House of Commons
Wednesday 4 November 2015
The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Oral Answers to Questions
The Secretary of State was asked—
Onshore Wind Power: Planning
Before I answer the question, may I begin by commending you, Mr Speaker, not just for your attendance at the Davis cup semi-final in Glasgow, but for the enthusiasm with which you got behind Team GB for that momentous win? I am sure you will join me not only in wishing our Team GB the best in the final in Ghent, but in confirming that Glasgow, as it has once again demonstrated with the world gymnastics championships, is a great sporting city.
The UK Government have given local communities the final say on new onshore wind developments in England. Planning for onshore wind is a matter fully devolved to the Scottish Parliament and sadly the Scottish Government have kept that power to themselves. I would urge them to look closely at this Government’s policy of an affordable energy mix that also protects our natural landscapes.
True devolution means that power should rest as closely as possible to the people in Scotland, in Wales and in Northern Ireland. Does the Secretary of State deplore the centralising policies of the current Scottish and Welsh Governments, who seem to think they know better than the people and the communities of Scotland and Wales?
I agree with my hon. Friend. The current Scottish Government are one of the most centralising Governments on record, routinely overruling the wishes of local people and local authorities. The UK Government are delivering devolution to Scotland. As Lord Smith recommended, let us see devolution delivered within Scotland.
The Secretary of State will be aware of the case of the Binn eco park in my constituency. It has the support of the local community, and the developers worked diligently to secure planning permission from Perth and Kinross Council. Despite that support, the development is threatened by the regressive approach to support for renewable energy that the UK Government have taken, putting local jobs at risk. Will he look again at the case? The development has been penalised because of a responsible approach to community engagement on planning issues.
Does the Secretary of State agree that the Scottish Parliament could learn a lot from the devolution debate in England? [Laughter.] Will he encourage the Scottish Parliament to devolve more responsibilities and powers to local government, which could even include elected mayors for the great cities of Scotland?
I agree with my hon. Friend. The response of Scottish National party MPs says it all—they think they know best and know better than local people. Let us see local decision making. Let us see Lord Smith’s individual recommendation on devolution within Scotland honoured by the Scottish Government.
In addition to this question, question after question on the Order Paper from the Nats queries the powers of the Scottish Parliament, yet the truth is this: they have missed the A&E waiting time in Scotland for six years; more than 6,000 children leave primary school unable to read properly; children from poor families get a particularly bad deal under devolution; and Scotland faces a housing crisis. When I visited Edinburgh a week or so ago, I was stunned at the level of rough sleeping in that city—it is much higher than in comparable cities. Should the Nats not be sorting out the things for which they are responsible instead of demanding all those other powers? They are not just the most centralising but the most useless—
The Scotland Bill will make the Scottish Parliament the most powerful devolved Parliament in the world. What we require now is to hear from the SNP and the Scottish Government how they will use these Parliaments. They prefer arguments about process. They do not want to tell us what they will do and they do not follow that through with action.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. It was difficult to hear over the noise from Labour over there.
As we know of course, the only damage to onshore wind comes from the right hon. Gentleman’s Government, and for me the only centralising problem in Scotland is that it is not centralised enough—if only the Scottish Government could take control of inter-island flights. Planning is working well in Scotland. In fact, perhaps the Secretary of State could commend several things in Scotland to Wales, such as the political system, under which 99% of Scottish voters rejected the Tories and 95% of Members sent back here were SNP Members. He could learn a lot from that.
The hon. Gentleman could learn a lot from the leader of the Western Isles Council, who is keen to have confirmation that the Scottish Government will devolve responsibility for the Crown Estate to the Western Isles—a measure that he, as MP for the Western Isles, does not appear to support. [Interruption.]
Order. The hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr MacNeil) is the Chair of the Energy and Climate Change Committee, and I urge him to behave in the statesman-like manner expected of such a high office holder. We might learn about onshore wind from Michelle Thomson.
The provision of an extra runway for either Gatwick or Heathrow is likely to require related infrastructure improvements, to be met from the public purse. Given that the money spent will include a population share of the financial consideration from Scottish taxpayers, will it be taxation without representation or can the Secretary of State guarantee that Scottish MPs will have a vote on an extra runway?
2. What recent discussions he has had with Her Majesty’s Treasury on the future of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs tax offices in Scotland. (901898)
As part of its ongoing and long-term transformation, HMRC will shortly be making face-to-face announcements in all 170 offices to all staff explaining where its future offices will be.
Good-quality jobs at our local HMRC office—the largest employer in Cumbernauld—are in serious danger because of this Government’s drastic cuts, debt management privatisation and proposed office mergers. What will the Minister and the Secretary of State do to protect the jobs of hard-working HMRC employees and the local economies of towns such as Cumbernauld?
The Scotland Bill delivers the Smith commission agreement in full. I have tabled amendments that strengthen the Bill and look forward to it returning to the House for debate next week. It represents another milestone in making the Scottish Parliament one of the most powerful devolved Parliaments in the world.
The Smith commission identified that Scotland’s budget should be no larger or smaller simply as a result of the initial transfer of new powers and recommended that the Scottish and UK Governments work together to agree a fiscal and funding framework for Scotland. Will the Secretary of State reassure my constituents that that framework will be in place to accompany the devolution of further powers so that Scotland’s funding is not adversely affected?
It is interesting that the Secretary of State did not take the opportunity to condemn the views of his Conservative colleagues who believe that Scotland is subsidised.
Only 9% of people in Scotland believe that the vow has been delivered, so unsurprisingly the Government are belatedly having to accept amendments. The financial framework underpinning the Bill is crucial. The Secretary of State could only give a one-word answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark and Hamilton East (Angela Crawley), so will he elaborate and tell us exactly when the UK Government will update this Parliament on the progress made on the fiscal framework?
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman did not read my written statement on Monday, which updated the House on the progress of the fiscal framework. What I recognise in the right hon. Gentleman’s comments are these words from the editorial of the Daily Record:
“Moan, moan…whinge, whinge. Their response has been as negative as it was predictable. A cynic might argue that the SNP don’t actually want those new powers because it makes them…accountable to the people of Scotland.”
The Secretary of State has now had a second opportunity to condemn the views of his Back Benchers that Scotland is subsidised. I challenge him to come to the Dispatch Box and disassociate himself from the views of his colleagues. His Government are bringing in detrimental measures that will impact on families and individuals—not just in Scotland, but across the length and breadth of the UK. Will he give us some detail on what is going on between the Treasury and the Scottish Government, and give an assurance that there will be no detrimental implications for people in Scotland as part of the fiscal framework?
Not only does the right hon. Gentleman not read written statements; he did not even listen to my answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman)—perhaps he will read Hansard. The reality is that the powers being delivered to the Scottish Parliament will make it the most powerful devolved Parliament in the world. Rather than SNP Members telling us what they will do with those powers, it is grievance and grudge. The Scottish Parliament acknowledges that tax credits can be topped up, so will the SNP top them up—yes or no?
I take the opportunity this Armistice weekend to pay tribute to our armed forces for their sacrifices to this country.
Scottish and UK Ministers have said repeatedly that the fiscal framework negotiations will be concluded this autumn. Will the Secretary of State explain to the House and the country why they have been delayed until January at the earliest?
As I set out in my written statement, the UK Government are proceeding towards the comprehensive spending review, which I am sure the hon. Gentleman accepts is a major task, and shortly thereafter the Scottish Government will proceed with the Scottish draft Budget. When I met the Deputy First Minister John Swinney last week, he gave me confidence in his wanting to reach a fiscal framework agreement. That is certainly the position of the UK Government, which is why I was able to answer the question from the hon. Member for Lanark and Hamilton East (Angela Crawley) in the way that I did.
I thank the Secretary of State for that answer, but Scotland’s First Minister has warned that the SNP Government may reject the Scotland Bill
“if the accompanying fiscal framework”
“fair to Scotland”.
It is clear that they are looking for any excuse for the fiscal framework to delay further powers for Scotland. Will the Secretary of State assure us that the fiscal framework will be agreed before the Scottish Parliament is dissolved in March, and can he explain why both he and the SNP are conspiring to make this agreement the tartan TTIP—the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership—delivered behind closed doors with no public transparency? That raises the question of what they are trying to hide.
As the hon. Gentleman well knows, a statement has been published after each meeting of the Joint Exchequer Committee. I take John Swinney and the Scottish Government at face value—that they want to reach a fair agreement for Scotland. The United Kingdom Government want to reach a fair agreement for Scotland. That is in all our interests and I am confident that that will be achieved.
I have regular discussions with the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, and our officials are in close contact on provisions in the Scotland Bill. I have now tabled changes to strengthen the Bill in delivering the Smith commission agreement in full.
Having twice failed to acknowledge the question from my right hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Angus Robertson), will the Secretary of State disassociate himself from the financially illiterate comments of his hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) who suggested that Scotland is subsidised? The fiscal framework will allow the Scottish Government the flexibility to pursue separate fiscal policies to those damaging policies progressed by the UK Government, thereby ensuring the highest levels of transparency. Will the Secretary of State provide the House with a timetable for the publication of a draft fiscal framework?
This is the fourth opportunity for the Secretary of State to disassociate himself from the comments about people in Scotland being subsidy junkies—will he do so? Will he also confirm that negotiations on the fiscal framework are taking place between the Treasury and the Scottish Government, and that he is relying on a Scottish Lord to advise those negotiations?
It is clear that Scottish National party Members do not listen to answers, and if they read Hansard they will see the response that I gave to my hon. Friend. The fiscal framework is an agreement. Who is negotiating on behalf of the Scottish Government? It is John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister. The comments of SNP Members suggest that they do not have much confidence in his ability to reach a fair deal for Scotland.
At the weekend the leader of the Scottish Labour party announced that a future Scottish Labour Government would use powers in the Scotland Bill to compensate people for the money that they will lose because of Tory cuts to tax credits. I am sure that the Secretary of State would not like that to happen, but will he confirm that new powers in the Scotland Bill will give the Scottish Parliament the ability to top up tax credits?
I do not agree with Kezia Dugdale, but at least she has the guts to stand up and say that she will put up taxes and put up tax credits. The SNP has said precisely nothing. It wants an argument about process, instead of telling us what it will do with these important new powers.
English Votes for English Laws
Ministers have had discussions with the Leader of the House on English votes for English laws and their implementation. These sensible and pragmatic steps do nothing to limit Scottish MPs’ rights to represent their constituents.
Is the Secretary of State as concerned as I am that Barnett consequentials that affect all three devolved nations are not clearly spelled out and safeguarded in the new arrangements for English votes for English laws? Will he take his fifth opportunity to explain what is happening with the fiscal compact?
