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Interception of Communications Commissioner

Volume 598: debated on Thursday 16 July 2015

I have today laid before both Houses copies of the half-yearly report from the Interception of Communications Commissioner, the right hon. Sir Anthony May, who is appointed by me to keep under review the compliance by public authorities with part 1 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000. Section 6 of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) 2014 requires the Commissioner to report on a six monthly basis.

The report includes details on progress of the implementation of DRIPA, the findings of the Commissioner’s investigation into the serious communications data errors which he identified in his March 2015 report, his oversight of directions issued under section 94 of the Telecommunications Act 1984 and various issues relating to the revised acquisition and disclosure of communications data code of practice. The Commissioner finds that two police forces have acquired communications data to identify the interactions between journalists and their sources in two investigations without obtaining judicial approval, in breach of the code of practice introduced in March this year. This was a serious error. The Commissioner’s investigation into these cases is not yet complete. I look forward to receiving more information about them in the next report.

I am grateful to the Commissioner for identifying and detailing the 17 serious communications data errors and for making recommendations to reduce the chances of similar errors occurring in the future. Any error is regrettable and particularly these serious errors that the Commissioner identified. The oversight and scrutiny provided by the Commissioner plays an important role in minimising the chances of errors occurring and ensuring that appropriate steps are taken when they do.

I am also grateful to Sir Anthony and his office for producing another clear, thorough and detailed report. I hope this report will play a part in better informing the continuing debate about the role of the security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies, their use of investigatory powers and their oversight. This is Sir Anthony’s last report as Commissioner. I would like to thank him for his important work over the past few years which has been exemplary.

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