House of Lords
Tuesday 19 July 2016
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Southwark.
Introduction: The Lord Bishop of Oxford
Steven John Lindsey, Lord Bishop of Oxford, was introduced and took the oath, supported by the Bishop of Norwich and the Bishop of Southwark, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.
I recognise the concern about impact, especially about arrears, as we discussed last week, but many claimants come to UC with final earnings to support them until their first payment and often find work quickly. Waiting days apply to those most likely to find work and various claimant support initiatives are available, including advances, dedicated work coaches and budgeting support. DWP is keeping a close eye on this area and hopes to publish data later this year.
My Lords, in the survey of council home providers to which my noble friend Lord McKenzie referred last week, 100% of respondents cited the six-week wait for the first UC payment as a key factor in rent arrears. It is also a factor in food bank referrals. Will the Minister now, as a first step, remove the seven-day waiting period, as called for by the National Federation of ALMOS and ARCH, bearing in mind that his department’s data show that lower-paid workers are more likely to be paid weekly and not have savings to fall back on?
I am looking at this area. The figures have to be looked at very carefully to see what they are really showing us. We are looking at a group going to UC who are changing their circumstances. The difference between what happens to them as they go on to housing benefit compared with the legacy benefits is not as great as I initially thought. But I am taking this seriously and I will look at it personally with the department to ensure that we get the right answer.
You certainly do not publish them very well. In 2010-11, more than 1 million people applied for crisis loans. In the year to September 2015, that was down to 140,000 people applying for the equivalent advances.
Did the Minister see the research out today by the IFS which showed what the House has been telling him for a long time: two-thirds of the poor are now in households where somebody is in work? If those people are paid weekly, they are already poor. If they lose their job and apply for universal credit, they have to wait six weeks before they get a penny. As my noble friend said, they get nothing for the first week. Can the Minister not see that that is setting them up to fail?
As I said, I am looking at this area. It is not as simple as some of the figures might make you think. I, too, read the IFS research with great interest. Inequality among children has fallen very steeply since the mid-1990s, most of it post the recession. Whenever the IFS says anything nice, I really appreciate it. It said that the important reason was a remarkable fall in the share of children in workless households. Indeed, we have half a million fewer since 2010.
Will the Minister confirm that, if my history is right, he is the single surviving Minister since 2010 holding down the same office in government, promoting the interests of universal credit? Is this because the subject area is so complicated, or maybe because he is unpaid? Do any of the 11 pilots currently being mounted by the department address the issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, which is important? Packages of support and advance payments are available, but this does not seem to be communicated to the people who need them most. I hope that the Minister will stay in his position for some time yet.
I thank the noble Lord. His sums on this are right, although, along with him, I am not sure whether that is a compliment or the opposite. With the figures that we are looking at, we are disentangling legacy systems—which are pretty odd in themselves—from the new system. One fact about the very big ALMO figures is that ALMOs want rent a week in advance, so it is not surprising that a lot of people are in arrears when you compare them with housing associations, which take the rent four weeks in arrears. That is the kind of thing that I have to disentangle.
My Lords, the issue has been raised before, but housing associations, as well as councils, are suffering major rent arrears. When the Government have sorted out the meaning of all the data, I would just ask that they do not rule out returning to providing direct payment of housing subsidies to landlords, because clearly it is a problem for housing associations if they are short of income. I add my congratulations to the Minister for remaining in seat.
Let me be absolutely clear why we are doing this. It is of course very convenient for housing associations to be paid directly by the state, but it is incredibly inconvenient for claimants to then move from being out of work to being in work. Our whole drive is to break that barrier and get rid of all those artificial barriers to people going into work. It is something that we need to work on and get right, so that the transformation is made easily. The basic, underlying philosophy is more important than the convenience of housing associations.
My Lords, given that the Prime Minister made a statement, on entering the doors of No. 10, that she would be on the side of people struggling to make ends meet, would it not be wise for the Minister to address this problem urgently with a view to finding a solution?
To be clear, the Prime Minister, who I have worked for directly, treats this area as very important, which I am really pleased about. We are paying real attention, at speed, to sorting out these matters. As I said, one can brandish the figures around, but they do not necessarily tell you what you think they do.
BBC: Royal Charter
My Lords, the Government are engaged in constructive discussions with the BBC about the draft charter and framework agreement. Our current plan is for debates on the draft charter and agreement to be held in both Houses in October, subject to other business. We plan to publish the draft charter and agreement in September, well in advance of these debates.
I congratulate the Minister on his new appointment and look forward to working with him. Following the biggest consultation response ever received, the Government can be in no doubt that the people of this country want the BBC to be independent and its freedom to inform, educate and entertain across all its services to be protected. The Minister will recall that 10 years ago the then Secretary of State, my noble friend Lady Jowell, offered both Houses the chance to debate the final draft BBC charter and agreement on a divisible Motion. Can we expect a similar arrangement this time round?
My Lords, the Government will hold take-note debates in both Houses, in line with what was done for the last charter review, which reflects the importance of the BBC’s independence. The current plan is to hold a debate in this House in October, subject to other parliamentary business. If Members of the House wish to vote on the charter, they are free to do so on their own initiative, following the usual procedures.
My Lords, I wonder whether I can persuade the Minister and the Government to accelerate the programme slightly. I believe the Digital Economy Bill, which is before the other place, is due to have its Second Reading in September. It is impossible to understand Clauses 75 and 76 of that Bill unless one sees the draft charter and the framework agreement, as the Explanatory Notes make pretty clear. Although it is not in this House but in the other place, like many I am concerned that it is important for Members of both Houses to be able to understand what those clauses mean. In particular, there is a rather threatening clause about Ofcom. According to the Explanatory Notes, Ofcom, “in its new role”, will be able to,
“regulate all of the BBC’s activities”.
If that is right, and that includes content, it is chilling. That is why it is very important to see the draft charter—if possible on its own, although I would prefer it with the framework agreement—sooner rather than later.
My Lords, I apologise: I should have thanked the noble Lord for his kind words. As far as the timing is concerned, the draft charter will be published with the framework agreement in September. That is the current plan. I doubt very much that it will be before September. There is still work to be done. I understand the implications and the linkage with the Digital Economy Bill. We aim to allow ample time after the draft framework and charter have been published to allow the noble Lord and others to look at it carefully. My department is happy to have individual discussions with noble Lords.
My Lords, I speak as chairman of the Communications Committee of your Lordships’ House. The committee was very keen that the new charter be for a period of 11 years to take it out of politics and to give real freedom to the BBC. Can the Minister confirm that the five-year interim review of the charter will not reopen the Pandora’s box of all the things that we hope are put to bed but will concern itself exclusively with regulation and governance matters and will not be—to mix my metaphors—a sword of Damocles hanging over the BBC for the next five years?
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for the work he does on this subject—he has done a bit more than I have at the moment. As far as the mid-term review is concerned, I think he will be reassured when he sees the draft framework. The plan that has been announced is that it will not affect the mission, public purposes or financing of the BBC. It will be a health check, principally on the governance of the BBC.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that the building of religious literacy and the understanding of diverse communities within our nation should be a foundational part of the statutory duty of the BBC, mindful of the need for global and domestic cohesion?
My Lords, I agree with the right reverend Prelate that that is of crucial importance. We have not seen the draft charter framework agreement yet, and I hope that the right reverend Prelate will be happy when that happens. I agree that that is an important matter for the BBC to consider, but I would also say that we are very concerned not to get involved with the editorial independence of the BBC.
My Lords, in view of the importance of the BBC in the nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and in view of the structure of the BBC, can it be facilitated that there be debates in the devolved Assemblies and Parliament on these matters before final decisions are taken?
