Clause 1: Powers for retention of relevant communications data subject to safeguards
1: Clause 1, page 1, line 5, leave out “considers” and insert “believes”
My Lords, Amendment 1 is an amendment of modest pretensions, but I think it significant and worthy of the attention of the House. What it does is address the use of the word “considers” in Clause 1(1) and proposes that that word be replaced by the word “believes”. To make sense of that, I hope that noble Lords will find it helpful if I say that this is a key clause because it gives the Secretary of State the power to issue retention notices to telecommunications operators. As we know, that class of people includes all great companies in the internet and web world. It allows the Secretary of State to issue a retention notice so that they in turn have to retain what are called “relevant communications data” according to that notice.
However—and this is the important point—the Secretary of State can do that only in certain circumstances: namely, according to the clause, when he or she,
“considers that the requirement is necessary and proportionate”.
My dissatisfaction with that formulation is simply that, in Sections 22, 28 and 29 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which bestow comparable powers on the officeholders there mentioned, precisely the same formulation contains the word “believes” rather than “considers”. In precisely comparable circumstances, where necessity and proportionality must be present, the officeholder concerned has to believe in that necessity and proportionality.
Some may think, “Well, what’s the difference?”—and, indeed, that is the key question. I think that there is a difference. I think that “believes” is a stronger requirement than “considers”. I looked at the Oxford English Dictionary definition of the two words. “Consider” is defined thus: “think carefully” about something—typically before making a decision. On the other hand, “believe” is defined as “accept the truth … of”—feel sure of the truth of whatever it is. That is what I thought before looking up the words in the dictionary, but I was surprised in discussions with the office of the parliamentary draftsmen to find that there is considerable doubt on their part that there is any difference in this context between “considers” and “believes”. If that be so, to agree my amendment will not change the purport of the Bill one iota—but if on the other hand I am right and there is a significant difference, it would be wise and proper of us to insert “believes” rather than “considers”.
Since Clause 1 refers expressly to Section 22 of RIPA 2000, I am bound to say that I think that a court—we have many noble and learned former judges here and I hope that they will add their opinion—would seek, given a difference of wording, to render a difference of meaning as between Section 22 of RIPA 2000 and what will be Section 1 of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act. As a long-in-the-tooth lawyer, that is the way that I am working, which seems to me to be right and proper.
Why do I think that the amendment is worth while? I am at one with a huge number of our fellow citizens outside this place who are extremely unhappy about the whole of this Bill and the method and manner in which it has been brought forward. The fact that, this very day, we are going to complete all stages is an indication of the radical nature of the procedures adopted to push this Bill through, as was the case in the Commons the day before yesterday.
About eight of our leading libertarian NGOs and, indeed, the Law Society are extremely unhappy about these proceedings and procedures. That is of course because the Bill and RIPA 2000 involve not only the security of the state and the citizens but the protection of liberties—or, rather, the lack of protection of ancient and normal liberties and freedoms. The power to look at the communications data that the Bill covers is extremely important and radical. It blasts a huge hole in the normal protections that we as citizens have vis-à-vis our communications. That was made clear in yesterday’s very good Second Reading debate, in which a number of your Lordships made the point that to pretend that communications data are insignificant compared with the content of the communication just is not the case. There is hugely important, personal, sensitive information to be gathered in terms of communications data.
That is what my amendment deals with. I hope, first, that it will have the approval of your Lordships and, secondly, that my noble friend Lord Taylor of Holbeach may be inclined to accept that the amendment can do no harm and may, indeed, do some good. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for tabling this amendment. He slightly wandered off it into more general objections, which he might have made at Second Reading yesterday.
On his particular amendment, the requirements in Clause 1(1) of the Bill respond to the European Court’s criticisms of the data retention directive—to ensure that no more data than are required are retained. It is worth reiterating that the judgment concerns the EU data retention directive, not the UK data retention regulations. In the UK we have always taken a tailored approach—if I might use that word—to retention notices. We do not and have never required every communications provider to retain all its data. Ministers have always issued retention notices to selected companies based on the nature of the company and the threat, and we have required the retention only of the data types listed in the schedule of regulations.
Following the judgment, we are putting that good practice in the legislation. This Bill will require the Secretary of State to issue data retention notices to communications service providers on a selective basis: only if she considers the obligation to be necessary and proportionate for one of the authorised purposes. We also add a requirement to keep notices under review. I think therefore that we are in close agreement on what is required.
Ministers have not required an operator to retain data without first going through a serious and careful consideration of the value to be gained by law enforcement and intelligence agencies from the data retained. This Bill ensures that these considerations are law. We feel that it is appropriate for Ministers to “consider” these issues. They have never taken this consideration lightly and I can assure noble Lords that they have no intention of doing so in future. I do not believe that a Minister having due consideration to the issue of a notice could decide to proceed if he or she did not believe that to do so was necessary and proportionate.
In other words, I do not believe that changing the word “considers” would have any material effect. I know that my noble friend met with parliamentary counsel this morning and was told that it does not. Accordingly, I invite him to withdraw his amendment.
Before the Minister sits down—I am keen to have his response to this—if, as he now confirms, the Government think that there is no difference in meaning between “considers” and “believes”, why not have consistency between the language of RIPA and that of the Bill so as to avoid confusion and argument in future?
If my noble friend had been listening to yesterday’s Second Reading debate, he would have understood that it was the view of the House in general, and certainly of the Government, that the review that will be undertaken will indeed look at RIPA and decide whether the terms stated in it are appropriate for future-proofing the legislation. Meanwhile, the Bill is presented to the House in ways that we believe are appropriate to deal with the problems that I outlined when I introduced it yesterday.
My Lords, I regret to say that I find that answer completely unsatisfactory. There is every reason in the world, I suggest, why we have commonality of language, particularly in clauses that expressly relate one to another. If it is felt after the review that the language of RIPA 2000 needs changing, a change could be made to this legislation as well. In the mean time, though, there is going to be confusion, and it is a difficult enough Bill without adding unnecessary complexity to it. However, since no one in the House has risen to support the amendment, I beg leave—with good grace, I hope—to withdraw the same.
Amendment 1 withdrawn.
2: Clause 1, page 1, line 5, leave out “the requirement is” and insert “for objective reasons the requirement is strictly”
My Lords, this amendment returns to a point that I raised yesterday at Second Reading. As the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, pointed out in moving his amendment, Clause 1(1) is crucial to the whole scheme in the Bill and it is extremely important to get the language of it right. I will not go back over the points that he was making in general support of that proposition, but it is with a view to trying to get the language right that I have raised this issue again.
The Minister will recall that I was drawing attention to the wording of the judgment in the case that has given rise to all these problems, and I will come back to that in a moment. I note that in his reply to my comment, at col. 664 of yesterday’s Hansard, he said:
“The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, asked why Clause 1(1) does not use the wording of the ECJ judgment. The test in the Bill requires the Secretary of State to consider”—
personally, I would accept that as an appropriate word—
“whether it is necessary to require a provider to retain data, but also whether it is proportionate for that legitimate aim. This is in accordance with the judgment, which also makes it clear that it is necessary to verify the proportionality of any interference with a person’s rights when requiring the retention of data”.—[Official Report, 16/7/14; col. 664.]
The point that I raised, and to which I return, is that the wording of the judgment is more precisely targeted. The reasons for it are explained in the judgment in a certain amount of detail because they draw attention to the concern that members of the public would have—possibly more by rumour and suspicion than by reality, but concern nevertheless—that their private lives were the subject of constant surveillance. It is for that reason that the court went on to say that it was necessary for,
“clear and precise rules governing the scope and application of the measure in question”,
to be laid down. That was in paragraph 54.
The criticism of the directive was that the “clear and precise rules” that were required were not apparent in that directive. Paragraph 65 is the crucial one. It says:
“It must therefore be held that Directive 2006/24 entails a wide-ranging and particularly serious interference with those fundamental rights in the legal order of the EU, without such an interference being precisely circumscribed by provisions”—
the word “provisions” is important—
“to ensure that it is actually limited to what is strictly necessary”.
