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Government Transparency

Volume 621: debated on Thursday 23 February 2017

I have today laid before the House the second iteration of the Government transparency report on the use of disruptive and investigatory powers (CM 9420). Copies of the report will be made available in the Vote Office.

In view of the ongoing threat from terrorism, which remains at “Severe”, meaning an attack is highly likely, and the persistent threats from organised crime and hostile state activity, it is vital that our law enforcement, and security and intelligence agencies can use disruptive and investigatory powers to counter those threats and to keep the public safe. This report sets out the way in which those powers are used by the agencies and the independent oversight which governs their use.

This Government remain committed to increasing the transparency of the work of our security and intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and this next iteration of the transparency report is a key part of that commitment. Since the last report was published, the Government have published extensive material on the use of investigatory powers. And the passage through Parliament of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 saw more information about the work of the agencies put into the public domain than ever before. The transparency report builds on that.

It is split into two main sections. The first includes statistics on the use of disruptive and investigatory powers, explains their utility, and outlines the legal frameworks that ensure they can only be used when necessary and proportionate.

The second section explains the roles of the commissioners, and other bodies, that provide independent oversight and scrutiny of the use of the powers. The report also provides an overview of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 and points to changes which will occur once the Act is implemented.

Publishing this report ensures that the public are able to access, in one place, a guide to the range of powers used to combat threats to the security of the United Kingdom, the extent of their use and the safeguards and oversight in place to ensure they are used properly. It is designed to be read in conjunction with the annual reports on the counter-terrorism (CONTEST) and serious and organised crime strategies.

Of course, there remain limits to what can be said publicly about the use of certain sensitive techniques, because to go too far could aid criminals and terrorists, encouraging them to change their behaviour in order to evade detection. However, it is vital the public are confident that the security and intelligence, and law enforcement agencies have the powers they need to protect the public, and the knowledge that those powers are used proportionately.