Health spending is a devolved matter and the Scottish Government are responsible for the NHS in Scotland. It is up to the Scottish Government to decide how best to use their funding and deliver health services in Scotland. The UK Government are happy to share good practice with the Scottish Government to help ensure that people living in Scotland receive high-quality healthcare. Discussions between UK Health Ministers take place where necessary.
Has the Minister seen the recent Audit Scotland report which shows that the Scottish Government have completely failed to pass on health spending increases instigated by the United Kingdom Government, and that that has resulted in a 0.7% real-terms reduction in health spending in Scotland between 2008-09 and 2014-15?
I have seen that report, and my hon. Friend is right to bring it to the House’s attention. The fact is that a Conservative Government have shown more commitment to public spending on the NHS—[Interruption]—in England than an SNP-led Government have shown in Scotland.
We now have “English votes for English laws” on issues such as health spending in England. Does the Minister not think that it is time for “Scottish Members for Scottish business” and “Scottish questions for Scottish Members”, and for Scottish Ministers to answer Scottish questions in this House?
I note that the hon. Gentleman has raised the issue of English votes for English laws, and that he gets very worked up about it. Let me remind him and the House that, just a year ago, he said that English votes for English laws was
“an issue that the Scottish people could not care less about”.
That does not seem to be his approach any more.
Recorded incidents of anti-Semitism in Scotland are thankfully low, but I am not complacent. I echo the Prime Minister’s view that tackling anti-Semitism goes right to the heart of what we stand for as a country. Whatever our politics and whatever our faith, we must seek to defeat it.
Last week, 15 Scottish MPs attended a briefing by the all-party parliamentary group against anti-Semitism. Given the good will that clearly exists, will the Secretary of State talk to the Scottish Government about how the system of state-funded security in Jewish schools in England could be emulated in Glasgow?
The Secretary of State will know that, in my constituency, I represent Scotland’s largest Jewish community. At the briefing that was mentioned by the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann), I was pleased to hear about the very good inter-community relations and positive support from Police Scotland that exist in my area. Will the Secretary of State join me in applauding our Scottish Jewish communities for their great contributions to our country, and in deploring anti-Semitism and discrimination wherever they occur?
Absolutely, and I commend the hon. Lady for the extent to which, during her short time as a Member of Parliament, she has already engaged with that important Jewish community in Scotland. I also commend the work of the Scottish Government in that regard. As I said earlier, this is a matter on which we are all united, supporting Jewish communities and not accepting anti-Semitism.
The UK Government are delivering the cross-party Smith agreement in full, giving the Scottish Government substantial new powers over tax and spending. The Smith agreement stated that the devolution of powers
“should be accompanied by an updated fiscal framework”.
The UK and Scottish Governments are discussing that.
Let me offer the Secretary of State a sixth opportunity to disassociate himself from the subsidy claims that have been made by his own party in the Chamber. Will he do so now? Does he agree that the Treasury’s statements of funding policy over the devolution years have been a creaking and unstable mess, creating unnecessary friction, and will he recommit himself to a more open and transparent process—as he refused to do previously—for the calculation of the block grant to underpin the new fiscal framework?
The Smith commission recommended that abortion law be devolved to the Scottish Parliament, but recognised that the issue needed to be handled sensitively by the UK and Scottish Governments. Following ministerial discussion between Scotland’s two Governments, I confirmed that abortion would be devolved in the Scotland Bill, and wrote to interested parties. As I have already confirmed, there will be ongoing engagement with women’s groups as the matter is taken forward.
I think it would be helpful if I confirmed that because abortion law is being devolved, that does not mean that there will be any change. The existing arrangements will continue to apply in Scotland until they are changed by the Scottish Parliament. I am very pleased to note that the First Minister of Scotland has confirmed that she has no plans at all to change the existing abortion law in Scotland.
May I urge the Minister to think again about the devolution of abortion to Scotland? To have smaller jurisdictions making such sensitive decisions on healthcare is deeply unwise and would allow those who want to lobby against the interests of healthcare to undermine the interests of women both in Scotland and in England. I urge him to consult far more widely before making this very big step.
I recognise, of course, the concerns the right hon. Lady raises, but the Scottish Parliament already has responsibility for criminal justice and health issues, and it has dealt with some very sensitive issues extremely well in my view. I have spoken to women’s groups in Scotland such as Engender, Abortion Rights Scotland and Scottish Women’s Aid. They believe that the devolution can take place but want to be consulted about that, and they will be.
Access to University
I am very pleased to report that the most recent UCAS statistics show a record year for university entry for disadvantaged students domiciled in England: 18.2% in 2014 compared with 13.6% in 2009. Unfortunately, the situation in Scotland is not as good; only 10% of the poorest 20% of Scots attend university, which is very concerning.
My right hon. Friend the Minister anticipated my supplementary question. As someone who came from a working-class background from the west coast of Scotland and who went to university in Scotland, I am deeply concerned about how Scotland is now lagging behind England and how working-class poor people are losing out.
It may sound strange: an English Tory elected to a Scottish university, but as a former honorary president of Stirling university—an outstanding university—I share my hon. Friend’s concerns, and indeed the Scottish Government could learn a great deal from the experience of the English universities.
The Prime Minister was asked—
At the last Prime Minister’s questions before Armistice day I know the whole House will join me in paying tribute to all those who have fallen serving our country. They gave their lives so we could live ours in freedom, and it is also right to pause and reflect every year on Armistice day on the contribution of all those who serve our country.
This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others, and in addition to my duties in this House I shall have further such meetings later today.
I would like to associate myself with the Prime Minister’s comments and I look forward to joining the Armistice day parade in Bedworth in my constituency which has been in existence since 1921 and has grown to be the largest in Britain.
On the military, from speaking to constituents in North Warwickshire I know that the Government commitment to spending 2% of GDP on defence was very welcome. Does the Prime Minister agree that, given the volatile state of many parts of the world, it is more important than ever that we maintain that commitment and give our brave troops all the support, resources and equipment available?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We do live in a very dangerous and uncertain world, and we have made key commitments—the 2% on defence spending throughout this Parliament, the 0.7% on aid spending, which helps our security as well as making sure we are a generous and moral nation, and, crucially, having the ultimate insurance policy of a replacement for our Trident submarines.
I concur with the Prime Minister’s remarks concerning Remembrance Sunday and Remembrance weekend. We mourn all those who have died in all wars, and surely we also resolve to try and build a peaceful future where the next generation does not suffer from the wars of past generations.
Last week I asked the Prime Minister the same question six times and he could not answer. He has now had a week to think about it. I want to ask him one more time: can he guarantee that next April nobody will be worse off as a result of cuts to working tax credits?
Let me be absolutely clear. What I can guarantee next April is that there will be an £11,000 personal allowance, so you can earn £11,000 before paying tax. What I can guarantee is that there will be a national living wage of £7.20, giving the lowest paid in our country a £20 a week pay rise next year, compared with the situation at the election. On the issue of tax credits, we suffered the defeat in the House of Lords so we have taken the proposals away. We are looking at them and we will come forward with new proposals in the autumn statement. At that point, in exactly three weeks’ time, I will be able to answer the hon. Gentleman’s question. If he wants to spend the next five questions asking me that all over again, I am sure he will find it very entertaining and interesting, but how it fits with the new politics I am not quite sure. Over to you!
This is not about entertainment—[Interruption.] This is not funny for the people who are desperately worried about what is going to happen next April. If the Prime Minister will not listen to the questions I put, and will not listen to the questions that are put by the public, perhaps he will listen to a question that was raised by his hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy) on tax credits last week. He said, “The changes cannot go ahead next April” and that “any mitigation should be full mitigation.” What is the Prime Minister’s answer to his Friend?
It is very much the same answer that I gave to the hon. Gentleman. In three weeks’ time, we will announce our proposals and he will be able to see what we will do to deliver the high-pay, low-tax, lower-welfare economy that we want to see. That is what we need in our country. We are cutting people’s taxes and increasing people’s pay, but we also believe it is right to reform welfare. So he will have his answer in three weeks’ time. But in the meantime, he has to think about this: if we do not reform welfare, how are we going to fund the police service that we are talking about today? How are we going to fund the health service that we could be talking about today? How are we going to pay for the defence forces that we are talking about today? The hon. Gentleman has been completely consistent: he has opposed every single reform to welfare that has ever come forward. If we listened to him, we would still have families in London getting £100,000 a year in housing benefit. So the answer to the question is: you will find out in three weeks’ time. Carry on!
The reality is that the Prime Minister makes choices, and he has made a choice concerning working tax credits that has not worked very well so far. I shall give him an example. A serving soldier, a private in the Army with two children and a partner, would lose over £2,000 next April. I ask the question—[Interruption.]
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Surely it is the whole point of our Parliament that we are able to put questions to those in authority.
I have a question from Kieran, a veteran of the first Gulf war. His family are set to lose out, and he writes:
“It’s a worry to the family…There’s fear and trepidation about whether we’re going to be able to get by”,
and he asks:
“Is that how this government treats veterans of the Armed Forces?”
Let me take the case of the serving soldier. Many soldiers—indeed, I think all soldiers—will benefit from the £11,000 personal allowance that comes in next year. That means they will be able to earn more money before they even start paying taxes. Serving soldiers that have children will benefit from the 30 hours of childcare, and of course serving soldiers and others will be able to see our proposals on tax credits in exactly three weeks’ time. What I would say to the serving soldier is that he is now dealing with an Opposition party whose leader said he could not see any use for UK forces anywhere in the world at any time. That serving soldier would not have a job if the hon. Gentleman ever got anywhere near power.
May I invite the Prime Minister to cast his mind to another area of public service that is causing acute concern at the present time? I note he is trying to dig himself out of a hole with the junior doctors offer this morning, which we await the detail of, but there is a question that I want to put to him. I quote Dr Cliff Mann, the president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, who said that
“this winter will be worse than last winter, and last winter was the worst winter we’ve ever had”
in the NHS. Can the Prime Minister guarantee there will be no winter crisis in the NHS this year?
First, when it comes to the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, it actually supports what we are saying about a seven-day NHS and the junior doctors contract. The hon. Gentleman says, “Wait for the detail.” I would urge everyone in the House and I would urge all junior doctors who are watching to go on to the Department of Health website and look at the pay calculator, because they will be able to see that no one working legal hours will lose out in any way at all. This is an 11% basic pay rise, and what it will deliver is a stronger and safer NHS.
