interested in being called, then, as old hands will be able to testify, persistence is a very important principle in the operation of the affairs of the House. In short, if you really want to get called—I cannot promise you will, but I think the record shows that I do try to accommodate most people most of the time—keep standing, and the chances are that you will get there in the end. Thank you very much.