My amendment picks up two points: the use of the words “objective reasons”, which are in the judgment; and also the phrase “the requirement is strictly” to be added before the word “necessary”. My concern is that, without words that match the judgment, those who seek to criticise or possibly even attack the measure will compare what is in the legislation with what is in the judgment. Lawyers do that all the time. I know that the future of the European courts is perhaps not entirely secure, but the fact is that for the life of this Bill if it becomes an Act, and up until the closure date, both of the European courts are capable of being appealed to. I am quite sure that the last thing the Minister would want is a challenge to this measure on those grounds in those courts.
My amendment is intended to be helpful. I am not trying to undermine the Bill. I am just trying to suggest that the language of it should be more precisely worded. I do not know where the phrase “necessary and proportionate” comes from. The ECJ judgment says that proportionality is part of necessity, so built into the idea of necessity is proportionality. I do not complain about the fact that they are both there—it is a useful combination of words—but it is the other bits, the strict use of this phrase and the need for objective reasons, that are necessary.
If one thinks through the way in which the exercise will be conducted, I have no doubt that the Secretary of State herself will not be taking all these decisions. This formula would, in fact, be instructing those on whom she relies to apply their minds to the requisite standard, and to provide convincing, objective reasons for the measure that is suggested should be taken.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, for drawing my attention to an examination of the wording in the draft communications data Bill, as it then was, by the Joint Committee on the draft Bill. In paragraphs 62 to 67, there is a discussion about the language. One point that emerges from that discussion, which is very relevant to what I am trying to say, is that the wording is necessary, having regard to the fact that:
“Once a power is on the statute book”—
as this would be—
“it is available to be used, and also to be misused or abused, at any time in the future”.
Undertakings are all very well, as are all the various other protections that the Minister referred to yesterday as part of the United Kingdom’s system; but at the end of the day, it is the wording that directs the nature of the exercise to be carried out by those responsible for doing it that really matters.
That is why, in my experience, these courts are not all that impressed by what we tell them about how our system operates and the number of regulators and investigations that go on to check that everything is being conducted properly. They will look at the language in the statute. That is why it is so important to get the wording right if this measure is to stand up to scrutiny.
It is with that justification that I move this amendment, in the hope that the Minister will give further consideration to it, in the very short time available, to see whether it would not be wise to tighten up the wording. I think that it is in sympathy with what the Minister himself would wish to be done anyway. It is getting the wording on the face of the Act that matters so much. I beg to move.
My Lords, I rise to support the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, in his amendment. Before doing so, I hope that it may be in order to say a word of appreciation to the Minister—on my behalf, but I dare say that I am speaking also on behalf of others who spoke in yesterday’s Second Reading debate—for obviously having worked late through the night with his officials. He produced a letter to my noble friend Lady Smith, a copy of which we all received this morning. I make that point because—given the circumstances of emergency legislation, which always, quite correctly, arouses scepticism, doubt and worry in people’s minds—it is particularly important that the Minister should give very careful answers to the many points raised in yesterday’s debate.
It would be wrong to say that the Minister has answered in this letter every question that was raised in the course of the debate. Indeed, he has not actually answered every question that was raised by the Constitution Committee’s report. For example, the Constitution Committee pointed out that the Joint Committee had said in 2012 that there was some difficulty or doubt about non-British companies being prepared to continue to co-operate, not so much on the retention of data but on the provision of communications content. The Government might have been advised to address that criticism and could simply have said, “Maybe we got it wrong, in retrospect, and should have taken notice of the Joint Committee’s observation back in 2012, rather than ignoring it”. However, that is just one point. I think that the Government have made an exemplary effort in a very short space of time to deal seriously with the matters that were raised in yesterday’s debate. It would be quite wrong for nobody who asked critical questions yesterday to recognise that effort and to thank the Government for it.
The House is very much in the debt of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, who has done some useful homework and gone over the actual ECJ judgment, which is the cause of the drama that we have been discussing over the past 24 hours, to see how best we could change the wording and ensure that it is such as to bring to an absolute minimum the danger of another challenge from the ECJ. It is an extremely practical and helpful approach. I hope that the Government regard it in that light and will take advice from a distinguished jurist and accept the changes that he has very reasonably put forward.
I would just add to the arguments which the noble and learned Lord has used that I think it would be a matter of added assurance to the public if the words “strictly necessary” were put into this text. There is a difference between “necessary” and “strictly necessary”. Faced with the word “strictly”, any civil servant or Minister confronted with the issue of whether he or she ought to be issuing an instruction to a data communications company to provide data will have to give at least a few seconds’ additional pause to ask him or herself whether the “strictly” criterion really is being met. You cannot get much stricter than “strictly necessary”, and that means that the greatest degree of care, caution and reserve will be brought to bear on the decisions that are made in this matter.
No doubt there is a long jurisprudence—I am not a lawyer, so I am not familiar with it—relating to the difference in courts’ interpretation of “necessary” as against “strictly necessary” over the centuries. However, even without being a lawyer, anyone will be aware that he or she is treading on very sensitive ground in deciding that something is “strictly necessary”. He or she will need to be absolutely certain in his or her own mind that he or she has arguments sufficient to justify that decision were it ever to be questioned in a court of law.
Doing this is not only sensible from a practical point of view, making it less likely that there will be further legal uncertainty and further legal challenges; it is very sensible from the point of view of reassuring the public that the Government are genuinely not seeking powers that go beyond the “strictly necessary”, in the normal sense of that term.
My Lords, I support the amendment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope. After what he said yesterday I did some swotting last night. It is important for the legislation to get this sort of wording right. It is quite divisive legislation because of the speed at which it has taken place. This is a sensible amendment.
My Lords, I also support the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead. At Second Reading, the noble and learned Lord made a compelling case for addressing the precise wording in the European Court judgment. With the greatest respect to my noble friend the Minister, his response to that assertion did not quite come up to the level of the case made by the noble and learned Lord. I also support the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Stamford, in that it would not only help lawyers to avoid court cases as a result of not addressing strictly the wording in the judgment but it would also be reassuring to the public to have the wording as suggested in the amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, for tabling his amendment as it gives us a chance to talk about these issues. Perhaps he will not mind if I turn first to the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Stamford, and thank him for his kind words about the work that has been done by my officials overnight. They exemplify the sort of support that the Civil Service can give to Ministers. It has been greatly, I hope, to the advantage of noble Lords to have this information available.
I will deal with the issue that the noble Lord raised, which was the point in the Constitution Committee’s report about why we are dealing with these provisions now rather than in 2012. As the Government made clear last week, some companies have already now started to question whether they are under a duty to comply with their obligations under RIPA. The details are obviously sensitive but, as the Prime Minister made clear, we are approaching a cliff edge. A failure to legislate could result in a damaging loss of capability. We were discussing earlier, when I was dealing with the Urgent Notice Question, an area where that capability was necessary. If companies cease to comply, the security agencies will lose the visibility of what targets are saying to each other and in turn could lose the ability to understand the threat that they pose. The Opposition have been briefed in detail on the issue and the Intelligence and Security Committee is well aware of the challenges that we face. Indeed, I happened to meet the chairman of that committee, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, in the street on my way to work this morning.
I thank the Minister for giving way. I was referring to paragraph 11 of the Constitution Committee’s report, which says:
“It is not clear why these provisions need to be fast-tracked … There is evidence that the Government have known of the problem for some time. The Joint Committee on the Draft Communications Data Bill noted in its report (published in December 2012) that ‘many overseas CSPs [communication service providers] refuse to acknowledge the extraterritorial application of RIPA’”.
The point in the committee’s report was simply that the Government could have reacted to the earlier Joint Committee’s suggestion in 2012 that there was a problem here, a lacuna, a danger. The Government have known that for about two years. It would have been more dignified for the Government simply to say, “On this occasion, we missed a trick. We should have responded then. I’m sorry, chaps. There is a serious problem and we have to respond now”. Everybody would understand that.
I am sorry but I have to ask the noble Lord to read in Hansard what I have just said if he fails to be convinced as to why the Government are legislating now. I will leave it at that because I do not suppose that I will convince him on the principle, whatever I say.
My Lords, I rise in defence of the Minister because the Intelligence and Security Committee discussed this point with the director of GCHQ on Tuesday morning in the short time available. There have been developments since 2012 that have affected the attitude of the providers—for example, the activities of Mr Snowden. The committee was satisfied that there is a serious risk of loss of visibility of people who ought to be under observation and that the Government’s arguments that this is an urgent matter were justified.