My Lords, I declare an interest as a BBC producer. In the White Paper, the Government asked the BBC to put all non-news programming out to competitive tender. At the same time, BBC programme-making has been hived off to become an independent commercial entity. Will the Minister tell the House whether the Government intend the BBC, outside news, to become a broadcast publisher on the lines of Channel 4?
My Lords, demand for new homes remains high, as does our commitment to deliver 1 million more homes by 2020, supported by the housebuilding sector and the reforms that we have made and are making to the planning system.
My Lords, I am glad the Minister has reminded the House that there was a commitment in the Queen’s Speech to build 1 million new homes by 2020. I remind him that in the first year of that, well under 200,000 homes were built and the new homebuilding market seems to have stalled. In view of that, is it not time for the Government to intervene and build more social homes for rent?
My Lords, the number of new homes built since the beginning of the Parliament is 171,000, which is higher than the previous year. The noble Lord is right that it was under 200,000, but it is more than the average for the previous 2005-10 Parliament. Obviously we are following the situation closely and monitoring progress. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State is meeting housebuilders today to discuss the position. I reassure the House that a record number of planning permissions—265,000 to March 2016—was given in the last year.
My Lords, we are in the process of releasing public land for housing. We have released considerable tracts in Dover, Chichester, the north of Cambridge and Gosport, for example, and this work is continuing. The noble Lord is right to draw the attention of the House to the issue.
My Lords, in view of the comments about the need for more social housing, is the Minister aware that some boroughs, such as the London Borough of Camden, to which I spoke today, have simply said that anyone who has not already lived there for five years, no matter how deserving their cause, is not to be considered for social housing? I was speaking about a very extreme case of a woman well over 60. Is that common practice at the moment? Is there simply a failure to offer, and a sudden changing of the terms for social housing?
My Lords, clearly there is a role for local authorities here, with which we have dialogue. A considerable amount has been pledged to affordable houses for rent. We are also in dialogue with the Greater London Assembly and the mayor about how we move this forward.
My Lords, how many of the 171,000 houses were actually social housing? Of the 1 million that are proposed, could the Minister provide a breakdown, even if he cannot supply it today, of the number of homes that will be social housing compared with those that will be for sale, what percentage of those for sale will be in the low-cost homes category, and whether co-operative and self-build housing forms part of the 1 million target figure?
My Lords, the 1 million figure is of course made up of a range of sources. Some 400,000 will be affordable houses while 200,000 will be starter homes, and it is right that there should be a mix of types of housing. That is something the Government are absolutely pledged to.
My Lords, I refer to my interests as a member of Newcastle City Council, in which the imposed reduction of 1% in council rents will lead to a reduction of £28 million by 2020, which would otherwise be invested in new housing and the existing housing stock, and of £593 million over 30 years, while £2.6 billion will be lost nationally to such investment by 2020. What assessment have the Government made of the impact on the new building of social housing, council housing and the improvement of the existing stock as a result of that decision to force rents to be reduced?
My Lords, as I have indicated, we are watching very closely what the position is regarding new build. We are committed to a range of sources, including affordable houses for rent as well as houses to buy. We should take account of the fact that, I suspect, most if not all of us own our own houses, so there is a concentration on helping people to buy their homes. However, we are not blind to the need to encourage the affordable housing for rent sector as well.
My Lords, has my noble friend had time to read the excellent report by the Select Committee on Economic Affairs, Building More Homes, which I hope we will have time to debate, and has he seen the comment on page 75? It says:
“The current restrictions on the ability of local authorities to borrow to build social housing are arbitrary and anomalous”.
Will he pursue this with the new Secretary of State to see whether more homes might be built through that route?
My Lords, I have had the opportunity to look at the Select Committee report, which obviously has just come out. The Government will of course respond to it. It is an excellent report with a range of recommendations, which we take seriously, as does my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, and of course we will pursue this with great vigour.
My Lords, have the Government taken into account the fact that demographic change means that many older people live in unsuitable housing, and that if planning permission was guaranteed for more specialist housing with care for older people, it would release a huge amount of property for younger people—both rented and purchased and through local authorities and housing associations—and would deal with a lot of the problems we all face?
The noble Baroness makes a valid point, which we have considered. Obviously there are issues around encouraging people to move out of accommodation which is larger than they need but without in any way making them feel obliged to do so, so these issues need to be handled with care. I thank the noble Baroness for readdressing us to that point, but we are considering it.
My Lords, the 2015 spending review announced £60 million of grants to respond to the problem caused by second home ownership in areas with desirable coastal and rural housing. The aim was to provide affordable housing in perpetuity for local families who would otherwise be priced out of market. We were expecting an announcement on that but certain events intervened recently. Can the Minister assure us that this will go ahead and when it will come on stream?
I thank the right reverend Prelate for that point. He is absolutely right that this is an issue. Local authorities, as I know from Wales—this applies in England as well—have a power to use council tax as a device to ensure that people pay an additional amount on a second home. We are looking at this; I will write to the right reverend Prelate as regards progress on it and will make a copy available in the Library.
I thank the noble Baroness for that question. Of course we have a new homes strategy: we are committed to building 1 million new homes in this Parliament, and measures are in place. A £20 billion budget for housing over this Parliament, which is a considerable amount, is partly to encourage housebuilding but is also helping people to buy and making money available for homes to rent.
Council of the European Union: UK Presidency
My Lords, we remain a full member of the EU until negotiations are concluded, with the rights and responsibilities this entails. Obviously, the outcome of the referendum raises a number of issues, of which the presidency is one, which we will want to discuss with our European colleagues and come to an appropriate decision on in a timely manner.
My Lords, while I regret the additional acronym on the Order Paper, I warmly congratulate my noble friend on his well-deserved new appointment. It is an extremely challenging one. I was somewhat reassured by what he said, but I ask him not to be so tentative. Is it not true that we are a full member of the European Union until we cease to be a full member? Would a man who announced that he was going to retire at the age of 65 stop work at 64, and if he did, would he not be roundly criticised for so doing? We must accept all the obligations, meet all the challenges, and indeed accept all the privileges that membership brings, until we cease to be a member.
First, I thank my noble friend for his comments. I am sorry that he does not much like the acronym. I entirely agree that we will and must continue to play our full role in the EU, as I said, exercising the rights and observing the responsibilities that our membership brings, and as your Lordships will know, just yesterday we played an active role at the Foreign Affairs Council. We will clarify our position in due course. I am mindful of what my noble friend has just said and of the wish for clarity that some member states have expressed. We are considering the options, but we have not had substantial talks on this as yet.
My Lords, I congratulated the noble Lord yesterday—although I am not sure how we pronounce DfEEU—and I think that we have made some progress here today. When, on 27 June, the then Lord Privy Seal answered a similar question, the response was, “Well, that will be decided in the months ahead”, so we are now doing this in a timely fashion. However, it is important that the Government set out a clear timetable for these things not only to reassure our European neighbours but to reassure Parliament about our obligations as a member of the EU.
I thank the noble Lord again— and by the way, I think he pronounced DfEEU very well. I cannot go further right now on setting out a timetable, but I absolutely understand what he says. He is right to say that we need to respect the views of our European partners. As I said, we are considering our options and will do so in a timely fashion.
My Lords, it is the turn of the Liberal Democrats.
While the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, is taking his time, does he accept that it would be extremely difficult for the United Kingdom to conduct a presidency if, under Article 50, it is banned from taking part in certain meetings that will inevitably have to happen during the presidency? Does he also accept that the parliamentary authorities will need to make arrangements—catering, venues and functions, among many others—if we are to carry out that presidency? Will the Government commit to refunding the House if they make a very late decision and contracts have to be cancelled?