As for the state of our NHS more generally, it is benefiting from the £10 billion that we are putting in—money that the Labour party at the last election said it did not support. I believe the NHS has the resources that it needs, and that is why we are seeing it treating more patients, with more treatments, more drugs being delivered and more tests being carried out. It is a much stronger NHS, and the reason is simple: because we have a strong economy supporting our strong NHS.
If the Prime Minister will not answer questions that I put, then I quote to him the renowned King’s Fund, which has enormous expertise in NHS funding and NHS administration. It said that the national health service
“cannot continue to maintain standards of care and balance the books…a rapid and serious decline in patient care is inevitable”
unless something is done. May I ask the Prime Minister which is rising faster—NHS waiting lists or NHS deficits?
Let me deal directly with the King’s Fund. What we have done on this side of the House is appoint a new chief executive to the NHS, Mr Simon Stevens, who worked under the last Labour Government and did a very good job for them. He produced the Stevens plan, which he said required at least £8 billion of Government funding. We are putting in £10 billion behind that plan. That is the plan that we are producing, and we can see the results: 1.3 million more operations, 7.8 million more out-patient appointments and 4.7 million more diagnostic tests. What is going up in the NHS is the number of treatments—the number of successful outcomes.
If the hon. Gentleman wants to know who is heading for a winter crisis, I would predict that it is the Labour party. We have seen it in a lot of his appointments: his media adviser is a Stalinist, his new policy adviser is a Trotskyist and his economic adviser is a communist. If he is trying to move the Labour party to the left, I would give him “full Marx”.
The issue I raised with the Prime Minister was the national health service—in case he had forgotten. I would just like to remind him that since he took office in 2010 the English waiting list is up by a third. There are now 3.5 million people waiting for treatment in the NHS. If his party cannot match its actions by its words, I put this to him: will he just get real? The NHS is in a problem: it is in a problem of deficits in many hospitals; it is in a problem of waiting lists; and it is in a problem of the financial crisis that it faces, with so many others. Can he now address that issue and ensure that everyone in this country can rely on the NHS, which is surely the jewel in all of our crowns?
The hon. Gentleman talks about the health service since I became Prime Minister, so let me tell him what has happened in the NHS since I became Prime Minister: the number of doctors is up by 10,500; the number of nurses is up by 5,800; fewer patients are waiting more than 52 weeks to start treatment than was the case under Labour; we have introduced the cancer drugs fund; we have seen mixed-sex wards virtually abolished; and we have seen rates of MRSA and hospital-acquired infection come plummeting down. And it has happened for a reason: because we have had a strong economy, because we have some of the strongest growth anywhere in the world, because we have got unemployment coming down and because we have got inflation on the floor, we are able to fund an NHS, whereas the countries he admires all over the world, with their crazy socialist plans, cut their health service and hurt the people who need the help the most.
Q3. The UK’s internet economy is by far the largest of the G20 nations, at 12.4% of our GDP. But as consumers move online, so do criminals. Does the Prime Minister therefore agree that the investigatory powers Bill must give our security services the powers they need to keep us safe, while ensuring that proper controls exist on how we use those powers? (901984)
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise this, and it is one of the most important Bills this House will discuss. Obviously, it is going through pre-legislative scrutiny first. The Home Secretary will today, at this Dispatch Box, set out very clearly what this Bill is about and why it is necessary. Let me just make one simple point: communications data—the who called whom and when of telecommunications—have been absolutely vital in catching rapists and child abductors and in solving other crimes. The question before us is: do we need those data when people are using social media to commit those crimes rather than just a fixed or mobile phone? My answer is: yes, we must help the police and our security and intelligence services to keep us safe.
At this week’s Remembrance events, we remember all the sacrifices from past and present conflicts. We also show our respects to veterans and to service families. Does the Prime Minister agree that everything must be done to deliver on the military covenant—both the spirt and the letter?
I certainly agree with both parts of the right hon. Gentleman’s question. These Remembrance services are very important, right up and down our country, and the military covenant is one of the most important things that we have. We make a promise to our military that because of the sacrifices they make on our behalf they should not have less good treatment than other people in our country and indeed that, where we can, we should provide extra support. We are the first Government to put the military covenant properly into law and to deliver almost every year big improvements in the military covenant—hospital treatment, free transport, council tax discount and so many other things—and we report on it every year.
However, is the Prime Minister aware that many, many service widows continue to be deprived of their forces pensions if there is a change in their personal circumstances? Does he agree that that is a clear breach of the spirit of the military covenant, and what will he do to rectify that wrong?
I think that it was last year that we made a big change at around the time of Armistice day to ensure that many people who had remarried were able to get their pensions. That was a very big step forward, which was welcomed by the British Legion. If there are further steps that we need to take, I am very happy to look at them and see what can be done. I also remember that, in the last Budget, we looked at the case of police widows, and we tried to put right their situation as well.
Q5. Will the Prime Minister join me in congratulating the town of Prestatyn in my constituency, which is a finalist in the Department for Communities and Local Government’s great British high street awards? Will he confirm whether the UK Government will be holding discussions with the Welsh Assembly Government about the devolution of business rates to councils in Wales so that other town centres in my constituency, such as Rhyl, have a better opportunity to regenerate? (901986)
I certainly join my hon. Friend in congratulating Prestatyn. I do not know whether Prestatyn is in the same category for this prize as my home town of Chipping Norton, which has also been nominated, so I might have some conflicts of interest. Obviously, in Wales, business rates are a devolved issue, but it is open to the Welsh Government, should they choose, to take the approach that we are taking of devolving that business rate income directly to local councils, so that local councils have a better connection between the money that they raise and the decisions that they take to attract business, investment and industry to their area.
Q2. I went to Cheltenham Ladies’ College and the Prime Minister went to Eton. Both schools invest heavily in excellent teaching and facilities for music, dance, arts and drama, and yet while he has been Prime Minister, the schools that educate 93% of our pupils have cut the number of teachers in those subjects. Will his legacy be that Britain stops being a world leader in creative and cultural industries and becomes an also-ran? (901983)
I do not accept that. If Members look at what has happened with school funding, they will find that it has been protected under this Government, and we want to continue protecting school funding. What I make no apology for is the very clear focus that we have on getting the basics right in our schools. It is essential that we get more children learning the basic subjects and getting the basic qualifications. It is then more possible to put in place the arts, the dance and the drama that I want my children to enjoy when they go to their schools.
Q6. The channel tunnel and the port of Dover are major pieces of national infrastructure, but when there are big disruptions to services it causes chaos on Kent’s roads. As the Government complete their final work on the spending review, will the Prime Minister give special consideration to the need for an urgent and long-term solution to Operation Stack? (901987)
I absolutely recognise the serious problems that are caused to Kent residents and businesses when it becomes necessary to put in place Operation Stack. We have already implemented short-term measures to reduce the impact, including using the temporary availability of Manston airfield as a contingency measure. I know that my hon. Friend and other Kent MPs met the Chancellor this morning. We are happy to build on that work. I understand the pressures, and we will do everything we can to relieve them.
Q4. May I associate myself with the Prime Minister’s comments about what will happen this weekend and also with the comments made by the leader of the Scottish National party, the right hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson)? Thousands of people who served our nation in the Royal Navy before 1987 are not entitled to full compensation. That means that people who have been exposed to asbestosis and have contracted the cancer disease mesothelioma stand to lose out massively when compared with people in civilian life. Someone who has been exposed to asbestosis in industry could get £150,000 in compensation, while it is probable that a service person will get only £31,000. Will the Prime Minister look into that and report back to this House, as it is clearly a moral outrage as well as a clear breach of the military covenant? (901985)
I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising this issue. I understand that the Defence Secretary is looking at the matter. As I have said, since putting the military covenant into law, we have tried every year to make progress, whether it is on the issue of widows or of other groups that have been disadvantaged in some way. I am happy to go away and look at the point that he makes.
Q9. The Royal Society has identified a need for 1 million scientists, engineers and tech professionals by 2020. One way to bridge the skills gap is through an increase in high-quality apprenticeships, such as those delivered by PROCAT, the Prospects College of Advanced Technology, in Basildon. However, for every one place available, 20 people apply. Will my right hon. Friend redouble his efforts to meet our commitment to 3 million new apprenticeships? (901992)
My hon. Friend is right that the 3 million target is essential, and I believe that we can achieve it. To go back to the question asked by the right hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart), one way we can achieve that is by making sure that more of our young people have the qualifications necessary to apply for an apprenticeship. Many firms find that lots of people apply, but when we knock out the people who do not have a qualification in English or maths the number comes right down. I am delighted to announce today that my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi) will take the place of my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Richard Harrington), who has moved on to other things, as my adviser on apprenticeships to help me ensure that businesses deliver on this agenda.
Q7. Does the Prime Minister realise that my constituents in Blackpool face a double whammy on police cuts from his spending review and from the Home Office formula, which chops 14%, or £25 million, off Lancashire’s police? With letters from a cross-party group of Lancashire MPs, from my neighbourhood watch group, from our police and crime commissioner and six others, mostly Tories, and from our chief constable all saying that the process is flawed, how many blue lights does he need before we hit meltdown? (901988)
The reforms to the police funding formula are in consultation and no decisions have been taken. Through the hon. Gentleman, may I congratulate Lancashire police, as crime is down in Blackpool by 5% over this Parliament? Funding for Lancashire police is £180 million, the same in cash terms as in 2003, and Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary
“found that Lancashire Constabulary is exceptionally well prepared to face its future financial requirements.”
That is the view of HMIC in a country where crime, however we measure it, has fallen significantly since the Government took office.
Q12. My constituent, Dr Sarah Pape, one of the UK’s leading burns specialist, went out on Monday to Bucharest to help the Romanian medical teams dealing with the nightclub fire disaster. I understand that some 150 patients are in need of critical burns care and that there are only 25 burns beds in Bucharest. Sarah Pape has asked whether the Prime Minister will consider offering practical humanitarian medical assistance to these burns victims by allowing the use of UK burns facilities for their treatment. (901995)
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise the tragic events that took place in Bucharest last Friday. All our thoughts are with the victims and their families. I am pleased to hear about Dr Pape’s visit and her selfless work to help. It is a good suggestion to consider whether we can offer specialist help and support and I will take that away and see what can be done.
Q8. The Prime Minister will understand the heartbreak of the death of a child, but for parents then not to know what has happened to the ashes of that child, as is the case for Mike and Tina Trowhill in Hull and other families up and down the country, is simply very cruel. Will the Prime Minister agreed to meet Mike and Tina to discuss why we need national and local inquiries into what happened to baby ashes in such cases? (901991)
I completely understand how the hon. Lady’s constituents feel. This must have been an absolutely tragic event, only made worse by not knowing what had happened to the child. I am happy to arrange that meeting. I am not aware of the case and had not heard of it before, but let me look into it very carefully and see what I can do.