My Lords, I rise briefly because I think that perhaps my noble friend Lord Davies has been misunderstood. I do not think that he doubts for one instant the emergency situation that necessitates this legislation. His argument is that the Government could have acted sooner. I will not enter into a debate as we had a long debate yesterday, but it remains our contention that the Government could have acted sooner on this issue. But there is a time imperative now on this legislation.
I will not argue with the noble Baroness if she wants to make that judgment of things. The Government have to make decisions for themselves on these issues and they do so in the knowledge of the facts, as the noble Lord, Lord Butler, explained to the House. The Government make judgments at the time as to what is necessary, and in this case they have made the right judgment.
We have had a side-show. I now turn to the substance of the amendment in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope. I share his wish to ensure that the new regime for data retention that we are putting in place through the Bill is fully compatible with the European Court of Justice, and that is what we are doing. As I explained at Second Reading, while the EU data retention directive was struck down by the European Court of Justice, the ECJ judgment was about the EU data retention directive. The court did not rule on any member state’s legislation and did not take into account the many safeguards which I explained we have in our domestic regime. Many of the ECJ’s concerns are already addressed by the UK’s domestic legislation. Crucially, the judgment explicitly recognised the importance of data retention in preventing and detecting crime.
Nevertheless, although the UK’s existing data retention regime is already a very strong one, with stringent safeguards and oversight, in order to respond to elements of the judgment, we are extending the existing safeguards in a number of ways. Details of those safeguards are contained in our factsheet on that issue, which is available from the Printed Paper Office. However, I will elaborate on them here.
The regulations made under the Bill will replace the 2009 data retention regulations. They maintain the status quo, while also adding additional safeguards in response to the ECJ judgment. In particular, the regulations set out what must be specified in a data retention notice and factors to be taken into account before giving a notice; place a requirement on the Secretary of State to keep such notices under review; set out the security requirements which apply to data retained under a notice; require providers permanently to delete data when they are no longer under an obligation to retain them; require providers to ensure that data are not disclosed except in accordance with the access procedures in RIPA or a court order; and provide for the Information Commissioner to audit compliance with the requirements of the regulations. A provisional draft of those regulations is also available from the Printed Paper Office.
I am satisfied that with those extra safeguards we are on even stronger ground in asserting that the UK’s data retention regime fully meets the requirements laid down by the ECJ. That judgment does not require us to adopt every single bit of wording in the judgment. On the specific details of this amendment, the test currently in the Bill allows the Home Secretary to consider not just whether it is necessary to require a communication service provider to retain data, but also whether the interference that retention involves is proportionate to that legitimate aim. We believe that that is in accordance with the judgment, which also makes it clear that it is necessary to verify the proportionality of any interference with a person’s rights when requiring the retention of data. The test of necessity and proportionality is a well established legal principle, as the noble and learned Lord well knows, which is already a notable feature of elements of the existing RIPA regime.
I am, as ever, grateful to the noble and learned Lord for sharing his considerable experience and expertise with the House, but I hope he is satisfied that the clause simply seeks to build on those long-standing principles, providing an extended safeguard and appropriately reassuring the public. We have a strong test here, which is fully in the spirit of the court’s judgment. Accordingly, I do not believe that the amendment is necessary, and I invite the noble and learned Lord to withdraw it.
My Lords, having supported the Minister on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Davies, may I now say to him that he is being unnecessarily negative about this? He has explained why he thinks the amendment is unnecessary, but he has not explained what the positive arguments are against it. It seems to me that it can only be helpful. Unless there is some positive reason for rejecting the amendment, I would urge him to consider again before Report. The problem is that we cannot repeat this amendment exactly on Report, and it would be difficult to improve on the wording already suggested by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope. I ask the Minister whether he could consider again the idea that this amendment is designed to be very helpful to the Government. The fact that it may not, in the Government’s view, be strictly necessary, does not seem to me a convincing argument as to why it should be rejected.
My Lords, we are talking about what the Secretary of State considers. I wonder whether the difficulty could be resolved if the Minister were to state formally, on the record in Hansard, that the Secretary of State must consider that,
“for objective reasons the requirement is strictly”
My Lords, I rise with some temerity to disagree with the views expressed from the Benches opposite, but it seems to me, as a matter of principle, that when the Government and the Parliament of the United Kingdom consider how to introduce legislation consistent with a decision of the European Court of Justice, it is the substance of what the Government and the Parliament of the United Kingdom are providing which is important. It should not be necessary, and it would not be a healthy precedent, if Parliament took the view that every time we had to amend our legislation in order to comply with a judgment of the European Court of Justice, it was incumbent upon us to adopt language identical to that found in the judgment. So there is at least the vestige of a point of principle here, and that point of principle leads me to support the view expressed by the Minister.
My Lords, I support what has just been said by my noble friend Lord Howard of Lympne. I speak not as a judge but as someone who has drafted many skeleton arguments to take before senior courts, and given a phrase such as “strictly necessary”, I would spend my time in preparing a case by looking for authorities decided by the courts in which there was a difference between the terms “necessary” and “strictly necessary”. I have spent some time doing so this morning, and I have failed to find such a case so far—although of course I will defer to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, if he can find one for me. Judges are often so much better informed than those who appear before them, and I feel a little as if I am in that situation now.
However, speaking for those of us who are paid, sometimes a great deal of money, to create a difference where none exists between a phrase such as “strictly necessary” and the mere word “necessary”, I would say to the Minister: please avoid tautology. It is expensive, and not terribly helpful.
My Lords, the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Howard, is important, and I accept it. There is a danger of raising a precedent here. On a point of clarity for a simple sailor, may I ask: if an amendment is taken today, is there a mechanism within this urgent high-speed way in which we are doing things to get the change back to the Commons to get it sorted out, or are we talking in a vacuum, because nothing has been organised to achieve that?
I am sure the usual channels make arrangements for any such potentiality. I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Howard of Lympne for the way in which he presented the important point that the British Parliament and British law lie at the bottom of all this. We have had a chance to consider this matter. I do not know whether beliefs have been changed by our consideration of the previous amendment, but at least that consideration has been valuable. However, I still urge the noble and learned Lord to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the Minister for his reply and to all those who have taken part in this debate. I wish to make one or two further points. First, the Minister is, of course, right that the judgment was concerned with the directive and not with any UK measure: that is the nature of the jurisdiction it was exercising. However, when lawyers get to work in response to clients’ demands, some of whom have very deep pockets—we are dealing in this field with people who may well be in that category—people start thinking about things and drawing analogies with what is said by courts in analogous situations. That is the significance of the wording of the judgment so far as the wording we have put in the Bill is concerned.
As I think I explained, my intention in bringing this matter before the Committee for discussion is so that we can have a fuller discussion of the detail than we could have had yesterday at Second Reading. There is, of course, a lot of force in what the noble Lord, Lord Howard, says and one does not want to parrot the wording in European judgments just for the sake of it. However, there is the broader point made by the noble Lord, Lord Davies, earlier that there is a reassurance to the public, too, in adopting these words, which were chosen by the European court in order to meet what it saw as a concern about the use of this system. Therefore, I am not disappointed that I brought this matter forward as it requires very careful consideration. I hope that the Minister will think a little more closely about it before we get to Report, although there would obviously be difficulties if I were to bring the matter before the House again. However, for the time being, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 2 withdrawn.
Clause 1 agreed.
Clauses 2 and 3 agreed.
Clause 4: Extra-territoriality in Part 1 of RIPA
3: Clause 4, page 6, line 31, after “kingdom” insert “in accordance with the laws of the country where the person is”
My Lords, this is an amendment of a rather different character. It is really a probing amendment and it picks up a point that I also raised at Second Reading yesterday evening. In order to understand the point, one has to know a little more than the wording on the Marshalled List. I draw attention to a provision in the Bill which has to be read together with provisions in RIPA, in particular Section 22. Section 22(6) states:
“It shall be the duty of the … operator to comply with the requirements of any notice given to him under subsection (4)”.
The last but one subsection of that section—subsection (8)—states:
“The duty imposed by subsection (6) shall be enforceable by civil proceedings by the Secretary of State for an injunction, or for specific performance of a statutory duty under section 45 of the Court of Session Act 1988, or for any other appropriate relief”.