My Lords, why would the United Kingdom not want to take up the presidency—not just of the whole of the European Union but of each Council of Ministers? It would give us significant influence in those Council discussions over a six-month period which will be crucial to the negotiations for Britain leaving the European Union. It would be madness not to take up this opportunity.
My Lords, will my noble friend think of the morale of those who currently work for the European institutions? What thought is being given to their exit strategy when the European Union is left free of the United Kingdom? Will they immediately come back to the British Civil Service or will they have to leave the Civil Service completely?
My noble friend makes a very good point. Obviously, there is a large reservoir of talent and expertise in the EU among British citizens who could play a considerable role and make a significant contribution in the months and years ahead. We are looking at that, but I cannot go any further at this precise moment.
I suggest to the noble Lord that, in the interests of consistency, which is always a good facet in government, he now goes to the Statement made after the last European Council meeting, repeated by the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, in this House. I questioned her about that Statement and she insisted that the words in it meant exactly what they said—that we would play a full role, accepting all our obligations.
My Lords, is there not another consideration that demands urgency in the Government’s decision? Should we decide not to take the presidency, there will be an awful lot of preparatory work to be done by whichever country has that responsibility. Are we completely egocentric?
Last week my right honourable friend the Prime Minister confirmed to the Commission president that Sir Julian King is the UK candidate to replace the noble Lord, Lord Hill. As I am sure a number of your Lordships know, Sir Julian is an experienced diplomat. It will now be for the President of the European Commission to propose a portfolio for the new Commissioner.
Pubs Code etc. Regulations 2016
Motion to Approve
Pubs Code (Fees, Costs and Financial Penalties) Regulations 2016
Motion to Approve
My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall repeat as a Statement the response to an Urgent Question given in the other place by the right honourable Sir Alan Duncan MP on the developments in Turkey. The Statement is as follows:
“As Members on both sides of the House will have seen from events unfolding on their television screens, it became clear on Friday evening that a military uprising was under way in Turkey. In plain terms, it was an attempted coup, which we condemn unreservedly. This was ultimately unsuccessful, and constitutional order has been restored. However, 210 people have reportedly been killed, and some 1,400 injured. I am sure that the whole House will join me in expressing our sympathies and condolences to the people of Turkey on this tragic loss of life.
Her Majesty’s Government have, of course, been closely engaged throughout the weekend. Foreign and Commonwealth Office consular staff worked tirelessly through Saturday and Sunday to support British nationals affected and they continue to do so. We have thankfully received no reports of British casualties. Our advice to British nationals remains to monitor local media reports and to follow FCO travel advice, including through our Facebook and Twitter accounts.
My right honourable friend the Prime Minister spoke to President Erdogan on Monday evening. She expressed her condolences for the loss of life and commended the bravery of the Turkish people. The Prime Minister underlined our support for Turkey’s Government and democratic institutions, stressing there was no place for the military in politics. The Prime Minister underlined the importance of our co-operation on counterterrorism, migration, regional security and defence.
My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary was regularly updated by officials as events unfolded. He also visited the teams in the FCO’s crisis centre responding to Nice on Friday morning and then again for Turkey on Saturday morning. He spoke to his Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavusoglu, on Saturday to express our concern and our support for Turkey’s democratic Government and its democratic institutions; to urge calm; and to encourage all parties to work to restore democratic and constitutional order quickly and in an inclusive way. Her Majesty’s ambassador in Turkey has been in constant touch with his Turkish contacts. I spoke to him yesterday, in particular to express our concern for the welfare of embassy staff and plan to visit Ankara tomorrow.
The Foreign Secretary attended the Foreign Affairs Council yesterday and participated in a discussion of Turkey. There is a strong sense of common purpose between us and European partners. The Foreign Affairs Council has issued conclusions strongly condemning the coup attempt, welcoming the common position of the political parties in support of Turkey’s democracy, and stressing the importance for the rule of law prevailing and its rejection of the death penalty.
The Turkish Government now have the opportunity to build on the strong domestic support they gathered in response to the coup attempt. A measured and careful approach will sustain the unity of purpose which we have seen so far and which was so clearly evident on the streets of Istanbul and Ankara. The UK stands ready to assist Turkey to take forward the reforms to which it has committed itself and to help the democratically elected Government to restore order in a way that reflects and supports the rule of law”.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness on her appointment and welcome her to the Front Bench, and I thank her for repeating the Statement. I welcome the steps that the Government have taken and their communications to the Government of Turkey, and I certainly welcome Sir Alan Duncan’s intention to visit Ankara. However, what happens next to this vital ally, partner and friend is critical. Two million UK citizens enjoy holidaying in Turkey. Will the Minister ensure that clear and speedy advice is given on an ongoing basis to those individuals and families so that they can continue to enjoy their holidays in Turkey, which is so vital to the economy of that country? As to next steps, will the Minister also reassure the House that in the necessary, ongoing discussions and dialogue, the importance of upholding the rule of law and due process will be stressed? Specifically, will they make clear representations against the reintroduction of the death penalty?
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Collins, for his kind remarks. He has made three very important points. On the matter of the many British nationals who visit Turkey and, as he rightly identifies, are so important to the Turkish economy, there is advice available. The situation is calm. There remains the prospect of perhaps some further turbulence, but flights are returning to normal and travellers should follow the advice of both Turkey’s own local authorities, monitor travel advice, take advice from their own travel operators and, of course, continue to take advice from the FCO website.
On the issue of nationals currently in Turkey, common sense, I think, is the order of the day. Travellers should be alert to their surroundings and remain vigilant in crowded places that are popular with tourists. On the very important issue of respect for democracy and rule of law, I think the entire Chamber would echo the noble Lord’s sentiments. These are also sentiments that have been reaffirmed and re-impressed by both the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Turkey, of course, is not just a valued partner of the UK; it is a NATO ally. In that sense, the rule of law is fundamental to parts of the NATO values agenda. So, in that respect, it is clear just how much this is prized and what importance the UK sets on it, and that importance has been conveyed to Turkey.
I also welcome the noble Baroness to her new post and wish her well, and thank her for repeating the Statement. It is clear that none of us can predict what will come next—which is the important factor. Just today, there have been reports that 14 navy ships, along with the admiral and commander of the Turkish Navy, have gone missing. Nobody seems to know what has happened. Every day there are purges of judges and other personnel across Turkey, which is destabilising the civilian population and bringing greater divisions.
The final line of the Statement said that:
“The UK stands ready to assist Turkey to take forward the reforms to which it has committed itself and to help the democratically elected Government”.
What does that involve? Would it involve, for example, working closer with our EU foreign affairs partners who have a greater relationship vested in Turkey because of the talks they have previously held on Syrian refugees and on visas? What can we do here to influence that and to promote greater democracy, bearing in mind that all the opposition parties, including the Kurdish HDP, came out and opposed the coup and showed support for the ruling AK Party and the President? How can we capitalise on that and promote greater democracy?
I thank the noble Baroness for her kind remarks. She raises an important point. Her question highlights that, at the end of the day, Turkey is a constitutional democracy. The United Kingdom respects that, as I said in my earlier response to the noble Lord, Lord Collins. There has been repeated reaffirmation of our expectation that democracy will be respected in Turkey and that the rule of law will be not just respected but applied. In the end, it is for the Turkish people to determine their system of government, but we would want to see any constitutional change carried out in line with democratic processes. As I say, that includes respect for the rule of law.