Q13. I was delighted that the Chancellor chose our county city of York to launch the new National Infrastructure Commission. Will the Prime Minister confirm that this is the start of a new era in which important investment decisions on issues such as roads and railways between the great cities of the north will help to bring growth and prosperity to our region? (901996)
My hon. Friend is right to raise this issue. People in Yorkshire have long felt that there has not been a fair enough deal for transport funding for roads and rail. People can now see that £13 billion is being spent on transport in the north as part of our plan to rebalance Britain’s economy. We have committed more than £4.8 billion of major road improvements and are continuing to invest in improving the A64, which is vital for the people of York. We will go on looking at what more we can do to ensure that this vital part of our economy has the transport links it needs.
Q10. On 9 September the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport told the Culture, Media and Sport Committee that“there are no plans to sell Channel 4”.Can the Prime Minister confirm that that remains the Government’s position, and that no discussions are under way to privatise, and thus imperil, this much-loved and important public institution? (901993)
First, let me say that I am a huge fan of Channel 4, which was a great Conservative innovation; I think that it was a combination of Willie Whitelaw and Margaret Thatcher who helped bring it to our screens. I want to ensure that Channel 4 has a strong and secure future, and I think that it is right to look at all the options, including seeing whether private investment could help safeguard the channel for the future. Let us have a look at all the options and not close our minds, like some on the Opposition Front Bench who think that private is bad and public is good. Let us have a proper look at how we can ensure that that great channel goes on being great for many years to come.
Everybody who has had any contact with the adoption process will be familiar with the frustration that unnecessary delays cause prospective parents. Will the Prime Minister take action to speed up the adoption process so that more children can be placed with the right families much more quickly?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise this matter. We have seen a 72% increase in the number of children being adopted, and the average waiting time has come down by something like five months, but it is still far too long. If we look across the 150 different councils responsible for adoption, we see that around 68 of them have no mechanism for what we call early placement, where fostering and adoption are run alongside each other. If we can introduce that, not least through the regional adoption agencies that we will be establishing, we will see many more children get the warm and loving home we want them to have.
Q11. Will the Prime Minister spare a thought on Armistice Day for the 633 of our bravest and best who died as a result of two political mistakes: 179 in pursuit of non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; and 454 in the Helmand incursion that promised that no shot would be fired? Will he rethink his own plan to order more of our brave soldiers to put their lives on the line in the chaos and confusion of a four-sided civil war in Syria? (901994)
I have great respect for the hon. Gentleman, but I suggest, with respect, that on Armistice Day we should put aside political questions about conflicts and decisions that were made and simply remember the men and women who put on a uniform, go and serve and risk their lives on our behalf. Let us make Armistice day about that, not about other questions.
The past week has been a very good one for Cornwall airport in Newquay, with the announcement of the scrapping of the airport development fee, which was an additional tax on passengers and a barrier to growth, the announcement of new air links that will link Cornwall directly to mainland Europe, and the upgrading of the Gatwick link, with the support of the public service obligation. Will the Prime Minister join me in congratulating the team at Cornwall airport in Newquay on their excellent work supporting the Cornish economy?
I am a huge fan and frequent user of Newquay airport. The Government made a series of promises about helping the airport to ensure there is that vital connectivity between Cornwall and the rest of the country, and indeed continental Europe, and I am delighted that it is doing so well.
I thank the Prime Minister for welcoming the campaign launched this week whereby 200 leaders from across society will join the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), Alastair Campbell and me in calling for equality for those who suffer from mental ill health. The truth is that those who suffer from mental ill health do not have the same right to access treatment as others enjoy in our NHS. The moral and economic case for ending this historical injustice is overwhelming. Will the Prime Minister do what it takes to ensure that this spending review delivers the extra investment in mental health needed to deliver genuine equality?
Let me say to the right hon. Gentleman, who did a lot of work on this in the previous Parliament, that I very much welcome the campaign that has been launched and what it aims to achieve. We set out in the NHS constitution parity between mental and physical health and we have taken steps towards that by, for instance, introducing for the first time waiting times and proper targets for talking therapies. There are now twice as many people undergoing those talking therapies as there were five years ago. But I completely accept that there is more to do in healing the divide between mental and physical health, and this Government are committed to doing that.
Further to the question from the right hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb), I thank the Prime Minister for his support and emphasise that this is indeed an all-party campaign. Does he agree that there is an opportunity now to build on the work of the coalition over the past five years and, with widespread support across all parts of society, end an historical injustice and inequality in the treatment of mental ill-health and physical illness?
My right hon. Friend is right. Let me tell him what we are doing. We are investing more in mental health than ever before—we will be spending £11.4 billion this financial year. Crucially, we have asked every clinical commissioning group to ensure real-terms increases in its investment in mental health services so that it cannot be treated as the Cinderella service, as has sometimes been the case in the past. If we do that and deal with some of the other issues, such as mental health patients being held in police cells inappropriately, we will have a far better system for dealing with mental health in our country.
With the announcement yesterday of the loss of 860 manufacturing jobs at the Michelin plant in Ballymena, one of the factors being high energy costs, will the Prime Minister undertake to work with the Northern Ireland Executive to address both the short-term and the medium-term issues as a matter of urgency? People who are currently in work in Northern Ireland are extremely worried about the impact of cuts to working tax credits. Given that the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and the Government are in listening mode and are showing a surprising degree of flexibility across a range of issues, will the Prime Minister reverse the thrust of that policy and remove the burden and threat against working families in Northern Ireland and across the country?
First, on the issue of industries, if a company qualifies as part of the energy-intensive industries, it will see a reduction in its bill because of the action that I announced from this Dispatch Box last week. Secondly and specific to Northern Ireland, we have passed in this House historic legislation to allow Northern Ireland to set its own rate of corporation tax. The sooner we can put together all the elements of the Stormont House agreement, the sooner Northern Ireland will be able to take action to try and build a stronger private sector in Northern Ireland, which is exactly what I want to see.
On the issue of tax credits, I give the right hon. Gentleman the same answer: he will know in three weeks’ time. He also knows that people who work in that business or in other businesses will be able to earn £11,000 before they start paying taxes, get more help with their childcare and have a higher wage to start with. Let us build an economy where people earn more and pay less taxes, and where we keep welfare costs under control so that we can build great public services.
Draft Investigatory Powers Bill
With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about the draft Investigatory Powers Bill and our commitment to providing a new law consolidating and updating our investigatory powers, strengthening the safeguards, and establishing a world-leading oversight regime.
We live in a digital age. Technology is having a profound effect on society. Computers are central to our everyday lives. Big data is reshaping the way we live and work. The internet has brought us tremendous opportunities to prosper and interact with others. But a digital society also presents us with challenges. The same benefits enjoyed by us all are being exploited by serious and organised criminals, online fraudsters, and terrorists. The threat is clear. In the past 12 months alone, six significant terrorist plots have been disrupted here in the UK, as well as a number of further plots overseas. The frequency and cost of cyber-attacks is increasing, with 90% of large organisations suffering an information security breach last year. The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre estimates that there are 50,000 people in this country downloading indecent images of children.
The task of law enforcement and the security and intelligence agencies has become vastly more demanding in this digital age. It is right, therefore, that those who are charged with protecting us should have the powers they need to do so, but it is the role of Government and Parliament to ensure that there are limits to those powers. Let me be clear: the draft Bill we are publishing today is not a return to the draft communications data Bill of 2012. It will not include powers to force UK companies to capture and retain third party internet traffic from companies based overseas; it will not compel overseas communications service providers to meet our domestic retention obligations for communications data; and it will not ban encryption or do anything to undermine the security of people’s data. The substance of all of the recommendations by the Joint Scrutiny Committee which examined that draft Bill have been accepted.
So today’s Bill represents a significant departure from the proposals of the past. Today we are setting out a modern legal framework that brings together current powers in a clear and comprehensible way, with a new Bill that provides some of the strongest protections and safeguards anywhere in the democratic world, and an approach that sets new standards for openness, transparency and oversight. This new legislation will underpin the work of law enforcement and the security and intelligence agencies for years to come. It is their licence to operate, with the democratic approval of Parliament, to protect our national security and the public’s safety.
This Bill responds to three independent reviews published earlier this year: the first from the Intelligence and Security Committee; the second from David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation; and the third from the independent surveillance review convened by the Royal United Services Institute. All three reviews made it clear that the use of investigatory powers is vital to protecting the public. They all endorsed the current powers available to the police and law enforcement agencies as both necessary and proportionate, and they all agreed that the legal framework governing those powers needed updating. While considering those reviews, we have engaged with technical experts, academics, civil liberties groups and communications service providers in the UK and overseas. I also met charities supporting people affected by the crimes that these powers are used to investigate.
Copies of the draft Bill will be available in the Vote Office. Our proposals will now be subject to further consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny by a Joint Committee of Parliament. A revised Bill will then be introduced to Parliament in the spring, when it will receive careful parliamentary scrutiny. As the House knows, the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 contains a sunset clause which means that legislation will cease to have effect from 31 December 2016. It is our intention to pass a new law before that date.
This Bill will govern all the powers available to law enforcement, the security and intelligence agencies and the armed forces to acquire the content of communications or communications data. These include the ability to retain and acquire communications data to be used as evidence in court and to advance investigations; the ability to intercept the contents of communications in order to acquire sensitive intelligence to tackle terrorist plots and serious and organised crimes; the use of equipment interference powers to obtain data covertly from computers; and the use of these powers by the security and intelligence agencies in bulk to identify the most serious threats to the UK from overseas and to rapidly establish links between suspects in the UK.
It cannot be right that today the police could find an abducted child if the suspects were using mobile phones to co-ordinate their crime, but if they were using social media or communications apps they would be out of reach. Such an approach defies all logic and ignores the realities of today’s digital age, so this Bill will also allow the police to identify which communications services a person or device has connected to—so-called internet connection records.
Some have characterised that power as law enforcement having access to people’s full web browsing histories. Let me be clear—that is simply wrong. An internet connection record is a record of the communications service that a person has used, not a record of every web page they have accessed. If someone has visited a social media website, an internet connection record will only show that they accessed that site, not the particular pages they looked at, who they communicated with, or what they said. It is simply the modern equivalent of an itemised phone bill.