However, Clause 4(10) of the Bill seeks to insert in that subsection of RIPA the words,
“including in the case of a person outside the United Kingdom”.
I am not clear whether the enforcement measures which are forecast by the provisions in Section 22 of RIPA are intended to be applied extraterritorially. This is an important point of practice, concerning how one achieves a measure such as an injunction or some other measure by service upon somebody abroad, and then how this is enforced against that person.
I practised for 24 years in the Court of Session, and was its president for the past seven years. I am very well aware of the problems one has in dealing with people outside the jurisdiction. Some of these problems indeed related to people in England, not Scotland, and one had to be extremely careful that measures were in place to enable any order a court pronounced to be enforceable. Underlying this is the point the Minister made yesterday, that because of the challenges which are now being made one wants a system which is properly laid out and is foolproof, which will be effective and will command respect.
My concern is that there may be something lurking here at the very back of Clause 4 which is defective, because it has not been properly explored and thought through. Like the noble Lord, Lord Davies, I was extremely grateful for the letter written by the Minister’s advisers, which covered a lot of ground in great detail. However, on this point there is a reference to my intervention. The very last sentence on the bottom of the third page states:
“Where absolutely necessary, RIPA provides for enforcement by injunction through domestic courts”.
Indeed it does, and domestically there is no problem. The question is whether it is intended that it should be enforceable in courts in other parts of the world, and whether attention has really been given to the mechanisms that would be necessary to achieve that, in discussion with the various courts including the Court of Session. If the noble Lord was able to guide us a little more on that point, that would be extremely useful. It would reassure us that we are passing a measure which will command respect throughout the world, as it is intended to do. I beg to move.
My Lords, I too thank the Minister for the excellent letter his officials prepared overnight. I am very glad to see that the quality of Home Office civil servants remains as high as it was when my noble friend and I served in the Home Office. I do not wish to follow exactly the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead. I did not put down an amendment to remove this provision from the Bill, but I hope that your Lordships will permit me to make a few remarks related to the enforceability of Clause 4 overseas. As I understand it, the whole point about Clause 4 is—as we said yesterday—to give reassurance to the huge American service providers, largely based in California, that they have a legal duty of some sort to comply with. That would allow them to say to all their customers that, while they religiously protected their data, they had been served a judicial warrant or some form of legal prescription from the United Kingdom with which they had to comply.
When the Minister goes back to the department, I would like him to look again at the MLAT system. I do not want a detailed reply from the Box today, just an assurance that he will read about what MLAT does. MLAT is the mutual legal assistance treaty, and we have many of these bilateral treaties with many countries, including one with the United States.
When my committee asked the Home Office why it could not use MLAT for enforcement, it said—rightly—that it was a bit bureaucratic and a bit slow. The Home Office also said that the main problem was that gaining assistance from the United States Department of Justice under MLAT required initiation by the CPS, not the police. It therefore did not regard MLAT as a real, live tool which it could use on a day-to-day basis to investigate crime. The response of my committee was, “Well, if that is what has already been agreed with the United States, but the tyres on that vehicle are flat”—to borrow the metaphor used yesterday by the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong of Ilminster—“and it is going too slowly, go back to the United States and renegotiate a new, faster MLAT as a bilateral treaty”.
I conclude by urging my noble friend not to respond in detail but to give me an assurance that the Home Office will once again take seriously paragraph 253 of our report, in which we ask the department to address this problem forthwith, go to the United States, use our special relationship and see if we can get a faster-working MLAT, which would again be a backstop to help Clause 4 to be enforced in some way in the United States.
I can say to my noble friend Lord Blencathra that although I have not read MLAT, I have been present when its provisions have been discussed. He will be aware that one of the provisions that we are hoping to set up involves appointing a diplomat to look at how we handle these matters. Indeed, our whole approach to this issue is about mutual co-operation. It is not adversarial, although we understand that the law has to assume adversarial premises and the definitions that might apply in such circumstances, but that does not undermine what we are trying to achieve.
I am again grateful to the noble and learned Lord for tabling this amendment. He spoke articulately at Second Reading on the difficulties of enforcing warrants across jurisdictions. He is probably mindful of that, given his Scottish experience in relation to English law. I understand that his intention is to improve the prospects for successfully enforcing obligations under RIPA on overseas companies, and clearly none of us could object to that.
Clause 4 makes clear that the obligations under RIPA apply equally to persons overseas who are providing telecommunications services to customers in the UK. It also makes it clear that those obligations are enforceable by injunction through the domestic courts. We have been clear throughout the passage of the Bill that we are not altering or extending the powers under RIPA. Accordingly, the provisions in Clause 4 simply make clear the status quo. It is on that basis that the House of Commons has consented to the Bill, and it is the basis on which it has been presented to this House.
The noble and learned Lord’s amendment would go much further than this, by purporting to allow for the enforcement of obligations under RIPA through overseas courts. As drafted, it would do this only in respect of requests for communications data. However, I assume his interest is in the enforceability of obligations under RIPA more generally. In view of the clear intention of the House of Commons, and of noble Lords who have supported this Bill on the basis that it does not introduce new powers, this is not an amendment that the Government could support. The issue of enforcement overseas is important but it is not a matter that we can address through the Bill before us.
As I have said, the Government’s approach under RIPA has always been to work with companies. We hope that making clear the obligations under RIPA will avoid the need for enforcement action. Where we have no option but to enforce, we believe that the prospect of sanction in the domestic courts—I repeat, the domestic courts—is a threat sufficient to compel many international companies to co-operate. That, however, is not our first position, which is to work with companies. Where necessary, there are established protocols for seeking recognition of a domestic judgment in foreign jurisdictions. It may be possible to strengthen our position in respect of this but these are complex issues of law, and are not matters that we can deal with today, when we are fast-tracking legislation through Parliament. We will look for the new tyre for our puncture when we consider the review that will take place after the enaction of this Bill, which has been introduced in the context of a pressing need to put the law beyond doubt. That is what the Bill is about, and only that.
I appreciate the noble and learned Lord’s intention with this amendment, and his useful interventions, including those at Second Reading, but the amendment is unnecessary. I am sure, though, that the issue of enforcement overseas is one in which subsequent reviews of powers and capabilities will be considered, and in which he will want to take part. I draw noble Lords’ attention to the fact that there is a copy of the paper, Senior Diplomat Draft Terms of Reference, in the Printed Paper Office. It states that one of the tasks of this diplomat will be:
“To consider a range of options for strengthening existing arrangements, including … through Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty systems”—
my noble friend was on the ball there—
“mutual recognition of national warrants; and … direct requests from law enforcement and intelligence agencies to the companies which hold the data”.
That is why this appointment is seen as being so important. I hope that with those assurances, a clearer view of the Government’s objectives in bringing this Bill forward, and having had an opportunity to consider the issues that the noble and learned Lord has raised, he will withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful once again to the Minister for his helpful and full reply. I take absolutely the point that it is not the intention in the Bill to expand the existing law, and it would certainly not be my wish to disrupt that policy, which would be contrary to the basis on which the Bill passed through the other place.
I am still left in some doubt as to the purpose of Clause 4(10), which excited my interest, because it states,
“including in the case of a person outside the United Kingdom”.
I am tempted—but I shall not succumb to the temptation—to ask the Minister for an example of case where it would matter whether that provision is in the legislation. It may be that some nods and winks would give colour to the suggestion that this kind of thing may have happened in the past. It is because I have great difficulty in visualising the purpose of the provision that I am still in a state of some concern as to whether it is useful to have it there at all. I am not, however, asking for it to be removed. In view of what the Minister has said, I am happy not to press the amendment, which would add additional words. I shall leave it at that and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 3 withdrawn.
Clause 4 agreed.
Clauses 5 to 7 agreed.
Clause 8: Commencement, duration, extent and short title
4: Clause 8, page 8, line 9, leave out “2016” and insert “2015”
My Lords, the amendment is also in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws—who unfortunately cannot be here, although those who heard her speak last night will have a good idea of what she might have said—the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, and my noble friend Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts.