We have also strongly encouraged Turkey to continue to work towards the full protection of fundamental rights, especially in the areas of minority rights, freedom of religion and freedom of expression. As the noble Baroness indicated, both within the EU community and certainly in the UK, there is a strong desire to keep reaffirming and reasserting the importance of these issues and our expectation that Turkey will honour these matters.
My Lords, I too congratulate the noble Baroness on her appointment and I share the deep regret expressed by Her Majesty’s Government at the loss of life in Turkey. Is the Minister aware that on Saturday the three leaders of the main faith communities in Turkey—Jewish, Christian and Muslim—released a joint statement condemning the attempted coup and urging peace? Many religious minorities in Turkey opposed the coup. I welcome what the Minister has said about religious liberty, but what conversations are Her Majesty’s Government having with the Turkish Government to encourage them to resist using these events as an opportunity to curtail basic human rights and the right of freedom of religion and belief?
I thank the right reverend Prelate not only for his kind remarks but for raising an important issue. It is the case that at the forefront of all the diplomatic discourse and dialogue currently taking place not only between the UK and Turkey but also between other countries and Turkey, there is a desire to emphasise the need to protect these fundamental rights of freedom of religion and freedom of expression, and that will continue to be prominent in all the diplomatic discourse and exchange.
I congratulate my noble friend on her new post and I wish her well. What is the Government’s attitude towards the President’s severe clampdown and, given that the right reverend Prelate has just mentioned fundamental rights, to what happened in June when thousands of people were arrested at the entrance to Taksim Gezi Park?
I thank my noble friend for her kind remarks. We strongly encourage Turkey to continue to work towards the full protection of fundamental rights. In relation to the specific issue she has raised, once again it implies the need for respect for democratic freedoms and the application of the rule of law.
My Lords, I also congratulate the noble Baroness on her appointment. I would ask her to draw a distinction between the rule of law and human rights. Law can be changed, as indeed Mr Erdogan has eloquently demonstrated in recent times. Human rights, on the other hand, are fundamental and some might say immutable. It is therefore essential that in our dealings with Turkey and the present Administration we should draw that distinction, and in particular emphasise the latter.
My Lords, I want particularly to intervene to join in the thanks expressed to my good friend the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie, on her well-merited promotion. Perhaps she could clarify the position on the death penalty, because from what she said I am not clear about it. We must make it absolutely clear that there must be no suggestion that the death penalty can be reintroduced. I say that as a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The assembly would have grave concerns if there was any suggestion that the death penalty was to be reintroduced.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, for his kind remarks—or as Alex Salmond used to call him, Lord “Fookes”; I know that the noble Lord took great exception to that. He raises an important point and in fact I should apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Collins, because that was the final part of his question which I omitted to answer. The suggestions that the death penalty may return are very worrying. The Foreign Secretary and other international leaders have emphasised the need for calm, but let me make it crystal clear that the UK policy on the death penalty is that we oppose it in all circumstances, and we shall reiterate that view.
Investigatory Powers Bill
Committee (3rd Day)
Relevant documents: Pre-legislative scrutiny by the Joint Committee on the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill, Session 2015-16, 1st Report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights, 2nd Report from the Delegated Powers Committee, 3rd Report from the Constitution Committee
Clause 58: Power to grant authorisations
115: Clause 58, page 46, line 7, at end insert—
“(za) section (Restrictions in relation to internet connection records) (restrictions in relation to internet connection records),”
My Lords, we recognised during the passage of the Bill thus far that care must be applied to the acquisition of internet connection records—in particular, that they should not be acquired for trivial purposes. Their value to law enforcement has been widely recognised, and the Bill, as introduced, already restricts access to four specific purposes. In addition, local authorities cannot acquire them for any purposes.
However, in response to a suggestion from the shadow Home Secretary in the House of Commons, the Government committed to consider further restrictions which would provide greater reassurance that the powers to acquire internet connection records would only ever be used proportionately. These amendments therefore apply a threshold to the acquisition of internet connection records when the statutory purpose is for the prevention and detection of crime. This means that they will be able to be acquired only for offences that are sufficiently serious that an offender can be sentenced to at least six months’ imprisonment.
In implementing this threshold, however, it is important that internet connection records can continue to be used for certain offences which, for whatever reasons, carry a lower sentencing limit. I am sure that noble Lords will agree that internet connection records should be available for these offences. These are: the investigation of any offence where the sending of a communication is an integral part of the offence: for example, offences related to stalking, cyberbullying and harassment which can, if not investigated, quickly escalate to more serious offences; offences relating to breach of a person’s privacy, such as stealing personal data, which recognises the importance of protecting privacy in the digital age and the need to fully investigate any suspected breaches; offences committed by corporate bodies—for example, corporate manslaughter, where a penalty of imprisonment cannot apply; and any offence meeting the serious crime threshold in the Bill for the most intrusive powers, ensuring that these powers can be used to investigate offences involving the use of violence, conduct that results in substantial financial gain and conduct by a large number of people in pursuit of a common purpose.
A number of consequential amendments are made as a result of this amendment. The Government and law enforcement are clear about the value and importance of accessing internet connection records to prevent and detect crime, and to keep the public safe. That has been recognised during the passage of this Bill thus far, including by noble Lords at Second Reading. The amendments build significantly on the safeguards that the Bill already applies to the acquisition of communications data. They are based on the amendments proposed by the Opposition in the House of Commons and they will ensure public trust in the use of these vital powers. I beg to move.
My Lords, the restrictions on using internet connection records set out in these amendments are welcome. However, we intend to propose the removal of internet connection records from the definition of communications data that the Secretary of State can require a telecommunications operator to retain when we come to debate Clause 83. The intended effect of that amendment would be to make it impossible to obtain internet connection records unless they were retained by the telecommunications provider for its own business purposes. I will leave any further comment on internet connection records until we reach Amendment 156A to Clause 83.
We welcome the spirit of the Government’s amendments, which, as the noble and learned Lord said, seek to fulfil the commitment the Government made during the passage of the Bill in the Commons to introduce a clear and appropriate threshold for accessing internet connection records. The concern was that access should not be available in connection with non-serious crime. The threshold for serious crime appears workable and appropriate.
We welcome, too, the fact that specific offences such as stalking and harassment have been addressed and can lead to access to ICRs. However, we have continuing concerns around the definition of “relevant crime”, which we feel is too broad and could still lead to the use of ICRs in connection with crimes that would not be regarded as serious. Last April, the then Home Secretary told the shadow Home Secretary that restricting ICRs to serious crime would: hamper the ability of the police to investigate online stalking and harassment; disrupt police investigations of online grooming or the sending of sexual communications to a child; reduce the ability to investigate online fraud; hinder the ability to identify and disrupt the sale and distribution of illegal material online, including illegal weapons, counterfeit medicines or illegal drugs; and prevent the police from progressing investigations where there may be a threat to life, but where it is unclear whether a crime is involved—for example, locating a missing or suicidal child—because many of these activities would not meet the serious crime threshold.
We do not disagree with the intention set out in that communication from the Home Secretary to the shadow Home Secretary, but if the Government have a list of specific offences or types of offences which they feel fall below the serious crime threshold but should not be subject to a restriction on access to ICRs, perhaps that is a matter that needs further discussion about what should be included on the list or what should be covered. We wish to see the wording in the government amendment tightened further. We would want to work with the Government on this while the Bill is progressing through its stages in this House. I hope that the Minister, on behalf of the Government, will feel able to indicate that he is willing to have further discussions on this and the wording of the amendment in the light of our concerns about the apparent broad nature of the definition of “relevant crime”.