Law enforcement agencies would not be able to make a request for the purpose of determining, for example, whether someone had visited a mental health website, a medical website or even a news website. They would only be able to make a request for the purpose of determining whether someone had accessed a communications website or an illegal website, or to resolve an internet protocol address where it is necessary and proportionate to do so in the course of a specific investigation. Strict limits will apply to when and how those data can be accessed—over and above those safeguards that apply to other forms of communications data—and we will ban local authorities from accessing such data.
I have announced today our intention to ensure that the powers available to law enforcement and the agencies are clear for everyone to understand. The transparency report I am publishing today will help, and copies of that report will be available in the Vote Office. There remain, however, some powers that successive Governments have considered too sensitive to disclose, for fear of revealing capabilities to those who mean us harm. I am clear that we must now reconcile that with our ambition to deliver greater openness and transparency.
The Bill will make explicit provision for all of the powers available to the security and intelligence agencies to acquire data in bulk. That will include not only bulk interception provided under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and which is vital to the work of GCHQ, but the acquisition of bulk communications data, both relating to the UK and overseas.
That is not a new power. It will replace the power under Section 94 of the Telecommunications Act 1984, under which successive Governments have approved the security and intelligence agencies’ access to such communications data from communication service providers.
That has allowed them to thwart a number of attacks here in the UK. In 2010, when a group of terrorists were plotting attacks in the UK, including on the London stock exchange, the use of bulk communications data played a key role in MI5’s investigation. It allowed investigators to uncover the terrorist network and to understand their plans. That led to the disruption of their activities and successful convictions against all the group’s members.
I have also published the agencies’ handling arrangements relating to that power, which set out the existing robust safeguards and independent oversight. These make it clear that the data do not include the content of communications or internet connection records. The Bill will put that power on a more explicit footing and it will be subject to the same robust safeguards that apply to other bulk powers.
The House will know that the powers I have described today are currently overseen by the interception of communications commissioner, the intelligence services commissioner and the chief surveillance commissioner, all of whom are serving or former senior judges.
That regime worked in the past, but I am clear that we need a significantly strengthened regime to govern how these powers are authorised and overseen, so we will replace the existing oversight with a powerful and independent investigatory powers commissioner. This will be a senior judge, supported by a team of expert inspectors with the authority and resources to effectively, and visibly, hold the intelligence agencies and law enforcement to account. These will be world-leading oversight arrangements.
Finally, I want to turn to authorisation. Authorising warrants is one of the most important means by which I and other Secretaries of State hold the security and intelligence agencies to account for their actions. In turn, we are accountable to this House and, through its elected representatives, to the public. As the House knows, the first duty of Government is the protection of the public, and that is a responsibility this Government take extremely seriously.
Although there was a good deal of agreement in the three independent reviews I have referenced, all three reached different conclusions on the question of who should authorise interception warrants. The Intelligence and Security Committee supported authorisation by a Secretary of State; David Anderson said judges should carry out the authorisation; and the Royal United Services Institute said that the authorisation of warrants should have a judicial element, but also recognised the important role of the Secretary of State. I have considered the very good arguments that were put forward by the three reviews. My response is one that I hope the House agrees will provide the reassurance of both democratic accountability and judicial accountability.
As now, the Secretary of State will need to be satisfied that an activity is necessary and proportionate before a warrant can be issued. However, in future, the warrant will not come into force until it has been formally approved by a judge. That will place a double lock on the authorisation of our most intrusive investigatory powers. There will be democratic accountability, through the Secretary of State, to ensure that our intelligence agencies operate in the interests of the citizens of this country, and the public reassurance of independent, judicial authorisation. This will be one of the strongest authorisation regimes anywhere in the world.
For parliamentarians, we will go even further. The Bill will, for the first time, put into law the Prime Minister’s commitment that in any case where it is proposed to intercept the communications of a parliamentarian, including Members of this House, Members of the House of Lords, UK MEPs and Members of the devolved legislatures, the Prime Minister will also be consulted.
The legislation that we are proposing today is unprecedented. It will provide unparalleled openness and transparency about our investigatory powers; it will provide the strongest safeguards and world-leading oversight arrangements; and it will give the men and women of our security and intelligence agencies and our law enforcement agencies, who do so much to keep us safe and secure, the powers they need to protect our country. I commend this statement to the House.
I welcome the Home Secretary’s comprehensive and detailed statement, and the advance notice that she provided.
Huge changes in technology have clearly left our laws outdated and made the job of the police and security services harder. In a world where the threats we face, internationally and domestically, are growing, Parliament cannot sit on its hands and leave blind spots where the authorities cannot see. This debate will be seen through the prism of extremism and terrorism, but, as the Home Secretary said, it is about much more. It is about child sexual exploitation, serious online fraud and other important functions, such as the location of missing people.
We support the Government in their attempt to update the law in this important and sensitive area. We share the Government’s goal of creating a world-class framework. The Opposition’s position is clear: strong powers must be balanced by strong safeguards for the public to protect privacy and long-held liberties. From what the Home Secretary has said today, it is clear to me that she and the Government have listened carefully to the concerns that were expressed about the draft Bill that was presented in the last Parliament. She has brought forward much stronger safeguards, particularly in the crucial area of judicial authorisation. It would help the future conduct of this important public debate if the House sent out the unified message today that this is neither a snooper’s charter, nor a plan for mass surveillance. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]
On behalf of the Opposition, I echo the Home Secretary’s thanks to the Intelligence and Security Committee, RUSI and, in particular, David Anderson, QC, who has done the House and the country a huge service by setting out the basis for a new consensus on these important matters. Will the Home Secretary tell us whether David Anderson has expressed a view on her draft Bill, whether he supports the measures within it and whether he is satisfied with the checks and balances on powers and safeguards?
The House will want reassurance that the Bill carries forward the safeguards from previous legislation, particularly the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, such as the threshold for the use of the most intrusive powers. Will the Home Secretary assure the House that the far-reaching powers of content interception will be used for only the most serious crimes, as was the case under the original legislation?
We welcome what the Home Secretary said about internet connection records and local authorities, but the House will have been listening carefully to what she said about data retention and bulk storage. Will she say more about what kind of data will be stored by the authorities, for how long it will be stored and whether the information will be held in anonymised form? That is important because public concern will have risen following the attack on data held by TalkTalk. People will have heard her say at the beginning of her statement that 90% of commercial organisations have experienced a data breach. What lessons has she drawn from the TalkTalk attack? Does she believe that there is a need to enhance the security of bulk storage arrangements in both public and private bodies?
On encryption, the Prime Minister spoke some months ago about the possibility of introducing a ban. Clearly, that is not the policy that the Home Secretary has just outlined. Will she explain the reason for the change in approach? Alongside the proposals on encryption, it is clear that the Bill will place a range of new legal duties on communications providers. Will she tell the House whether all the major providers support her proposals, including those who are based overseas? I listened carefully to what she said on that point. She implied that the measures in the Bill would not apply to organisations that are based overseas. That suggests that there is a large hole that the legislation will not cover. Will she say more about that and reassure us on whether there will be voluntary arrangements in that area?
Will the Home Secretary say whether the measures will apply to individuals? There is rapid change in the development of online applications, so we need to know whether individuals might be liable.
The whole House will welcome what the Home Secretary had to say about the Wilson doctrine, but she did not mention journalistic sources. Will she say whether the legislation will provide protection in such cases?
My predecessor made a key demand in the crucial area of authorisation, which I have reiterated. We are pleased that the Home Secretary has listened. The two-stage process that she advocates seems to have the merits of both arguments: it will provide public and political accountability, and the independence that is needed to build trust in the system. There may be a worry that it will build in delays. Will she say more about how the two-stage process will work in practice and how delays will be avoided? Will judges sign off warrants in all cases? If the Secretary of State and the judge come to different conclusions, who will have the final say?
Finally, as well as looking at the specific proposals in the Bill, it is important to look at the wider context in which they are being introduced. The Home Secretary will know that there are fears in some communities, particularly the Muslim community, that the powers will be used against them disproportionately. We have seen in the past how police powers have been wrongly used against trade unionists.
David Anderson rightly laid great emphasis on the need to build trust in the new framework. It does not help to create the right context when the Prime Minister suggests that the entire Muslim community quietly condones extremism, nor does it build confidence in the new Bill when, at the same time, the Government are legislating in the Trade Union Bill to impose new requirements on trade unionists in respect of the use of social media and on the monitoring of it by the police. As the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) said, “This isn’t Franco’s Britain”. Can the Home Secretary see that to continue to build on the trust she has created and the good start that she has made today, the Government should drop some of its more divisive rhetoric and measures, starting with the measures in the Trade Union Bill?
In conclusion, the issues the proposed legislation seeks to tackle go way beyond party politics. Any Government will face a difficult task in balancing the security of the nation with the privacy and liberties of individual citizens. As someone who was in the Home Office on 7/7, I know that that challenge has got harder in recent years. We will examine carefully the detail of the draft Bill and seek to improve the safeguards to build trust. Having listened carefully to what the Home Secretary has said today, I believe that she has responded to legitimate concerns and broadly got that difficult balance right.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the tone that he adopted for most of his response to my statement. I thank him for his willingness to understand and accept the importance of this legislation and for his clear comment that this is not mass surveillance. As he says, the message should go out very clearly from this House today that these are important powers that are necessary to keep us safe and secure, but that we must have the right safeguards.
The right hon. Gentleman asked a lot of questions. I will attempt to answer as many of them as possible, but if I miss any particular points I will respond to them in writing.
Before I come to the specific questions, I want to address the reference that he made to the Prime Minister at the end of his speech. I have to say to him that it was not justified by the tone that he adopted for the rest of his speech. What the Prime Minister has said, and what we are saying in our counter-extremism strategy—the strategy deals with extremism of all sorts, including Islamist extremism and neo-Nazi extremism—is that we want to work with people in communities and encourage mainstream voices. We want to work to ensure that, when people are in isolated communities, we identify the barriers that cause that isolation. That is why Louise Casey is doing the very important work she is doing. The characterisation of the Prime Minister that the right hon. Gentleman puts to the House is not one that I recognise.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about David Anderson’s view. I have had a private meeting with him on the matter and discussed it with him. We have taken virtually everything that he requested on board, but I do not think it is appropriate for me to say what his view is. That is for him to say separately. It was a private meeting and I just do not think it is appropriate for me to use it in that way.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to serious crimes. Yes, the measure will cover only the most serious crimes, as currently defined in RIPA. That definition will be brought into the legislation.
On the retention of communications data, it will be possible to require the intercept communications records to be retained for up to 12 months. That refers only to the front page of the website. As I have said, it is not exactly which pages within a website that people have been looking at, but just the fact of access to a website or communications device.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about recent cyber-attacks. The message we take from those is very simple: as criminals are moving into more online crime, we need to ensure that our law enforcement agencies have the power to deal with that cybercrime and work in that online space, which is precisely what today is about.
