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Police and Security Services: Investigatory Powers

Volume 600: debated on Monday 12 October 2015

6. What changes she plans to make to the investigatory powers of the police and security services. (901486)

18. What changes she plans to make to the investigatory powers of the police and security services. (901498)

The Government have been clear about the need to provide law enforcement and security and intelligence agencies with the powers they need to protect the public. A draft investigatory powers Bill will be published this autumn for pre-legislative scrutiny by a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament.

I thank the Home Secretary for that answer. I wonder whether she recognises the growth in internet-based communication systems, such as WhatsApp, Snapchat and many others, of which terrorists might be making use. Will she consider taking powers to support the security services in tracking relevant individuals who might want to do us harm?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. New services are obviously being developed. The law makes it very clear that any communications service provider offering a service in the United Kingdom should be in a position to respond to a warrant when it has been decided that there should be access to intercept material on the basis that it is necessary and proportionate. That was made clear by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, and we put it beyond doubt in the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014.

Does the Home Secretary agree that it is incumbent on organisations such as WhatsApp and Snapchat, which routinely encrypt messages, to co-operate with the authorities to ensure that those who may do us harm are prevented from doing so?

I assure my hon. Friend, and my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mark Spencer), that we want to ensure that our law enforcement and security and intelligence agencies have the powers that are necessary to keep us safe. They do an excellent job, but it is our role, here in Parliament, to ensure that they have the legislative backing to enable them to do it. I believe, and the Government believe, that there should be no safe space for terrorists, criminals or paedophiles on the internet.

In the light of the High Court ruling in July, may I ask the Home Secretary whether she will now do what should have been done in the first place, and ensure that access to our private data is authorised by a genuinely independent body or a court?

The hon. Gentleman will be well aware that each of the three reviews of the powers and legislation relating to interception of communications and access to communications data came up with a different answer in respect of the authorisation process for access to intercept material. David Anderson suggested that there should be a judicial authorisation, the Royal United Services Institute suggested that there could be a hybrid, and the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament suggested that the authorisation should remain with the Secretary of State. We have been considering the matter very carefully, and, as I have said, a draft Bill will be published in due course.

Will the Home Secretary tell us which is more important to the Government, national security or accountability, truth and justice for victims?

All those things are important, and I do not see that it is necessary to draw a distinction between them.