My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord. I welcome the suggestion that we are at least heading in the right direction with regard to these amendments. We would of course be open to further discussions on this topic so we can address more fully what is a relevant crime in this context. I will add that one has to bear in mind that these potentially intrusive orders will be made only where it is necessary and proportionate. That is the test that exists, but I welcome the opportunity for further discussion with noble Lords.
Amendment 115 agreed.
116: Clause 58, page 46, line 40, leave out “, in particular,” and insert “not”
My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 116 in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Hamwee. We also have our names to Amendments 154 and 235 in this group.
These amendments relate to a government commitment not to require telecommunications operators to retain third-party data. On 4 November 2015 in a Statement in the other place, the then Home Secretary said that the Bill,
“will not include powers to force UK companies to capture and retain third party internet traffic from companies based overseas”.—[Official Report, Commons, 4/11/15; col. 969.]
However, Clause 58(5)(c) states:
“An authorisation … may, in particular, require a telecommunications operator who controls or provides a telecommunication system to obtain or disclose data relating to the use of a telecommunications service provided by another telecommunications operator in relation to that system”.
Surely this means third-party data.
Amendment 116 would alter Clause 58(5)(c) to read, “may not require”. The key point here is that telecommunications companies should not be forced to obtain third-party data. The draft code of practice on communications data states at paragraph 2.61:
“A data retention notice can never require a CSP to retain the content of communications or third party data”.
Paragraph 2.66 states:
“A CSP cannot be required to retain third party data as part of an ICR”.
Amendment 154 would add a new subsection to Clause 83(2)—the clause headed “Powers to require retention of certain data”—to make explicit that a retention notice may,
“not require a telecommunications operator to retain any third party data, unless that data is retained by the telecommunications operator for its own business purposes”.
This is to distinguish between communications data that the telecommunications operator may have and being forced to acquire third-party data that it does not have.
Amendment 235 would restrict the definition of communications data in Clause 233(5) so that it relates to the provision of the service by that operator and not a third party. I beg to move Amendment 116.
My Lords, I have added my name to Amendment 154 and will not repeat what has been said about it. It simply asks the Government to make explicit what they have said—namely, that the retention of third-party data will not be required. It would be helpful to make that clear in the Bill.
My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, has explained, these three amendments all deal with the issue of third-party data. Amendment 116 seeks to prevent public authorities from acquiring third-party data, Amendment 154 seeks to put the Government’s commitment not to require retention of third-party data on to the face of the Bill and Amendment 235 seeks to amend the definition of communications data to exclude from it third-party data.
On the acquisition of third-party data, the Bill maintains the existing position under RIPA that public authorities can acquire third-party data where necessary and proportionate to do so. But I want to be clear here—a provider is required to comply with a request for communications data, including a request for third-party data, only where it is reasonably practicable for them to do so. It is absolutely right that, where a communications service provider holds, or is able to obtain, communications data, whether in relation to its own services or those provided by a third party, then the data should be available to public authorities for the statutory purposes in the Bill. Put simply, data that already exist, are already held and which could save a life, convict a criminal, prevent a terrorist attack or provide an alibi, should not be put out of reach of law enforcement based solely on which company it is that holds the information.
Amendment 154 deals with the retention of third-party data. As I am sure the noble Lord knows, this matter was considered in the Commons, where the Government gave a commitment to consider it further. I am grateful to the noble Lord and the noble Baroness for tabling this amendment and giving me an opportunity to update the Committee on those considerations. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has given a clear commitment that we will not require a telecommunications operator to retain third-party data, and that commitment is given effect to in the Communications Data Draft Code of Practice. However, distilling that commitment into primary legislative drafting is complex. We do not want to include provisions in the Bill that are not entirely clear in scope or which put in place restrictions that are broader, or indeed narrower, than intended. But we have been making good progress and are close to a provision that we think achieves the desired outcome. Of course, we need to test that drafting with operational stakeholders and with those telecommunications operators likely to be affected by the legislation, but we hope to be able to return to this issue on Report.
Finally, on Amendment 235, the principle of what are communications data is clear. Changing that position so that the classification of data changes depending on which provider holds them would no doubt cause confusion among providers as to how the data should be handled. While I understand the concerns around third-party data, and hope that what I have said today lays some of those to rest, amending the definition of communications data is not the right way forward. I invite the noble Lord to withdraw Amendment 116.
I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation and am encouraged by the promise of government amendments on Report. I have to say that I am still a little confused. The former Home Secretary, in her commitment, said that third-party data of telecommunications operators from abroad would not be required to be retained by UK telecoms operators. If the third-party data are of a different UK telecoms operator, surely the Secretary of State can make an order to get the data from that operator. But I will read carefully in Hansard what the Minister has said. As he has made a commitment, we will come back to this on Report. For the moment I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 116 withdrawn.
Amendments 117 and 118
117: Clause 58, page 47, line 7, leave out “and proportionate”
118: Clause 58, page 47, line 8, leave out “and proportionate”
Amendments 117 and 118 agreed.
119: Clause 58, page 47, line 12, at end insert—
“( ) for the purpose of suppressing less serious crimes perpetrated on a large scale using the internet,”
My Lords, in moving Amendment 119, I will also address Amendment 202 in this group. At Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Birt, made an impassioned speech which echoed my thoughts exactly. What most of us experience as crime related to the internet are the daily attempts to pick our pockets and to mug us in other ways which crowd our inboxes, even with all the filters that are in place in Parliament and much more so on one’s private email. This is the experience of the average citizen of the internet: a caricature of a Dickensian London street, a place where you always have to be on your guard, where it is not safe to be.
In the Bill the Government are giving themselves the power, potentially, to help us do something about that. These amendments are intended to probe whether the Government have gone far enough to enable them to put those things into effect. When they talk about “serious crime”, they are talking of the equivalent of murder. But “serious” to us is small crimes, repeated in large numbers, every day, which are much more likely to have an effect on us—indeed, on every citizen.
Once the Government have the access to data that they are seeking in the Bill, they have the power to help us. They can warn us, “Hang on, you’ve been on a website that’s probably infected, you ought to do something about that”, because they know everything we have done on the internet, potentially; or they can start to do that, or they can explore the possibility of helping us.
Noble Lords who were here for the debates on identity cards will remember the great issues of principle we discussed then. But the sort of information we were afraid to give a Government we give every day to Google. You give it to Nintendo if you play Pokémon GO. We are astonishingly willing to part with our information if we get something back.
However, the contract that the Government advertise in the Bill means that they get all our information and we personally will probably not get anything back, because the ills that the Government seek to address are large and rare. They are extremely unlikely to affect us directly, except emotionally of course. Crimes on the scale of a downed aircraft will directly affect a very small proportion of us. If the Government want to do us all good and to gain consent for the access to data which is involved in the Bill, surely the best way to do it is to copy the successful commercial examples and give us all something back, for this to be seen as a good thing in our daily lives. I hope that my amendments will elicit from the Government that they have given themselves sufficient power in the Bill to do us that bit of daily good, should they or we ever be able to persuade a Home Secretary that it was worth doing. I beg to move.
My Lords, Clause 58 is the first clause of Part 3 of the Bill and deals with the targeted obtaining of communications data. It provides the power for only those public authorities listed in Schedule 4 to the Bill to authorise conduct to obtain communications data. Obtaining communications data may be authorised only when necessary for one of the statutory purposes listed in Clause 58(7) and where the conduct authorised is proportionate to what is sought to be achieved. Similarly, Clause 146(2) provides the statutory purposes for which a bulk communications data acquisition warrant will be considered necessary. Those purposes mirror the statutory functions of the security and intelligence agencies, since bulk warrants are of course available only to those agencies. They are where it is,
“in the interests of national security”,
for the prevention or detection of serious crime, or,
“in the interests of the economic well-being of”,
the UK where relevant to national security.