On encryption, the current requirement, which is in secondary legislation, that those companies issued with a warrant should take reasonable steps to respond to it in unencrypted form, is being put on the face of the legislation, but we are not banning encryption. We recognise that encryption plays an important part in keeping people’s details secure.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about providers. There may be a slight misunderstanding about requirements on overseas providers. There are some elements that we are not now requiring of overseas providers, but we retain the extra-territorial jurisdiction of our warrantry. It is still our view that we should be able to exercise against an overseas provider a warrant issued here in the UK. The work of Nigel Sheinwald, of which hon. Members will be aware, suggested that there was scope for a greater form of international agreement in this area. The Government will continue to look at that.
On journalistic sources, I did not mention it, but we will include in the legislation what we included in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 code earlier this year: access to communications data to identify a journalist’s source will require judicial authorisation.
The point of the double lock is that both parties have to authorise the warrant for it to go ahead. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the time delays. There will be an urgent process, so it will be possible for a Secretary of State to sign an urgent warrant that will come immediately into effect. There will then be a period of time within which the judge will have to review it and make a decision on whether it should continue. We will look to ensure that, in that urgent process, the time delay is as little as possible between those two parts of the process. As I have said, the purpose of a double lock is that, in most circumstances, we will have that double authorisation.
In view of the size of the Bill, I will confine myself solely to the judicial authorisation aspects of it. Will the Secretary of State tell the House whether the measure will replace all 66 statutory approval mechanisms for intercept and use of communications data? Will the judiciary involved in the authorisation procedures be appointed by the Judicial Appointments Commission or by the Prime Minister? Will Members of Parliament get the same protections on communications data, to which she referred, that are being extended to journalists? My understanding is that that is not the case.
In relation to the warrantry that will be subject to the double lock and the process of interception, where the process currently requires a warrant signed just by the Secretary of State, it will in future have the double lock. Additional processes will be introduced in relation to some of the bulk capabilities to which I referred. Obviously, we have to appoint the investigatory powers commissioner. There will then be a process to determine who should be under the commissioner and the areas of expertise they should have. I have said to the Justice Secretary in Scotland and the Minister of Justice in Northern Ireland that we would expect to ensure that Scottish and Northern Ireland expertise is available to the commissioner.
I thank the Home Secretary for her statement. Her last Bill on this fraught but important subject hit the buffers. The current Bill is a much-improved model, although I have the feeling that, under the bonnet, it retains some of the flaws of its predecessor. The Home Office has clearly put in a lot of work, which I welcome, as I do the dropping of some of the key provisions on third-party data and encryption. I am a little confused by the advance briefings on the Bill: some suggest that it is a radical departure from its predecessor, and others suggest that much of it is the same. It cannot be both, and the devil will be in the detail.
On judicial authorisation, the Home Secretary has set out a somewhat complex double-lock compromise that may incur stop-start delays. I heard what she said earlier, but I wonder whether it would not be simpler and faster to provide for direct judicial authorisation. I should like to understand from her why she has not decided to do that.
On web browsing, I strongly welcome what looks at first like a significantly more proportionate and targeted approach, but will the Home Secretary explain why it is still necessary to hold such large amounts of data retrospectively for a considerable period of time?
Finally, will the Home Secretary tell the House why she has not acted on the commitment she made in the last Parliament to establish a proper US-style privacy and civil liberties board to provide reasoned scrutiny on such Bills in future?
The right hon. Gentleman says that there was some confused briefing. Different reports appeared in newspapers, but that is not necessarily the result of briefing. The situation on the Bill is what I have set out today in my statement—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown) says that I went on TV. I said on TV exactly what I am about to say to the House in relation to the difference between the Bill and the draft Communications Data Bill, which is that some of the more contentious elements are not in the current Bill. For example, the requirement for UK communications service providers to retain and access third-party data from overseas providers is not in the Bill, nor is the web browsing provision, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, and nor is the provision that would have placed on US and overseas providers the same data retention requirements and obligations that apply to UK service providers.
On judicial authorisation, the double lock provides both judicial independence, but also, crucially, public accountability. That is what we get through membership of the House.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned retrospective data. I put to him the case of the abducted child. We want to see who that child or young person was in contact with before they were abducted. We can do that through telephone records, but we cannot do it if they were using a social media app. That is what the intercept communications records enable us to do.
I welcome the Home Secretary’s statement. The Intelligence and Security Committee will, working in co-operation with the Joint Committee, provide scrutiny for the proposed legislation. In that context, my right hon. Friend referred to the earlier report of the ISC in March, in which there were 54 specific recommendations. While I appreciate that, in part, the draft Bill may be seen as a response to those recommendations, there is a duty on the Government to provide a specific response to the ISC report. May I urge her that, in the course of the next few weeks and while the debate takes place, the Government should provide such a response—it can be in quite a short form—to those 54 recommendations, because that will enable the House and the public to identify those areas that need to be looked at in the course of the debate, and to identify what has been taken on board and what, perfectly properly, has been rejected by the Government? I seek an assurance from her today that that will happen.
Of course, the ISC report went wider than investigatory powers, but I can reassure my right hon. and learned Friend that, in relation to those aspects that dealt with such powers, in a sense the new Bill is a response to the report. As he knows, we have been considering very carefully the full set of recommendations from the previous ISC and will respond to him and his Committee in a timely fashion.
I thank the Home Secretary for her statement, its tone and the care taken to address many of the concerns raised. I also thank her for the conversations I have had with her and her Ministers in advance of the publication of the draft Bill and for having confirmed to me that a Member of the Scottish National party will serve on the Joint Committee that will scrutinise it. I would be grateful if she could confirm that she will continue her open-door policy.
We have our political differences, and I am sure there will be some over the content of the draft Bill—as the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr Clegg) said, the devil is in the detail, so we will have to scrutinise it carefully—but I think we all agree that we have a responsibility to protect the rights of our fellow citizens while being realistic about the threats we face. We live in dangerous times, with threats of asymmetric conflict and an accelerating pace of technological change that unfortunately is often first embraced by those who mean us harm. It is only right when we discuss these issues that we put on the record our appreciation of those charged with keeping us safe—the police and the intelligence services—but we should also thank campaigning groups such as Liberty, Justice and Amnesty that remind us daily why it is important to protect our civil liberties, which were won and protected at the cost of the lives of the many people we will be remembering this Remembrance Sunday.
As David Anderson said in his report, the law in this area needs a thorough overhaul. We need a modern and comprehensive law that can cope with the challenges of modern technology while taking account of human rights and civil liberties, particularly the right to privacy. Only time and careful scrutiny will tell whether the draft Bill fulfils the aims he underlined, but I would be interested to hear if the Home Secretary thinks that the Bill meets his key recommendations.
Other countries are watching what we do, and it is important we get it right. SNP Members believe that access to private communications must always be necessary, targeted and proportionate, and I would be grateful if the Home Secretary could confirm that she agrees with us. Safeguards are crucial, and there is a debate about the oversight of access to communications, particularly about who authorises warrants. In common with many Members on both sides of the House, we hold that judicial oversight and authorisation might largely be the answer to the concerns, but we are concerned that a hybrid system—involving both political and judicial authorisation—might add an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy and lead to error and delay in urgent situations. Can she give us any comfort in that regard?
I am nearly finished.
I welcome the Home Secretary’s indication that protection of all parliamentarians’ communications will be put on a statutory footing, but will that protection extend to people communicating with parliamentarians, such as our constituents, whistleblowers and campaigners, and will there be not just oversight by the Prime Minister, but judicial oversight?
Finally, and briefly but importantly, the Bill concerns not only issues of national security but the investigation of serious crime, and accordingly it will impinge on areas devolved to the Scottish Parliament. Will the Home Secretary confirm that she is aware of this and that a legislative consent motion will be required in due course, and that she has engaged, and will continue to engage, with the Scottish Government?
On the hon. and learned Lady’s point about an open door, I have already spoke to Michael Matheson about the Bill, and my officials have been, and will continue to be, in touch with Scottish Government officials. I am well aware that it impinges on matters devolved to the Scottish Government—the operation of Police Scotland and the signature of warrantry relating to law enforcement powers—and we will work with them. There is a question about whether a legislative consent motion is necessary, but officials are working through that and considering whether it would be appropriate.
I recognise that the Scottish Government have raised the timing of warrantry. We have every confidence that the process will not add greater bureaucracy, but will add the necessary independent judicial authorisation. In emergency warrant cases, the Secretary of State will be able to authorise a warrant immediately, but that will be followed by a speedy review by the judge to ensure there is still authorisation.
The hon. and learned Lady asked if David Anderson’s recommendations, particularly about the Bill’s being comprehensive, had been met. I genuinely believe that this is a clearer and more comprehensible and comprehensive Bill, although given its length, some Members might wonder how I can say that. It is an important Bill that will set out much more clearly the different powers available to the authorities. She asked about necessity and proportionality. Of course, warrants will still be judged on whether they are necessary and proportionate—that will still be the test applied by the Secretary of State to any warrants signed. On the issue of liberty versus security, some people think it is a zero-sum game—that if we increase one, we reduce the other—but I am clear that we cannot enjoy our liberty until we have our security.
Our success in preventing numerous attacks on the public, to which the Home Secretary rightly paid tribute, is down not just to the professionalism and skill of our security services, but to the rapid decision-making process for warrants. As she and I know acutely, this is a very serious responsibility, but I strongly believe that these decisions should be made by an elected Member of the House, accountable to the House and Committees such as the ISC. I am concerned that involving a decision maker from the judiciary, who might not have particular skills in this area, will bring delay and complication. As Secretary of State, I was often approached at short notice and at difficult times of the day—early morning, for example—for a decision, and in making such decisions, I was fully aware that I would be held to account later. Will she explain further how this system will work? How many hours after an early-morning decision by a Secretary of State will there be scrutiny by the judge? Will the Secretary of State be able to discuss the areas of concern, and will the intelligence services, which prepare the material—I always found it to be punctilious, correct and professionally drafted—have an opportunity to return with a further application with further detail, if the Secretary of State has understood the judge’s grounds for throwing out an application?
As he said, in his former role as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, my right hon. Friend did indeed witness the process of warrant approval. I am conscious of the need to ensure that warrants can be put in place within a reasonable timeframe. There are already agreements between the Home Office and the Security Service about the time needed for a Secretary of State to deal with a warrant and for officials to process the warrantry, and we would expect to come to similar agreements with the judicial commissioners in order to make clear the time in which a warrant needs to be considered.