We have something of a paradox of timing in relation to the Bill, in that, as we all know only too well, this measure has been rushed, helter-skelter, through both Houses. It is fair to say that the vast majority of Members in both Houses are deeply worried by all that but have none the less accepted the view of the Government as to the need for that expedition. On the other hand, we have a sunset clause in the Bill—designed to be some sort of reassurance—requiring the Act to be repealed in two and a half years’ time, at the end of 2016. The point behind the amendment is self-apparent, namely that if six months is too short—that was the proposal in the other place, that the repeal should take place at the end of this year—to wait two and a half years hence is too long. That is why we have suggested a repeal date of 31 December next year.
It is common ground that this complex measure—I think the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, called it “obscurantist”, and she is a lawyer—which is wedded to RIPA 2000, itself a highly complex piece of legislation, needs review and is being reviewed from various quarters, as we have heard from my noble friend Lord Taylor. I am sure we are all very grateful for that. However, is it not also the case that, because we have not had a chance to consider the Bill properly, we do not know whether there are serious lacunae in it? The proposition of those of us behind the amendment is that to wait two and a half years before anything must be done about those deficiencies is just too long. We have suggested this compromise of a year and a half from now.
I finish by repeating the importance of the Bill for our reputation as a House of Parliament and for Parliament as a whole. Although we may be satisfied that what we are doing is necessary, appropriate and proportionate, I am afraid millions of our fellow countrymen are not of that view. There is therefore a wider issue behind this amendment. It will provide some reassurance that the delay—it will be seen as such—in allowing a thorough review of this legislation, which will find an outlet and remedies by the end of next year, is a reasonable compromise; to leave it for two and a half years is not. I have that phrase of John Pym, in the other place in 1642, ringing in my ears. He said in that tense Parliament that we must not lose the,
“vigour and cheerfulness of allegiance”,
of our fellow Britons. I beg to move.
My Lords, I oppose the amendment. I was unable to speak yesterday. I do not propose to make a Second Reading speech, but I wish to make a case for the Bill to remain as it is. I first draw attention to my declaration of interest in the register as a member of the independent surveillance panel, put together by the Royal United Services Institute for the Deputy Prime Minister’s work, which will go on for the next year and beyond the next election.
Frankly, we need time to do the job: 18 months is not long enough. I am not even going to use the excuse of a potential change of Government after the general election. The fact is that it is important that the sunset clause is there and it is important that it cannot be extended: it will go. However, time is needed to do the job properly. It is not as though nothing is going to happen for two and a half years. It will take two and a half years to pull together the reviews of RIPA and the other reviews that are taking place to bring legislation to Parliament very early in 2016, because this will finish at the end of 2016. The idea that it has been left to the last minute is nonsense. We need that time to do the job, and to explain and consult.
Public trust has to be secured. I am convinced that the fair-minded public, when they are treated as mature adults, will support an accountable system for interceptions and surveillance, rather than take what is said by unaccountable NGOs and newspaper editors. Contrary to what was said earlier on, the public have no idea what exists in the system in terms of these arrangements. We have to look at the use of modern technology.
Take RIPA: I will use one example from yesterday’s debate. I was not in for all the speeches but I heard two or three. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, has now gone, because he made a cheap point about the egg inspectorate using RIPA. You can cheapen the debate, but in the past few years people have gone to prison for multimillion pound frauds of restamping eggs, which undermines our economy and cheats the public. The egg inspectorate had to know about this. It is only six people. It should not be dismissed: it is part of the economic well-being of the country. Millions of eggs—billions, actually, because eggs are counted in billions, rather than millions—were being brought in from France unstamped. They were processed in a factory in Bromsgrove and there was a tip-off. They went to prison for a multimillion pound fraud against our economy. The idea that the egg inspectorate should not be able to use RIPA is preposterous, but you can make a cheap joke about it if you do not give any background to it.
The point I want to make to the Minister is that the use of language is absolutely crucial. I understand that the drafting of legislation is governed by parliamentary draftsmen. However, that is not always effective in addressing those who want to oppose, such as those who accuse the Bill of being “Orwellian” or of “snooping”. They are very effective and emotive words that might take 10 minutes to rebut in an interview, which is not really possible. However, nobody uses those words against the retailers in this country, who snoop and use information from the purchasing patterns of millions of citizens in this country. It is used only against people who are basically trying to protect our country.
The Government need to wake up to the use of language. I will give one more example before I ask the Minister to take something away. This is similar to the GM debate, where “Frankenstein food” and “contamination” are emotive words. They are not scientifically sound or scientifically based, but they make the headlines. Again, it would take those who wish to put the case minutes to do it, so they cannot.
I must thank the Minister, because the last time I gave him a suggestion like this I had a reply two days later from the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office saying, “Thanks very much, we’ll do that”. I hope that today will be no different. The Government should seek advice during the reviews, although not necessarily on how the legislation is worded, as parliamentary counsel need to do that and get the thing right. They should use experts in forensic linguistics, and in language and law, which are specialist studies in some of our universities. That is crucial. It is not necessarily forensic in that sense, but the examination of language, what it means and how it relates to what people outside think it means, is important.
We have to win over the public. It is not a PR operation but a scientific one. It needs something like what I came across during my time at the Food Standards Agency: the right-brain, left-brain test. That was how we, as regulators, found that we were using the language of regulators to talk to the entrepreneurs we regulated. They did not understand what we were saying and always opposed us. We were not taking on board their needs in our language. These issues are crucial to the way we sell to the public the need to have powers and to check on who is using them, so that, in some ways, people are comfortable in going about their lives not being spied on, but in the knowledge that, if they are spied on in secret, it is being done by a system they have approved of, that they know is accountable to the public, and that those who are doing it are being checked up on.
If that can be put across in a way that the fair-minded public will accept, we will have cracked it because we will not be being ruled by the headlines of those who seek to undermine us, make cheap cracks or seek to undermine our protection. We need to get it right because it is much better if the public is with us. I am not necessarily attacking the press or the NGOs, but they have an open goal. They get away with too much because they are not accountable. The public will know about it only when something goes wrong. This legislation is to stop something going wrong; that is the issue.
The Government should take the period of the reviews to look at the way in which the public, who are our masters, have explained to them what is happening in their interests, but without necessarily having everything disclosed to them. It has to be done in a better way than it has been to date. We should not change the time period. Being practical, we need the two and a half years: it will take 18 months to do the work and 12 months for the legislation to go through both Houses of Parliament.
My name is on this amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, always speaks with vigour and passion about his points. He will understand that I would like to come to the point on the timetable in a moment. He did not address the point made by my noble friend Lord Phillips that the legislation has lacunae—gaps—in it which need to be filled as quickly as possible. This is a simple amendment and I will not detain the House for long.
I and other Members accept that the Government have to have this Bill. We have had concerns about extensions and clarification of powers, and concerns about whether new technology—metadata and so on—entitles a greater degree of investigation of our personal freedom than is perhaps understood by the Government. My noble friend on the Front Bench has done his very best to reassure us. I add my thanks to those of others that he has received for having taken the trouble to produce overnight the long letter answering our questions. The bottom line is that the security services and the police have told us that they need this Bill. They deserve our support because they work long hours unsung on our behalf to keep us safe. Therefore, this is a Bill they must have.
Equally, it is recognised that this is a flawed Bill and that the Government would rather not be in the uncomfortable position in which they find themselves. Moreover, it is a flawed Bill being applied to a flawed substructure; namely, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. Those of us who were here last night had the pleasure of hearing my noble friend Lord Blencathra—despite the cheap jibe about eggs to which the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, referred—do a demolition job on RIPA, at the end of which there was hardly a brick on brick left standing. He described the Bill as not fit for purpose. Therefore, the shorter the time that these two pieces of inadequate legislation remain on the statute book, the better for our society.
As my noble friend will say—and as the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, made clear in his remarks—time is needed for research, reflection and consultation, and rushing is not a good idea. The issue is the length of time. Clearly, I could not have put my name to an amendment that stated that it should be six months, which would not provide the appropriate time to carry out those detailed negotiations. In 12 months from now, we shall be in the middle of a general election campaign. Such campaigns are bound to be conducted in primary colours to gain public attention. We are balancing the difficulties of issues of privacy and national security that have nuances and require light and shade, which do not lend themselves well to the hurly-burly of a general election campaign.
I do not think that 12 months would have worked, either—but that does not mean that 12 months cannot be used to undertake some of the preparatory work to which the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, referred. This is not primarily a party-political matter; it is a matter of national security, and how we balance privacy and the need to keep us all safe. My feeling is that a great deal of work could be done during those 12 months and a set of recommendations could be made available to an incoming Government in May to June 2015.