Throughout the passage of the Bill, we have heard repeatedly of the vital importance of communications data for the full range of law enforcement activity and national security investigations. This Government are committed to ensuring that law enforcement and the intelligence agencies have the tools they need to carry out the critical responsibilities that Parliament has placed upon them. Indeed, one of the key aims of this legislation is to ensure that investigatory powers are fit for a digital age and that crime can be investigated wherever it takes place, regardless of the method of communication. However, the Government consider these amendments unnecessary for targeted communications data and an inappropriate extension of responsibilities for our intelligence agencies for bulk communications data.
The Bill already provides that communications data may be acquired for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime, wherever that crime takes place and whatever scale it is on, where an application for communications data meets the requirements for necessity and proportionality. So it would already be available for the purpose of suppressing less serious crimes perpetrated on a large scale. I commend the aim of my noble friend Lord Lucas’s amendment but I believe that the Bill already provides the powers that he seeks.
As I said earlier, the bulk acquisition of communications data is available only to the intelligence agencies, whose statutory functions relate to serious crime and national security. The inclusion of a statutory purpose to obtain communications data in bulk so that our intelligence agencies could suppress less serious crime would therefore, in my submission, be inappropriate.
I hope that my noble friend finds those comments helpful and will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
Amendment 119 withdrawn.
120: Clause 58, page 47, line 33, at end insert—
“( ) The fact that the communications data which would be obtained in pursuance of an authorisation relates to the activities in the British Islands of a trade union is not, of itself, sufficient to establish that it is necessary to obtain the data for a purpose falling within subsection (7).”
Amendment 120 agreed.
Amendment 121 not moved.
Amendment 122 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.
Clause 58, as amended, agreed.
123: After Clause 58, insert the following new Clause—
“Restrictions in relation to internet connection records
(1) A designated senior officer of a local authority may not grant an authorisation for the purpose of obtaining data which is, or can only be obtained by processing, an internet connection record.(2) A designated senior officer of a relevant public authority which is not a local authority may not grant an authorisation for the purpose of obtaining data which is, or can only be obtained by processing, an internet connection record unless condition A, B or C is met.(3) Condition A is that the designated senior officer considers that it is necessary, for a purpose falling within section 58(7), to obtain the data to identify which person or apparatus is using an internet service where—(a) the service and time of use are already known, but(b) the identity of the person or apparatus using the service is not known.(4) Condition B is that—(a) the purpose for which the data is to be obtained falls within section 58(7) but is not the purpose falling within section 58(7)(b) of preventing or detecting crime, and(b) the designated senior officer considers that it is necessary to obtain the data to identify—(i) which internet communications service is being used, and when and how it is being used, by a person or apparatus whose identity is already known,(ii) where or when a person or apparatus whose identity is already known is obtaining access to, or running, a computer file or computer program which wholly or mainly involves making available, or acquiring, material whose possession is a crime, or(iii) which internet service is being used, and when and how it is being used, by a person or apparatus whose identity is already known.(5) Condition C is that—(a) the purpose for which the data is to be obtained is the purpose falling within section 58(7)(b) of preventing or detecting crime,(b) the crime to be prevented or detected is serious crime or other relevant crime, and(c) the designated senior officer considers that it is necessary to obtain the data to identify—(i) which internet communications service is being used, and when and how it is being used, by a person or apparatus whose identity is already known,(ii) where or when a person or apparatus whose identity is already known is obtaining access to, or running, a computer file or computer program which wholly or mainly involves making available, or acquiring, material whose possession is a crime, or (iii) which internet service is being used, and when and how it is being used, by a person or apparatus whose identity is already known.(6) In subsection (5) “other relevant crime” means crime which is not serious crime but where the offence, or one of the offences, which is or would be constituted by the conduct concerned is—(a) an offence for which an individual who has reached the age of 18 (or, in relation to Scotland or Northern Ireland, 21) is capable of being sentenced to imprisonment for a term of 6 months or more (disregarding any enactment prohibiting or restricting the imprisonment of individuals who have no previous convictions), or(b) an offence—(i) by a person who is not an individual, or(ii) which involves, as an integral part of it, the sending of a communication or a breach of a person’s privacy.(7) In this Act “internet connection record” means communications data which—(a) may be used to identify, or assist in identifying, a telecommunications service to which a communication is transmitted by means of a telecommunication system for the purpose of obtaining access to, or running, a computer file or computer program, and(b) comprises data generated or processed by a telecommunications operator in the process of supplying the telecommunications service to the sender of the communication (whether or not a person).”
Amendment 123 agreed.
Clause 59: Additional restrictions on grant of authorisations
124: Clause 59, page 48, line 1, at beginning insert “the investigation or operation concerned is one where there is an exceptional need, in the interests of national security, to keep knowledge of it to a minimum,
(ba) there is an opportunity to obtain information where—(i) the opportunity is rare,(ii) the time to act is short, and(iii) the need to obtain the information is significant and in”
My Lords, in moving Amendment 124 I shall speak also to Amendment 127. We consider the requirement for an authorising officer to be independent of the operation or investigation being worked on an important safeguard and intend the exceptions to be drawn as narrowly as possible. That is why we welcomed the Intelligence and Security Committee amendments on this in the House of Commons and why we have tabled these amendments, which fully reflect the substance of the ISC’s intention and more narrowly define the national security exceptions. I beg to move.
My Lords, my noble friend Lady Hamwee and I have Amendment 126 in this group. It attempts to challenge the fact that the size of the relevant public authority, which may make it difficult to find a senior officer independent of the investigation to which the authorisation relates, makes it an exceptional circumstance, which it would be if the Bill is accepted as drafted.
My Lords, Amendment 126, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, has just explained, concerns the independence of the authorising officer. As I mentioned a moment ago, the Bill provides for a very limited set of circumstances in which the designated senior officer need not be independent of the investigation or operation; for example, where delays in locating an independent officer may pose a threat to life, or in specific cases where the interests of national security prevent it. As we have heard, the intention behind the amendment is to ensure that an authorising officer is always, without any exceptions, independent of the investigation. I beg the noble Lord’s pardon.
I am grateful to the noble Earl for giving way. We entirely accept that some public authorities will be so small, or some investigations so important, that there cannot be someone independent of the investigation who can give the authority. As the Bill is drafted, however, simply the size of the public authority is seen as an exceptional circumstance. It is not an exceptional circumstance and the amendment attempts to allow the size of the authority to be a reason why an independent senior officer cannot give the authority without making it an exceptional circumstance.
I am very grateful to the noble Lord. He is right: in some small public authorities there will be only a small number of staff sufficiently senior to take on this important responsibility. Where he and I part company is over the question of whether the rank of the designated senior officer should be lowered to ensure that there are sufficient numbers of them to always be independent of the investigation. I do not feel able to agree to that, because to do so would lower the safeguards that form an integral part of the communications data regime. Equally, I am afraid the Government are not prepared to remove these powers from some of the smaller authorities. They may be small, but they often do vital work in keeping the public safe and investigating crime.
I would be happy to discuss this further outside the forum of Committee, if that would help the noble Lord. I understand where he is coming from, but we have a fundamental disagreement of view on this.
I would just add that we do not disagree that a public authority may be so small that there is no independent senior officer who can grant the authority; the problem is whether that situation would amount to an exceptional circumstance. However, I would be very happy to discuss that situation with the noble Earl between now and Report.
Amendment 124 agreed.
Amendment 125 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.
Amendment 126 not moved.
Amendments 127 and 128
127: Clause 59, page 48, line 2, leave out “being” and insert “is”
128: Clause 59, page 48, line 5, leave out subsections (4) to (6)
Amendments 127 and 128 agreed.