The judicial commissioners, in considering the warrants under the powers they will be given, will apply the same principle as applied by a court on an application for judicial review, but in an emergency a Secretary of State will be able to authorise a warrant immediately. In normal circumstances, the double lock will be required for a warrant to be exercised, but in an emergency it will be possible to exercise it purely on the Secretary of State’s authorisation. The Bill makes it clear that the judicial commissioners should review that decision within five days and decide whether the warrant can continue or should be stopped, and if it is stopped, whether the material gained from it should be kept in certain circumstances or destroyed.
Today the Home Secretary has ripped up RIPA—a piece of legislation that has been unfit for purpose. I particularly welcome the ban on local authorities accessing information about their own citizens. Although I welcome the additional judicial scrutiny, I have some concerns. Who will train the judges to deal with this very complex area? We shall need a panel of judges and a lot of expertise. Will she continue working with the internet providers to ensure that we track people of interest? I know that the Home Secretary said that the information is equivalent to an itemised bill, but there is a lot of information in an itemised bill. If I were to look at her itemised telephone bill and she were to look at mine, we might be surprised at who we were telephoning. [Interruption.]
I think that in their sedentary suggestion my hon. Friends made the right response to that particular point: “Speak for yourself!” There is an issue with the judicial panel, and a number of judges will need to be brought together. It is not the first time that changes have been made in matters relating to national security, where judges have to deal with them in different circumstances from which they have dealt with them previously. Judges are used to making independent decisions on a judicial review basis and on the basis of the law as they know it. Of course, a Secretary of State who, like me, has been in the position for some time will have seen a history of national security operations, for example, that provides a level of experience that would not be there the first time a judge looked at this. Ensuring that the judges are aware of that national security background will, I am sure, be part of the process. I have more faith in the judiciary and its ability to work independently than the right hon. Gentleman perhaps does.
I agree with the Home Secretary about the importance of putting faith in the ability of the judiciary. What consultation will she have with the Lord Chief Justice on the selection of members of the panel that will be appropriately security vetted? Can she ensure, for example, that an appropriate senior judge is available to be on call on a 24-hour basis, as is perfectly common in other types of judicial review proceedings so that delay is minimised? Will she also provide more detail on how the appointment of the judicial commissioners will take place and who will be responsible for it? Finally, will she give an undertaking that the ambition to introduce the Bill by the spring will in no way truncate the pre-legislative scrutiny of the Joint Committee?
On the last point, we will be talking to the Chairman of the Joint Scrutiny Committee, when appointed, about the appropriate timetable. Although we have the deadline of December 2016, we want to ensure that the process of scrutiny by the Joint Committee is a proper one, and the timetable will reflect that. On the judicial commissioners and the investigatory powers commissioner, we have already had some discussions at official level with the judiciary, as my hon. Friend might imagine. We would not be putting these provisions into legislation unless we had spoken to the judiciary about the requirements. Discussions about the precise elements that my hon. Friend and others have raised about the choice and number of judicial commissioners will be ongoing.
The police and the agencies will agree with what the Home Secretary and the shadow Home Secretary have said about the need both for powers to deal with serious threats and for safeguards that are needed in a democracy. I welcome the Home Secretary’s agreement to judicial authorisation and her significant points about transparency, both of which issues reflect the David Anderson report.
I want to ask particularly about the investigatory powers commissioner. It sounds like something we have called for, but will that commissioner be accountable to the Executive and to the Prime Minister, which has limited the operation of some of the existing commissioners, or will he be accountable instead to Parliament or to the ISC? How will this interact with the existing counter-terror reviewer? I think David Anderson has done an extremely good job in that role.
On the right hon. Lady’s last point, there is no intention to change the role of the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation. As she will know, we have made some adaptations to that role in respect of what it covers and the reporting requirements, but there is no intention to change that role. Indeed, we are having discussions with David Anderson, ensuring that he has extra support for the role he is required to carry out.
I apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) and others who have raised this issue. The appointment of the investigatory powers commission will be a prime ministerial one, and the Prime Minister will appoint such members of other judicial commissions as are considered necessary. The Bill will set out the relevant qualifications that judicial commissioners will need to have to undertake their role.
As the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) will know, the existing commissioners report annually on the work they undertake. It is a great pity that that part of our process of oversight has never really been seen by the public, precisely because the reports usually show that the agencies are doing a very good job, so do not hit the headlines in the way that different sorts of reports would. We expect the independent investigatory powers commissioner to ensure that recommendations are made and to make public any views on the processes that emerge.
Constituents of mine who work at GCHQ are some of the most talented and dedicated public servants anywhere in our country, but they are also conscientious and scrupulous about acting within the law. Does the Secretary of State agree that these measures contain a clear authorisation and oversight framework, including a welcome judicial element, which can command public confidence and, crucially, allow GCHQ employees to do their vital work with professionalism and pride?
My hon. Friend does well in speaking for his constituents who work at GCHQ, and indeed for all who work at GCHQ. Obviously, I have met and dealt with a number of them, and with our other security agencies such as the Secret Intelligence Service and MI5. I can confirm what my hon. Friend says—these people act with extreme professionalism in the work they do, and take extreme care with the powers they exercise. They are very conscious of the powers they hold and they are very careful in the exercise of them. As my hon. Friend says, the Bill provides the important strong oversight arrangements that will enable the people at GCHQ and our other agencies to get on with the job they do so well, day in and day out.
However much we all agree that action is necessary to combat terrorism and other forms of criminality, I remain concerned, even if I am one of only a few who is, about the excessive powers that will be given to the security authorities in addition to what they already have, although judicial involvement is better than no judicial involvement. I hope the Home Secretary will bear in mind the fact that there is a good deal of concern outside this House. I certainly believe that if this measure were to be passed without substantial amendment, it would be unfortunate and a bitter blow for civil liberties.
The hon. Gentleman says that he thinks there are substantial new powers in the Bill, but I have to tell him that there are not. What the Bill primarily does is to bring together the powers that are spread across a number of pieces of legislation—mainly RIPA, but others too—into one single piece of legislation in a much clearer and more comprehensible form than has previously been the case. There is a new power in respect of the retention of the internet connection—with limited access to internet connection records—but the other powers in the Bill already exist. What it will do is strengthen safeguards and strengthen authorisation systems.
I welcome the Home Secretary’s careful and thoughtful approach to this sensitive area, which is so important for all our safety, and I particularly welcome the new provisions on judicial oversight. If my right hon. Friend anticipates that additional specialist training will be required by members of the judiciary to fulfil the widened remit she has outlined today, will it be possible to ensure that there is no delay in putting the necessary training in place? Will she be able to carry it out in advance and in anticipation of the legislation passing through the House?
I thank my right hon. Friend, who is absolutely right. We shall take every step to ensure that as soon as the legislation is in place, the new processes and structures will be brought into operation. That means ensuring that those appointed as the investigatory powers commissioner and additional commissioners have the necessary training to enable them to undertake the role we are giving them.
The Secretary of State will be aware that when in the past she has sought support from the DUP on national security issues, it has always been willingly given. Sometimes, however, we find it hard to take when the Government do not tackle serious and organised crime on the ground in Northern Ireland. Ministers could take immediate measures with statutory instruments to address serious and organised fuel crime, and they should do that urgently. More directly, does the Secretary of State recognise that some of the major godfathers of serious and organised crime will be in direct communication with some political representatives in Northern Ireland? To avoid the debacle that we had over the National Crime Agency, she should avoid a legislative consent motion for Northern Ireland.
I, and others in the House, worked hard to ensure that the National Crime Agency was able to operate in Northern Ireland, and it is now tackling serious and organised crime there just as in the rest of the United Kingdom. I am not aware that a legislative consent motion would be necessary in Northern Ireland, but we will be talking to the Northern Ireland Executive about such matters, just as we will be talking to the Scottish Government.
I thank my right hon. Friend for coming to the House today and setting out such a comprehensive approach to these issues. She is right to do so because they affect fundamentally the civil liberties and rights of every citizen in the country. Parliament will need to look precisely at the words in the Bill, not least because—she alluded to this—there has been a certain amount of spin in the papers recently and we must be clear about what is suggested. On warrantry, from time to time I deputised for the Home Secretary and for my right hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson), and I am inclined to agree that the dual key is the right way to proceed. Does she accept that the judges appointed must not be those who work too closely with the police and security services—for example the Special Immigration Appeals Commission—because their independence will not be trusted or accepted by the general public if they are given such a role?
I thank my right hon. Friend for his work—as he said, he sometimes signed warrants on my behalf and that of other Secretaries of State. Those appointed as judicial commissioners must have held high judicial office—we are setting a high threshold for those appointed to this role. Because such extra, strengthened oversight is an important part of the Bill, those who are appointed must be seen by members of the public to have the independence that is required to give extra confidence in the whole process of warrantry.
The Home Secretary must be aware that there is wide acceptance of her statement in the House, and Members will consider the details of the legislation in due course. One question from Members of this House and the other UK legislatures is whether she is happy that the combination of the triple lock, as she described it, is the best way to ensure that extra safeguarding is provided?
Yes I am, and I apologise because I think one or two Members have already raised that issue. It is important to introduce the extra element—the third element—of consultation with the Prime Minister, so that everybody in the House will be clear about requests to intercept the communications of a Member of this House, the House of Lords, or the other legislatures. We will discuss with the Scottish Government the process that will be introduced for warrants that are currently signed by Scottish Ministers. That third lock is the right way to go, and I hope that will give people confidence in the process.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her statement, and the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) on his remarks about the snoopers charter misnomer. The difficulty we often face is when the use and abuse of intelligence leads to poor policy decisions—I am thinking particularly of the September 2002 dodgy dossier from which I am afraid the reputation of the intelligence services has yet to fully recover. What can be done further to improve public understanding of the work that the intelligence services do on their behalf? I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend for her remarks about the double lock and the investigatory powers commissioner, and for the fact that her statement draws on the three reports to which she referred. That is a good first step although I am sure she feels that more could be done. What more can we do as the Bill passes through the House?
My hon. Friend raises an important point about highlighting to members of the public the nature of the work being done by the agencies and the way they do it. A number of steps have already been taken, and I am sure we will build on them to ensure that the public have that confidence. Recently, the agencies have been more willing to come forward and explain what they do to members of the public—the director general of MI5 gave a live interview on the “Today” programme, and that is the first time any of our agency heads have given such an interview. Anybody who has read The Times over the past couple of weeks will have seen a considerable amount of reporting on the operations of GCHQ. Such things are important because they help the public to understand what our agencies are doing.