Bearing in mind that this is a very important matter and that we understand that we must get on with it, there is a balance of advantage for making sure that we move as quickly as possible—not to put another patch on the tyre but to have a new tyre on the statute book which is fit for purpose. Given the importance that we attach to this, I do not believe that the timetable of 18 months from now is unachievable.
In conclusion, I gently say to my noble friend on the Front Bench, who has put up with a lot, and to the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, that they have fallen victim to one of Parkinson’s laws. Members of your Lordships’ House will recall that C Northcote Parkinson had a number of laws, one of which was that the task expands to fill the time available for its completion. There is a real danger here that we will fall foul of that. This is too important an issue to be left to fester for a minute longer than it needs to, which is why I think that 18 months, with vim, vigour and resolution, is not unachievable.
My Lords, I join those who urge my noble friend not to be attracted by the arguments presented this afternoon for reducing the time available for the full consideration of these matters. I also join those who thank him for the assistance we have been given in the letter that was sent this morning to some, and possibly all, of us who are present. I also thank his officials who put up with some pestering telephone calls this morning, certainly from me.
I remind your Lordships that the sunset provision does not provide for revival of this legislation by statutory instrument. The sunset provision ensures that the legislation falls completely on 31 December 2016. We therefore have to allow due and proper time for consideration of these matters.
I join the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, in what he said. I am sure that the House was very pleased to hear that he is a member of the RUSI panel that has been put together with some difficulty and over considerable time at the behest of the Deputy Prime Minister. As I understand it, the panel will consider a substantial amount of evidence, not just from within the United Kingdom. It will be making comparisons with other jurisdictions, and the range of talents on the panel goes right across the disciplines that deal with this issue. We have to allow time for the RUSI panel to do its work.
A number of other reviews are also taking place. Shortening the timescale for the new legislation would undermine the extremely important review of RIPA, which will be a thorough and systematic review of the Act. Let us not forget that completely new legislation has to be in place before the end of 2016. We know in this House that, very properly, that legislation will be the subject of detailed debate. We know that some of my noble friends—I am looking at my noble friend Lord Strasburger who quite properly will be one of those—will put down amendments that will challenge some of the thinking behind the legislation that will be presented. That legislation will take some months to go through this House and we must be ready for it with reviews that have really looked at every issue.
Perhaps I can be forgiven for using a couple of words of Latin, which would probably be deprecated by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, if he were sitting in court. I am pleased to see that he is shaking his head. Perhaps this is the time when we should—
Not so long ago, I went to Cranston’s tea rooms in Glasgow and tried to order some lunch. Plainly it was because Latin was being spoken that I had such difficulty. What I was going to say, using two words of Latin, was that perhaps this is a time when we should festina lente.
My Lords, my name is also on this amendment. The question of public trust has been raised, and this amendment is an attempt to restore public trust. The Minister referred yesterday to the overwhelming support in the other place for this emergency legislation. Of course if one looks at the vote in terms of numbers alone he is completely correct. However, the most cursory glance through the past two days of Hansard reveals that even those who support this Bill have grave reservations about a system of warrants that very experienced legal colleagues are suggesting may prove unenforceable, and about whether this Bill has answered all the findings of the ECJ reservations over whether Clause 4 represents an extension of powers. Very importantly, there are also reservations about the level of understanding of the technology itself, and exactly what gathering “who, what, when and where” can mean for the individual. These reservations have been expressed in other places, such as the Constitution Committee and the Law Society, and among senior legal experts as well.
Like others, I absolutely accept that the noble Lord has done his utmost to reassure the House on all points. Even if he is completely correct that this indeed represents business as usual, there remains the outstanding case that this Bill is a response to the ECJ ruling hurried through in fear of an impending judgment in the domestic courts, and that it is sitting on top of RIPA legislation that is generally accepted as inadequate. This Bill has gone through the House so rapidly that it is impossible for it to incorporate effectively all the expertise and views that have been given.
It is not overwhelming support for the legislation that has resulted in there being only four amendments this morning. It was the lack of time to articulate and design useful and necessary clarifications without undermining the needs of the security and intelligence services, which, I say again, nobody present would wish to do. A sunset clause two and half years hence gives no comfort to those who suspect that this Bill came to the House deliberately without time to challenge it. December 2015 is a reasonable time for review, parliamentary scrutiny, public debate and collective agreement. Three days certainly were not. I commend the amendment to the House.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, spoke to me before the debate to ask if I would be supporting this amendment, so I have thought about it in some depth, and the answer is that I cannot. I am very supportive of my noble friend Lord Rooker’s comments. What he said about that toxic word “snooper” is exactly what I said in my speech yesterday at Second Reading. It is a very bad and emotive term, for the reasons that I gave then. I support a number of the other things that my noble friend said as well.
Both Houses are clearly in accord that the maintenance of these powers is critical for the safety and security of our people. Removing this provision before something has replaced it is an absolute nonsense. Having been involved over a number of years in this sort of legislation and this sort of work, it is clear to me that, in reviewing something like RIPA, if we are to do it properly, there is no way that we can achieve something in place of this provision in such a short time, because it will be removed. As the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, mentioned, it will have gone before we could do it. Actually, it will be tight to achieve it even by December 2016. We need to do a proper review. We will need something like a new communications data Bill. We so nearly got one before political shenanigans stopped it happening, but we need to look at this and go into great detail in reviewing RIPA. All this has to be done. It is extremely dangerous to try to shorten these timescales. It would be a dreadful mistake to make it any earlier than December 2016.
My Lords, having supported the Minister in response to the noble Lord, Lord Davies, and having criticised him in response to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, in this case I support the Government and agree with those who oppose this amendment.
If we pass this amendment we would find ourselves in exactly the same danger as we are with the provision of this Bill. We would be presented with a Bill in the latter part of 2016 that would be very urgent and the House would have inadequate time to consider. Although two and half years seems a long time, let us consider what is going to happen in the mean time. The independent reviewer of terrorism legislation has been asked to carry out a thorough review of the RIPA legislation. I understand that his timetable is to try to complete that by the time of the Dissolution of this Parliament, by May of next year.
The Intelligence and Security Committee is similarly carrying out a review. This autumn we plan to have public hearings where those who are critical of the legislation can have their say. I hope that that will generate a public debate and allow these issues to be widely discussed; that will be very valuable. We also hope to reach a conclusion by the end of the Parliament. Indeed, we had better, because there will be a new committee after that. The election will be in May of next year. The new Government will come in with quite a short time before the Summer Recess, when there will be other urgent things to do. It has been suggested that there should be a Joint Committee of the two Houses to look at the conclusions of the reviewer of terrorism legislation, and those of the Intelligence and Security Committee. It will want to have time to consider that. It really will not be practicable to reach a position where properly considered legislation can be introduced until we are well into 2016.
Two and a half years may seem a long time, but when one considers that those are the sensible and necessary steps before legislation is introduced and passed, it follows that the end of 2016 really is the earliest possible date when we can expect to have properly considered and satisfactory legislation in place of the Bill that we are passing today.
My Lords, I have not intervened earlier because I have been doing lots of other things, but I wanted to intervene on this amendment and say that I think that this is a sensible approach. I cannot believe that you can produce this Bill within a couple of weeks and then say that we cannot do something better in a year and a half. It seems that we are trying just to push the boundaries out, and the question is why. It tends to be the people who can see the challenges, who come from a senior executive background, who are trying to get this sorted out, and I can see their point.
We need to consider some of the principles behind the amendment, which is why I fully support it, and we need to discuss those principles very early on. The issue is not the technicalities in the Bill, the definitions of communication data and metadata; we know that we need to do this for the purposes of finding terrorists, enforcing the law and stuff like that. The real challenge is posed by that old bit of Latin—which I might as well use, as we are now using Latin—sed quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who watches the watchers? Who guards the guardians? We should remember the line that is supposed to come after that, which I will say in English: they keep quiet about the girl’s secrets and get her as their payment. Everyone hushes things up. That is the trouble. If corruption runs high enough, you get the Cambridge set—was it four or five by the end of it all? You get J Edgar Hoover.