Amendment 129 not moved.
Clause 59, as amended, agreed.
Clause 60 agreed.
Clause 61: Duration and cancellation of authorisations and notices
Amendments 130 to 133
130: Clause 61, page 49, line 21, after “authorisation” insert “—
( ) may cancel it at any time, and( ) ”
131: Clause 61, page 49, line 22, leave out from second “the” to end of line 23 and insert “requirements of this Part would not be satisfied in relation to granting an equivalent new authorisation.”
132: Clause 61, page 49, line 25, leave out from beginning to end of line 26 and insert “function under subsection (4) is to be exercised where the person who would otherwise have exercised it is no longer available to do so”
133: Clause 61, page 49, line 27, leave out “on whom the duty is to fall” and insert “by whom the function is to be exercised”
Amendments 130 to 133 agreed.
Clause 61, as amended, agreed.
Clause 62 agreed.
Clause 63: Filtering arrangements for obtaining data
134: Clause 63, page 50, line 15, after “may” insert “by regulations”
My Lords, in moving Amendment 134, which is in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Hamwee, I will also speak to Amendments 135, 142, 144 and 240 and on whether Clauses 63 to 65, relating to filtering arrangements, should stand part of the Bill.
Amendment 134 would amend Clause 63(1) to say that the Secretary of State “may by regulations establish” rather than simply “may establish”. Amendment 240 is consequent on that. Amendment 135 would amend Clause 63(1), so that while the Secretary of State may establish filtering arrangements, she would not “maintain and operate” them herself. In fact, my understanding is that the Government have no idea at this stage who might maintain or operate such arrangements.
I do not intend to speak to Amendment 138, which we will not be moving and do not consider worth debating. Amendment 140 would have added to the duties in connection with the operation of the filtering arrangements—that the Secretary of State shall, in exercising her powers under Clauses 63 to 68, have regard to the general duties in relation to privacy in Clause 2.
To the duty on the Secretary of State to provide a report to the Investigatory Powers Commissioner about the operation of the filter, Amendment 142 adds a duty to lay a report before each House of Parliament about the functioning of the filtering arrangements during the previous year. Amendment 144 requires the Secretary of State immediately to report to the Investigatory Powers Commissioner any processing errors—not just “significant” processing errors—giving rise to a contravention of the requirements of this part.
This feature of the Bill is almost identical to that proposed in the Communications Data Bill. The Joint Committee described it as a government-owned data mining device. I described it on Second Reading as a virtual national database. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen of Elie, said that it was not a database. I did not maintain that it was; I said it was a virtual database. My understanding is that this is a search engine that would have real-time direct access to communication databases held by every communication service provider, including, if the Bill is not amended, everyone’s internet connection records.
At the moment, the police and security services, through a single point of contact, make application to communication service providers, which assess the lawfulness of the request and, if satisfied, provide the information. The filter would bypass that important safety check and allow security services to self-authorise access to communication service providers’ data. It would allow complex queries that could provide detailed information about people’s private lives. As the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said on Second Reading:
“We are producing a resource there that Francis Urquhart would have loved to have his fingers on: absolute knowledge of everyone’s private life”—[Official Report, 27/6/16; col1427.]
The request filter would make life for the police and the security services easier—I say the security services, but I think they have their own systems. Life without the filter would not be impossible for the police, just not easier than it is now. It is therefore not necessary, only desirable and, as such, fails the necessity and proportionality tests for the invasion of privacy.
The Government cannot say what it would look like, where it would be built, who would run it on their behalf or how it would be kept secure. It is a hypothetical virtual database. It would be a dangerous precedent for Parliament to authorise such a device without knowing who would run it and what the security implications would be. I beg to move.
My Lords, I have Amendments 141 and 143 in this group. I very much share the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, about the request filter. It is an exceptionally powerful system because it will make life so easy. A casual request for data on someone who might possibly be of interest can be done in a moment—you do not have to think about it—rather than tying up resources to such an extent that you probably do not do it.
We are all familiar with the fact that those in the police service are human; doubtless, the people who run this resource will be human. The potential for casual misuse or misuse suborned by journalists will be considerable. On top of that is potential misuse by government. Given that at the moment we do not have an effective Opposition and I suspect that the Bill will effectively pass on the nod, I very much hope that my noble friend will reassure us that not only will there be exact and complete record-keeping for the filter but that those records will be independently inspected, that the results of those inspections will be publicly available and that people who find themselves tied up in nastiness as a result of information which may well have come from the filter will be able to find out whether that has happened.
My Lords, I shall speak briefly on the amendments on the request filter. Along with internet connection records, the request filter is another power that first appeared in the draft Communications Data Bill and which died along with that ill-fated Bill. The view of the pre-legislative Joint Committee on that Bill, on which I sat, was that,
“the Request Filter introduces new risks, most obviously the temptation to go on ‘fishing expeditions’. New safeguards should be introduced to minimise these risks”.
The request filter was described as,
“essentially a federated database of all UK citizens’ communications data”.
I dare say that the committee would be even more worried when it said that in 2012 if it had seen how this Bill expanded the range of data to which the request filter can be applied. That expansion comes from the proposed introduction of internet connection records, which would reveal every detail of a person’s digital life and a very large part of their life in the real world. The effect of the request filter will be to multiply up the effect of intrusion into those data by allowing public authorities to make complex automated searches across the retained data from all telecoms operators. This has the potential for population profiling and composite fishing trips. It is bulk surveillance without the bulk label.
Use of the request filter would be self-authorised by the public authority without any judicial authorisation at all. The concept that the Government promote for bulk data is that they are passive retained records, which they say sit there unexamined until someone comes to the attention of the authorities. That concept is negated by the request filter. The data become an actively checked resource and are no longer passive. Will the Minister confirm that the request filter is not yet in existence and is not yet being used?
The request filter is a bulk power masquerading as an innocuous safeguard to reduce collateral intrusion. Unless and until the Government come forward with proposals to strictly limit use of the request filter through tighter rules and judicial approval for warrants, as is the case with other bulk powers, Clauses 63, 64 and 65 should not stand part of the Bill.
My Lords, I shall use the opportunity that arises from Amendments 140 and 146A to ask the Minister to clarify whether it really is the case that Clause 2 does not automatically affect every power in the Bill. If this was the case, we would be sympathetic to these amendments, as the privacy objective should be considered before any of the powers are used. My understanding was that Clause 2 was a general provision, which affected everything. Indeed, the letter of the noble Earl, Lord Howe, of 14 July to my noble friend Lord Rosser says, “The new overarching privacy clause sets out the privacy obligations which constrain the use of the powers in the Bill”. Our understanding had been that it covered the whole Bill, so I was slightly bemused by Amendments 140 and 146A—not helped by a briefing received, again very late last night, from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which only ever sends out its briefings on the very eve of debate. That briefing says that Clause 2 does not cover it all, whereas my understanding was that it did. Perhaps this is the opportunity for one of the Ministers to make clear the situation.
My Lords, I find the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, difficult to understand. He made the point that the filter arrangement makes the operations of the police easier, but it makes them easier by ensuring that they do not inspect communications data which are not relevant to their purpose. It therefore protects privacy rather than threatens it. The filter is governed by the requirements of the rest of the Bill. It will apply the tests of necessity, proportionality and the protection of privacy. It is a protection of privacy rather than a threat to it.
My Lords, Clauses 63 to 65 provide that the Secretary of State may establish, maintain and operate filtering arrangements for communications data—the request filter—and detail the appropriate safeguards and restrictions around its use.