It is important that Members of the House make clear to people exactly what the Government are proposing, and the strength and safeguards in the Bill. I refer the hon. Gentleman to the review by David Anderson on these matters, in which he cited polling that showed that the majority of members of the public wanted the authorities and agencies to have the powers they need to keep us safe.
My hon. Friend makes an important point. I met representatives from groups who support and campaign for victims of crime, including child sexual abuse, rape and stalking. They made it very clear that the Government must ensure that the police and others are able to use the powers necessary to bring the perpetrators of these terrible crimes to justice.
A few weeks ago at the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, the Government’s QC, Mr James Eadie, seemed to argue—on the Home Secretary’s behalf and at public expense—that modern technology had rendered the Wilson doctrine impractical, and that it was not up to much anyway. Now that the doctrine has been reborn in the Home Secretary’s statement, will she say what has happened to modern technology over the past few weeks that has now made practical what was impractical? How will that protection extend to journalists, campaigners and whistleblowers who may be contacting their MP or MSP?
I am not sure that I recognise the right hon. Gentleman’s description of references to modern technology. I was clear in the statement that I gave to the House less than two weeks ago that the Wilson doctrine still exists. We are putting the third lock of consultation with the Prime Minister in the legislation. Over time a mythology has grown up around what the Wilson doctrine meant. Many Members of the House felt that it meant that no communication by MPs would ever be intercepted, but that is not what the doctrine said.
If the first duty of the Government is the protection of the realm, their second duty is to ensure that those protections are fit for purpose—my right hon. Friend the Secretary and the Minister for Security have passed that test with flying colours and are to be congratulated. The Home Secretary mentioned in passing the benefits that her proposals will bring when clamping down on paedophiles and child sexual exploitation, and as a father of three young children I welcome that, as do all my constituents. Will she flesh out a little further what benefits she sees for the services that are involved in clamping down on such pernicious activity? What benefits will her proposals actually deliver?
My hon. Friend has raised an important issue. Let me give him just one example. Following a recent survey of more than 6,000 cases, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre determined that more than 860 paedophiles could not be identified precisely because it did not have the internet connection records power that we are introducing in the Bill. With that power, it would have been able to identify them.
Under Operation Notarise, more than 30,000 individuals were identified as engaging in online child abuse, but, if I recall correctly, only 1,000 of those cases were followed up. Will the new powers be matched by resources to ensure that prosecutions and safeguarding interventions can take place as well?
As I said a moment ago to my hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset (Simon Hoare), the increased power relating to internet connection records will increase the ability of CEOP—and, indeed, others—to identify the paedophiles who are committing these horrific crimes. The National Crime Agency has made very clear that it continues to investigate those who are looking at online images of child abuse, and continues to take action against them.
I welcome the fact that the proposed powers update the existing investigatory powers to reflect the existence of new technologies such as Facebook Messenger, which were not even thought of a decade ago, but what reassurance can the Home Secretary give the House that the Bill will be future-proofed so that we do not have to return to the issue very rapidly?
I have every confidence, because we have taken every care to draft the legislation in such a way that it will last for a good many years and will take account of the fact that new technologies develop. The draft Communications Data Bill was drawn so widely that there was great concern about what the authorities might have been able to do as a result, so we have had to balance the requirements very carefully, but we are obviously very conscious of the need to ensure that the Bill enables us to move forward as technology develops.
I welcome the statement, but it appears that every application to the Secretary of State and the judge will involve limited provision for investigative accessibility. Will applicants have to go back to the Secretary of State and the judge to make a secondary, or further, application every time something is found during an investigative process?
The requirement for a double lock relates to the most intrusive powers, mainly those relating to the interception of communications. Access to communications data will continue to take place according to the current process, which does not involve warrantry from the Secretary of State. Not everything in the Bill involves the warrantry; it is involved only in those most intrusive powers.
My right hon. Friend is to be congratulated particularly on the introduction of independent judicial oversight, which, as she will know, many Members in all parts of the House regard as an essential step towards ensuring that she can promote both the security of the people and their civil liberties. As she says, security and civil liberties are not a zero-sum game; they go together.
In relation to the double lock, has my right hon. Friend considered any kind of reconciliation mechanism to enable the judge and the Home Secretary to resolve the position—presumably over some time—if they reach different decisions, or will the intelligence services be able to come back again so that warrants are not simply lost?
That is an important point. I think that it was touched on in a previous question, and I apologise for not responding to it then.
Under the current system, if the Secretary of State expresses the view that a warrant should not be issued, it is open to the agency concerned to go away, reconsider, and then come back with more information about necessity and proportionality, or to abandon the warrant, or to consider applying for a different warrant. That process will continue to be possible under the new system.
As the Home Secretary has acknowledged, David Anderson called for prior judicial authorisation. He also said that the new law should comply with international human rights standards. Given the uncertainty over the future of the Human Rights Act, will the Home Secretary confirm that the Bill will comply with that Act, and with the European convention on human rights?
As the hon. Gentleman will know, Ministers have to take account of the human rights issue in relation to any legislation that they present to the House. That has indeed happened, and I have every confidence that this legislation will comply with human rights requirements.
I welcome the Home Secretary’s balanced approach. Is it not important for us to continue to reassure the public that this is not a proposal for mass surveillance, and to restate the essential need for the Bill? There is a new form of technology that is effectively shielded from the law enforcement and intelligence agencies simply because the law has not kept up with technological development, and it is therefore necessary to update the law with essential safeguards in order to ensure that the public are safe.
As I think was mentioned by the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry), other countries look to this legislation precisely because they feel that we are forging a path ahead. They will be looking very closely at what we do in the Bill, and, indeed, may wish to adopt some elements of it in their own legislation.
Will the Home Secretary comment on what was said recently by Lord Carlile, the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation? He said:
“Judges are, of course, very good quality men and women”,
“if judges are going to authenticate these issues, they have to learn about national security”.
We have heard about three reports that had influenced the Government’s thinking. Will the Home Secretary tell us who else they consulted when they were drafting the Bill? I am thinking particularly of communications companies and internet providers.
My hon. Friend has quoted Lord Carlile, who, as she said, is a former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation. It will, of course, be necessary for any judicial commissioners who undertake the warrantry to be aware of the context in which they make decisions in relation to national security in particular. There have been a great many meetings with internet service providers from both the United Kingdom and overseas. The Security Minister and I have held round tables with United States internet service providers, and I met some when I was in the United States in September. We have also held round tables with United Kingdom providers, civil liberties groups, and charities representing victims of these serious crimes.
I welcome the tone and nature of the statement, but may I ask the Home Secretary what in particular led her to decide that 12 months was the right maximum period for the police and security agencies to benefit from data retention?
It is the period that is currently in legislation that we reinforced in the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014. We looked at it again following the Digital Rights Ireland decision by the European Court of Justice. It had previously been possible to hold data for up to 24 months, but we felt that, given the need for a balance between not holding data for too long and holding data for a sufficient period to do the job required by the authorities, up to 12 months was the right and appropriate time frame.
I, too, welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement.. When we talk about nefarious online activity, we should bear in mind that cyber-bullying is a very worrying activity which often involves young, vulnerable people and, in the most serious cases, has led to suicides. In those most serious cases, could the new powers be used to put the perpetrators behind bars?
My hon. Friend is right to raise the issue of cyber-bullying, which affects the lives of too many young people—sometimes, as he said, with tragic consequences. The Bill will include a definition of serious crime, which is one of the areas in which it is possible for the agencies to apply for the most intrusive powers, such as interception warrantry. I would expect cyber-bullying, at the most serious end, to come within the definition, but I will check that point and write to my hon. Friend.
Does the Bill deal with the process of applying to go through browsing history—the directory to which the Home Secretary referred? If there are no such regulatory procedures in the Bill at the moment, might the Home Secretary think about a system whereby somebody at the rank of chief superintendent, for example, would give initial permission under RIPA criteria?
It will not be possible for law enforcement agencies to access browsing history; they will just be able to access the first device or social media site that the individual device accessed, for the limited purposes I have set out—IP resolution, to see whether somebody is looking at an illegal website or to find out the communications services accessed. The arrangements for authorisation are those in existence for communications data in telephony, which were looked at by the Joint Committee on the draft Communications Data Bill. It felt that that was the right process to lead to serious and proper consideration of access—albeit not the browsing history—and that the right measures were already being taken in that authorisation process.
Order. I do not wish to embarrass any individual hon. Member, but may I just gently point out that a Member who was not here at the start of the statement or who has gone in and out of the Chamber during the course of it should not be standing and expecting to be called? We have a very long-established practice that a Member must be present at the start of a statement and remain present throughout the exchanges, and I think on the whole the House will think that is a very proper courtesy.
I welcome the statement, which will help make the country safer and prevent local authorities from accessing communications data. The Home Secretary rightly condemned the extraordinary claim by the shadow Home Secretary in an otherwise positive response that the Prime Minister had said that the entire Muslim population condoned extremism. Will she confirm that in his speech on 7 October the Prime Minister specifically recognised the value of religious teaching across all religions, but said that the teaching of intolerance or separatism was not acceptable? Does the Home Secretary also agree that many of us know good examples of Islamic teaching in our constituencies and the message today is very clear: we should unite against extremism using all modern tools appropriately, and if there is nothing to hide, there is nothing to fear?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. In the speech to which he refers, the Prime Minister welcomed and recognised the important role that faith teaching plays in our society. We all wish to see an end to intolerance, separatism and division among those who would seek to divide our communities. That is why our counter-extremism strategy is so important.
As the home affairs spokesman for my party, I commend the Secretary of State for the reassurances given in her statement and her statements over the weekend about what is in the Bill, and perhaps more importantly, about what is not in it. We are grateful for those indications. There was an exchange earlier about the composition of the Joint Committee. May I encourage the Home Secretary to consider making sure that its composition reflects this House and more importantly the regions of this United Kingdom—that Northern Ireland’s voice can be present in those discussions to ensure that the legislation is drafted in full cognisance of the effects and impacts in Northern Ireland?
As the hon. Gentleman may recognise, decisions about the composition of Committees are taken by the business managers in the House, but I can assure him that it is my intention, as I indicated to David Ford when I spoke to him yesterday, that my officials will continue to work with Northern Ireland officials. Ministers will be available to speak to Ministers in Northern Ireland about these matters to ensure that we take into account the considerations in relation to Northern Ireland as this Bill goes through its scrutiny and through this House.
I welcome the Secretary of State’s comments that local authorities will be banned from accessing these sort of data. Can she give a little more information about the extension of the life of a warrant for any period and about data-sharing among those who are able to access those warrants—or will each authority have to access their own separate warrant?