That sounds as if I am painting a hugely black picture, but there is danger there, even more so now that we have rolled together—for the purpose of catching terrorists and people in serious and organised crime, which we have had to do—what used to be our external forces, GCHQ and MI6, responsible to the Foreign Office, and our internal police, which was MI5 and is now basically the NCA. In America the CIA and the FBI were kept separate. We have started to bring our forces together because of things falling between the cracks. This means that we are potentially giving huge powers to internal police. Therefore, how those at the top are to be watched is of vital importance.
My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord is not for a moment suggesting that corruption is involved in this. I understand why there needs to be proper oversight, but surely the noble Earl does not mean to mention words like corruption in connection with the way in which this matter is being approached.
Yes, treason rather than corruption. I do not mind what you want to call it—whatever. All I am saying is that we in Parliament are here to protect the people. We happen to have the senior members of the Executive here as well, which is very useful for holding them to account. But they have to be double-hatted and remember that they are putting in place processes for their successors.
The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, made the point about the public needing to be reassured that the people at the top are being watched. We are seeing enough conspiracy theories emerging in the press at the moment about rings protecting themselves. We do not need any more of those suggestions. That is why I think we need an earlier debate on this. It is not about the technical part of it; it is about reassuring the public that we have the right checks and balances at the top. That is not technical; it is about how we watch people.
My Lords, I want to say just two things. The majority view of this House yesterday at Second Reading was dissatisfaction with the lack of time for public consultation and parliamentary scrutiny of this legislation, not dissatisfaction with the sunset clause. The last thing we need to do is to recreate that problem by not allowing enough time for public consultation and parliamentary scrutiny of the whole area of RIPA and the associated legislation.
My Lords, I support the amendment to have the timetable brought forward because two and a half years is a very long time. While I want to put to one side ideas of conspiracy theories, I do think that there is a hope that somehow the current high level of interest in this will dissipate and that the usual British torpor about what happens with the security services will settle itself back on to our society and we will become unquestioning again. This is about kicking it into the long grass; this is really about postponing it for as long as possible because by that time people will have forgotten the disclosures that we recently had through Snowden and others. We should be concerned to ensure that we act while people are interested and concerned about these issues because they are pressing and very important to a vital and vibrant democracy.
It is important that we have proper scrutiny of the activities that are done in our name at whatever level in our society, and we have to have proper controls. What I am concerned about is when I hear about the setting up of Joint Committees and so on because we always know that the people who are put on to such Joint Committees are hand-picked. There was a period in my life where I remember this happening with the vetting of juries. They are hand-picked to be people who are already very much on the side of protecting the security services.
The security services are vital to the interests of our nation but they need to be questioned. They need to be questioned with some scepticism at times and I am not sure that we get that when people become comfortable in the security committees, as we have seen, and scrutiny is not of the level that it should be. So if we are going to set up these committees and so on, I hope we will see on them the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, and some of the people who have been niggling at these issues and asking the questions that were not asked about rendition and so on. There was a complacency in this House and elsewhere about some of the things that happened, which we should have been much more scrupulous about. I hope that when we come to set up committees we will see a greater variety of presences than the ones we have seen until now.
I do not think that two and a half years is the right period of time; 18 months would be perfectly satisfactory and I urge that we look to a shorter period because it concentrates minds while minds are concentrated on this issue.
My Lords, I should confess that when some of us went up to the office yesterday evening, I asked to put my name down in support of this amendment but I was told that since four people had already done so, there was not room for my name. The fact that my name is not on the amendment gives me a little more freedom to think about the issue.
I was anxious to support the amendment because the public, for some of the reasons that have been given by the noble Baroness and others, will be suspicious about the length of time that seems to have been taken in order to allow this measure to survive until it has expired. But I am persuaded by what the noble Lords, Lord Rooker, Lord West and Lord Butler, have said, and also by what was said yesterday evening by the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox. The Minister may remember that she was chiding us for being hopelessly out of date and telling us that the whole thinking about the descriptions of the various mechanisms that we use needed to be revised. There is a great deal of work that has to be done to get the legislation right and to get it modernised, and the last thing we want, quite frankly, is to cut ourselves off by having a timetable that we have to work to in order to put legislation in place that will replace the measure we are talking about today.
I confess that I have changed my mind. I regret disappointing those whom I was seeking to support yesterday evening but I think the wiser course is to leave the date as it is, although there is certainly something to be done by way of public relations to persuade the public that the date has been well chosen for very good reasons.
My Lords, I was not able to take part in the debate yesterday. I must say that I find the discussion on this amendment slightly bewildering.
If the Bill said “2017”, would we be having a different debate or would be saying, “It has to be 2017 because we need that long”? I do not know, but I have the impression that when officials were drafting this, they would have said, “What date shall we put in? Let’s play safe and make sure we have enough time”, and so 2016 arrived. Was it a result of a lengthy period of consideration and working out what has to be done or was it simply the officials—I do not blame them—saying, “Let’s play safe, let’s have a date that is going to be okay”?
I understand the difficulty and we do not want to do something so rushed that we have botched legislation, and there is a danger of that. But I do not know from the outside just how long it would need. I just fear that we have a longer period of time than is necessary. I am not sure what it should be. Clearly, the work can start tomorrow on this, can it not? There is no reason why not. That would give 18 months; if that is not long enough, then two and a half years. I would have thought that the time to get on with it would be very soon. Frankly, I am not sure so I am still agnostic on the date.
I wish the amendment said that the provisions will be repealed “not later than 31 December”, then the Minister could say that he will do his best to make it earlier. As it is, we are stuck with a date that is immovable.
My Lords, I came with an open mind to this debate and I am afraid I have to say to the Minister, for whom I have great respect, that I am now minded to support this amendment. The reason for that, quite simply, is that the overriding priority for all of us must be the reassurance of the public, whose security lies at the heart of this whole debate, and the public are suspicious of the motives of those in power, as my noble friend Lady Kennedy has just outlined. The later the date, the more suspicious they become, so there have to be compelling reasons for this longer period. We are not talking about doing this in three weeks; we are talking about 18 months and I have not heard anything by way of a month-by-month account of why this extra time is needed. So unless the Minister can say something to provide detailed, compelling arguments for this extra time being necessary, I am minded to support the amendment.
My Lords, this has been a long and interesting debate. I do not know if my noble friend has had the opportunity to hear the whole debate today, or the debate we had yesterday, but three clear issues came out of yesterday’s debate.
One was the widespread acceptance in your Lordships’ House that there was a gap that had to be plugged as a matter of urgency. There was also deep dissatisfaction—and I think some anger—with the Government’s use of the fast-track procedure. It is unsatisfactory and I think that view came across very clearly in the debate.
There is also deep dissatisfaction with the current situation, whereby we seem to amend our laws on this issue by a sticking-plaster process. The problem comes up and we deal with it now. It was very clear from yesterday’s debate—this was the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope—that we must keep pace with the technology, the changes and the information presented to us. We have failed to do so. RIPA, which was passed in 2000, is now hopelessly out of date. We recognise that that needs urgent consideration.
The amendment suggests that we shorten the period in which we may give further consideration to bringing new legislation. The amendment in the other place, which was tabled by my right honourable friend Yvette Cooper is now Clause 7 of the Bill. I am surprised that those who tabled this amendment did not seek to make changes to Clause 7 as well. Clause 7 is crucial in this whole debate and was central to our support for this legislation. Clause 7(3) says that the independent reviewer, a man whom this House has made clear, as it did yesterday, it holds in the highest regard and the deepest respect,
“must, so far as reasonably practicable, complete the review before 1 May 2015”.
The Minister can confirm this or otherwise, but I understand that, following that review, there would be a Joint Committee of both Houses, where Members of your Lordships’ House and the other place with, I hope, a broad range of opinions—I agree entirely with my noble friend Lady Kennedy—will examine the evidence presented by the independent reviewer.
We have two choices. We can start the work now—there should be some issues that we can look at now—but the substance that the independent reviewer will look at I would expect us to examine, take on board and introduce in legislation. Either this is just a sop and we ignore anything the independent reviewer says and get the legislation through earlier, or we take the views of the independent reviewer seriously and ensure that what he says is taken into deep consideration when we are looking at legislation.
