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Draft Investigatory Powers Bill

Volume 604: debated on Monday 11 January 2016

1. If she will ensure that the proposals in the draft Investigatory Powers Bill are limited to the police and security services. (902903)

A small number of public authorities have the ability to use investigatory powers where it is necessary, proportionate and for limited purposes. All public authorities that have powers to acquire communications data have made a strong operational case to retain those powers. In his review of investigatory powers, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson QC, said that there was no public interest in reducing the number of such bodies.

The United Nations has condemned the Bill, which introduces mass surveillance, as having a chilling effect. Will the Home Secretary be kind enough to clarify how many organisations, including local authorities, and employees would have access to communications data as a result of the draft Bill?

I assure my hon. Friend that the United Kingdom does not and has not participated in, or undertaken, mass surveillance. The investigatory powers in the Bill are necessary, and they are used proportionately by the police and other agencies. They are particularly important for the police, including those in his own Hertfordshire force, in dealing with not just terrorists and serious criminals, but the area of child protection, in which he has a particular interest. There is only one new power in the draft Investigatory Powers Bill, which is access to internet connection records, and I can reassure my hon. Friend that local authorities will not have access to such records.

The Secretary of State will be aware of concerns among journalists that these powers, which the security services and the police need to keep us safe, might have a chilling effect on their ability to publish and to report. What steps is she taking to try to guarantee free speech for journalists within the Bill while enabling the security services and the police to have access to the information that they require to keep us safe?

I am well aware of the concerns of journalists, specifically about the powers to access information that might lead to the identification of their sources. They feel that that could have a chilling effect. We have already made a change in the code of practice to require a higher level of judicial authority to allow access to something that could relate to journalists’ sources, and we will legislate on that in the draft Investigatory Powers Bill.

The David Anderson report refers to Cambridgeshire county council’s Operation Magpie, which relied on communications data to protect more than 100 elderly and vulnerable persons from attempts to defraud them. Does the Secretary of State agree that such operations may benefit from the powers in the Bill to protect the most vulnerable?

My hon. and learned Friend raises a very important case, and provides a good example of why it is necessary sometimes for local authorities, such as Cambridgeshire county council, to have access to such powers so that they can do that important job of keeping people safe. After the Government were elected in 2010, we increased the requirements on local authorities in terms of gaining access to the most intrusive surveillance powers, but as she makes clear, in trading standards and other such areas, these powers are necessary to keep people safe.