One of the comments made was about public confidence and trust. The public have a right to wonder what we are doing when we pass fast-track legislation. We bring this out of the blue, we put it in context and we expect trust on legislation. That is a big ask. That is also why there has to be some public engagement on these issues, as was clear from yesterday and today’s debates, and this forms part of our demands with this legislation. Obviously, there are details of security information that cannot be given to the public, but the public are entitled to a lot more information that is available now and are entitled to know the context in which data are held. Like my noble friend Lord Rooker, I think that when it comes to the private company-held information, as well as public statutory information, the public have a right to know. We have only to click on the internet and look at something, and for days afterwards somebody knows what you have been looking at because it is there every time you go on to Google or look at something else again. We have a duty to engage the public in that. However, that duty will not be done tomorrow or next week. It will be done in the context of the report from the independent reviewer.
The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, made a very important point when he reminded us that the sunset clause will stop. This is not a sunset clause to reintroduce the same legislation. This is to bring in a completely new framework under which we operate on these issues. That is not something that we should take lightly. We can start working but we need the report of the independent reviewer as well.
As much as one looks at an amendment such as this and instinctively thinks we do not need so much time to deal with it, when one examines the issues there is a strong case for bringing in completely new legislation, which needs time to be done properly. The public cannot be reassured if we continue with sticking-plaster legislation and fast-track legislation, which is completely unsatisfactory.
My Lords, it has been very useful to have this debate. It is our last amendment in Committee and it sums up so much of what we are trying to achieve. I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, for laying out so clearly the issues that are before the Committee today. It is clear that the Opposition, the Government and coalition partners have been talking about how best to deal with this issue. We have come to the conclusion that replacement legislation for RIPA needs to be properly considered and that we need to look at where we are. We need proper consideration of future legislation. We are also clear that, while we are passing this particular element today, it needs sunsetting—and it needs sunsetting absolutely when its time has expired. However, we would be reckless to try to set a date when we will then prevent the proper operation of the discussion that we all agree is necessary in Parliament, and with the public in the larger world, about this issue.
The Government do not take lightly the requirement for fast-track legislation, but we have taken this forward with the support of the Opposition, and we have included in it an absolute sunset clause, as is right and appropriate. This is so that Parliament can return to the issue after all the other issues have been discussed. Indeed, Parliament must return to it because this sunset clause is absolute and there is no room for its extension.
Noble Lords have queried the requirement for the speed of the legislation. I repeat that we have particular and urgent circumstances. Earlier, I repeated to the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Stamford, things that I had said at Second Reading. He is not in his place at the moment, but he will confirm that I made it clear that there were urgent considerations and that we were on a cliff edge, as the Prime Minister has said. However, the Government understand fully the wish of noble Lords, which has been expressed in almost all debates, to review this area. That is why it is so important that time is allowed for an independent review before the election, hence Clause 7 in the Bill and a Joint Committee review after the election. That is not kicking the can down the road; it is just making sure that when we return to this with legislation, we do so with legislation that has the support of Parliament and has been properly considered. At the same time, it also makes sure that, whoever wins the election, the Government presenting legislation can do so with the public having been fully engaged in the discussion on the issue.
This amendment would change the date when the Bill ceases to have effect and bring it forward to 31 December 2015. While this date is a year later than that proposed in the House of Commons, I do not believe it will give the sort of time that we need for the reasons expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith. The debates that have taken place in this House have made that absolutely clear. While we have no option but to act swiftly now, festina lente is a sensible approach to finding the new solution for the future. The technological changes we are facing—someone pointed to the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, yesterday—and the balance between security and liberty, should be looked at with a view to the longer term. We will set up, as I have said, in the Bill a review of the investigatory powers and their regulation to be headed up by the current independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson QC. He will report by 1 May 2015, just before the general election. I believe we should be discussing this sort of issue at that time. We need to be realistic. None of us knows who will form the Government after the election. We all have our own views; we sit on opposite sides of the House. However, decisions need be made in the light of information that should be available to Parliament as a whole.
It is not reasonable to expect an incoming Government, of any persuasion, to take a decision immediately on assuming office. That is what in effect would have to happen given the legislative timetable, and it would be without due consideration of David Anderson’s report or any other work that is going on in this area—for example, the committee set up by the Deputy Prime Minister on which the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, sits. Even if the Bill were to be introduced in the first month of the Government’s new term, the timetable would be extremely tight. I think that all noble Lords with experience of legislation—which probably includes everybody in this House—would know that.
Rather, it would be better if the new Government were allowed to develop their own policies, taking advice as appropriate, and enact legislation within their first 18 months. If noble Lords think about it, they will recognise that that is a pretty tight timetable. The new Government would also have the benefit of the Joint Committee of Parliament that all parties have agreed should be established after the election.
The Minister is being very persuasive, as was my noble friend in her pertinent analysis. What I am concerned about in all this talk of Clause 7 is that the reviewer must report to the Prime Minister by 1 May next year. Are we trying to open up a public debate on these issues or are we not? If we are, Parliament should debate that report before we go into the general election.
That is not the deadline that has been agreed by the party leaders. After all, 1 May is a deadline; it does not mean that the independent reviewer will not report before then if he feels that it is satisfactory to do so. It is important to remember that the presence of a sunset clause, while it is absolute in its end date, does not mean that legislation could not be considered before that time if a Government decided that they were in a position to present it in Parliament.
Creating a committee is entirely appropriate and democratic, but it will take time. I do not believe that committees are stuffed with placemen. My noble friend Lord Strasburger, who holds very strong views on this issue, was part of the joint scrutiny committee chaired by my noble friend Lord Blencathra which considered this Bill.
For the past year or so, the Minister has resisted all the efforts by me and others to engage in a conversation or debate on these matters. I congratulate him on his sudden and total conversion to the idea that there should be a national debate and a review of RIPA.
I take that chiding. I am big enough to cope with it. I do not think I have ever failed to answer this House when it has asked me to consider a matter of this nature.
Clearly, Parliament will want to judge both the report of the Joint Committee and the new legislation that replaces this Bill. It will be a new Parliament; it will be a new committee. It will not be the committee chaired by my noble friend Lord Blencathra. The amendment would make it difficult for this to happen. It would also curtail proper public debate about this issue. I am not a last-minute convert in the way that my noble friend Lord Strasburger has described. I believe in transparency; I believe in talking about issues that concern the public. That new legislation will set out new powers and capabilities for the future—potentially wide-ranging powers. The legislation that we have before Parliament today just maintains the status quo, and we have heard the understandable concerns about the pace of its passage.
Perhaps I might say something in response to the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Rooker—I nearly called him my noble friend; I should not say that. He talked about language and the way we communicate difficult ideas. He referred to the problems that elites and those of us with responsibility have in talking to the public as a whole—the use of language. I could not agree with him more. All Governments and all Parliaments must seek to identify through language. It is the thing that we have in common; it is the way in which we communicate with each other; it is the way in which I hope that I am convincing the noble Lord, Lord Judd, of the reason for having this particular date. Language is important.
I am really grateful to the Minister for taking my point. If we really believe what he is saying, and I do not doubt for a moment that he is absolutely sincere, the public have the right to be in the picture before they decide how to cast their vote in a general election, because these issues are central to the whole purpose of government. From that standpoint, the anxiety of the public is that it is all a closed club that is dealing with this in the parliamentary context. If we are going to take the report so seriously and are putting so much emphasis on Clause 7, it is a great shame that we will not get the public in on the act before the election takes place.
What the noble Lord is talking about is political leadership. Political leadership, I am sure, will mean that there are opportunities to discuss this matter during a general election.
This has been a good debate, and I am quite happy that we have had to discuss this issue, but I urge the noble Lords who have proposed the amendment to withdraw it.
My Lords, I agree with my noble friend that this has been an excellent and worthwhile debate. On behalf of my co-sponsors, I thank all those who have taken part.
We have a wealth of experience in this place, which has been demonstrated today wonderfully well. I shall be quite frank: my views have been influenced by what has been said. So long as the Minister was serious, as I am sure he was because he is a sincere man, and so long as the tenor of what he said is carried into effect in the time ahead of us—namely, that, as he put it, the Government will make haste but take the public of this country into consideration in defining and putting together the new legislation to come—it is appropriate for this amendment to be withdrawn. The arguments made about the timescales, especially given the forthcoming general election, seem to me to be correct. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 4 withdrawn.
Clause 8 agreed.
Bill reported without amendment.