Public authorities currently need to receive all the communications data disclosed by communications service providers in response to specific requests so they can determine which specific pieces of communications data are relevant to their investigation. Public authorities will sometimes need to make complex queries. For example, they may need to ask multiple communications service providers for data to identify an unknown person who is suspected of having committed a crime at three different places at different times. Currently, public authorities might approach communications service providers for location data to identify the mobile phones used in those three locations at the relevant times in order to determine whether a particular phone and a particular individual are linked to the three offences. This means the public authority may acquire a significant amount of data relating to people who are not of interest.
The request filter will mean that when a police force makes such a request, it will see only the data it needs. Any irrelevant data will be deleted and not made available to the public authority. The filter acts as a safeguard, as the noble Lord observed a moment ago, protecting privacy by ensuring that public authorities see only the data they need.
The joint scrutiny committee on the draft Bill stated:
“We welcome the Government’s proposal to build and operate a Request Filter to reduce the amount of potentially intrusive data that is made available to applicants”.
It believed that the requirement upon law enforcement to state the operational purpose for accessing data through the filter and the oversight of the Investigatory Powers Commissioner will ensure appropriate use of the filter.
Clause 64 makes it clear that the request filter may be used to obtain, disclose or process communications data only if the relevant authorisation specifically authorises that use. The designated senior officer must consider that, in addition to the necessity and proportionality concerns provided for in Clause 58, what is being authorised in relation to the filtering arrangements is proportionate to what is sought to be achieved. It also provides that the relevant authorisation must record the designated senior officer’s decisions on the use of the request filter. I therefore take issue with the suggestion from the noble Lord, Lord Strasburger, that the request filter could somehow be used to permit fishing trips, as he termed them. The request filter cannot permit such expeditions. The filtering arrangements can operate only in response to a specific, necessary and proportionate authorisation for the acquisition of communications data. In other words, that request must already have gone through all the existing communications data safeguards, such as authorisation by a designated senior officer. Indeed, the operation of the filtering arrangements will be overseen by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner. Clause 64 makes it clear that the request filter may be used to obtain, disclose or process communications data only if the appropriate authorisations have been made.
Clause 65 provides that the Secretary of State must ensure the application of the appropriate restrictions on the request filter, maintain adequate security measures with regard to the request filter, put in place procedures to ensure its effective functioning and report to the Investigatory Powers Commissioner regarding its functioning on an annual basis, including immediately reporting any significant processing errors. This again underlines the point that the commissioner will be overseeing the operation of the filter.
As the noble Lord observed a moment ago, the request filter will act as a safeguard when it is used. It will accept communications data disclosed by communications service providers only in response to lawful requests from public authorities, and will automatically filter those communications data to ensure that only the data that are required to answer the request are provided to the public authority. In short, it will ensure that police officers and others will see only the information that they really need to in such cases.
In response to the inquiry from the noble Lord, Lord Strasburger, no, there is no request filter in existence at present. In response to the observations from the Baroness, Lady Hayter, she is right. The privacy clause applies to all powers which represent an intrusion into privacy. That has always been the intention since those privacy provisions were placed expressly in the Bill.
I turn to my noble friend Lord Lucas’s amendments. I entirely agree with his intention to ensure that the operation and use of the filtering arrangements are effectively overseen and regulated. I therefore reassure him that the effect of the amendments he has tabled is already fully provided for in the Bill. On record-keeping, Clause 64(3) requires the designated person to record whether the filtering arrangements are used to obtain communications data in pursuance of an authorisation, as well as recording the description of the data that may be processed. These records are additional to the extensive records that the draft code of practice also requires relating to each authorisation.
The Bill also already provides that the Investigatory Powers Commissioner oversees all authorisations for the acquisition of communications data, including those using the filtering arrangements. Clause 63(5) also requires the Secretary of State to consult the commissioner about the principles on the basis of which the filtering arrangements are established, maintained and operated. Clause 63(4) requires the filtering arrangements to involve the generation of information required by the commissioner in his oversight role. Clause 65(6) requires the Secretary of State to report annually about the functioning of the filtering arrangements. I hope this provides the noble Lord with some reassurance.
I hope I can provide some reassurance to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, regarding Amendment 146A and the operation of the request filter. As I said, the privacy clause in the Bill already requires a public authority to have regard to a number of factors when granting an authorisation or giving a notice to obtain communications data under Part 3 of the Bill. The privacy clause does not make specific reference to the establishment, operation and maintenance of the filter, and we consider that to be the correct approach. Because every request for communications data must be made in accordance with the requirements in the privacy clause, it has to be the case that the design and operation of the filter must allow for those requests to be compliant with that clause anyway.
In addition, the Secretary of State is already bound by the requirements of the Human Rights Act in any actions that she takes, further ensuring that the filter will be designed in such a way that any request made through it is compliant with the requirements of the privacy clause. Accordingly, we do not consider it necessary to make specific reference to the filter in the privacy clause, or to include a provision along the lines of the amendment.
I turn to Amendments 134, 135, 138, 142, 144 and 240. The noble Lord seeks to make a number of amendments to the filtering arrangements provisions that I hope I can reassure him are unnecessary and, in some cases, unhelpful. The filtering arrangements will mean that communications data disclosed by a communications service provider in response to an authorisation will be filtered, and a public authority will see only the data that they need to. Any irrelevant data will be deleted and not made available to the public authority. On Amendments 134 and 240, the detailed provisions, restrictions and safeguards that are in the Bill already preclude the need for regulations.
On Amendment 135, to leave the Secretary of State to establish the filtering arrangements but without a clear lawful basis for the Secretary of State—or anyone else, for that matter—to maintain and operate them makes little sense.
As regards Amendment 142 and an annual report to Parliament, I remind noble Lords that the Bill already provides for the Investigatory Powers Commissioner, who must oversee the functioning of the filtering arrangements, to report annually to the Prime Minister, who must lay a copy of the published report before Parliament.
On error reporting in Amendment 144, the provisions in the Bill already strike the right balance between ensuring that the Investigatory Powers Commissioner—who oversees the operation of the filtering arrangements —is made immediately aware of significant errors and overwhelming the commissioner with reports of minor errors which do not need to be conveyed with such urgency, which would not achieve anything. Aside from ensuring that these significant errors are properly reported, it is of course for the commissioner to determine what information about the operation of the filtering arrangements, including processing errors, he requires to fulfil his oversight duties. A requirement for the filtering arrangements to generate and retain such information as the commissioner considers appropriate is already specifically set out in Clause 63(4).
I assure the noble Lord that the filtering arrangements are a vital part of the Bill and are already subject to strict safeguards set out in the primary legislation. These amendments are therefore at best unnecessary and at worst may weaken some of those safeguards already in the Bill. I invite the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response. We were concerned that the privacy provision in Clause 2(1)(d) states that it relates to the grant, approval or cancellation of an authorisation rather than to the establishment of the filter. However, I accept that the use of the filter is covered by Clause 2. I am also concerned about what the noble and learned Lord said about significant processing errors. If even a minor processing error leads to a contravention of the requirements of this part of the Bill, it could be argued that that is a serious matter, whether the processing error is significant or not. However, at this stage I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 134 withdrawn.
Amendment 135 not moved.
136: Clause 63, page 50, line 18, leave out from “the” to “or” in line 19 and insert “requirements of this Part in relation to granting the authorisation are satisfied,”
Amendment 136 agreed.
Amendment 137 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.
Clause 63, as amended, agreed.
Clause 64: Use of filtering arrangements in pursuance of an authorisation
Amendment 138 not moved.
139: Clause 64, page 51, line 31, leave out from “the” to “considers” and insert “other requirements of this Part in relation to granting the authorisation are satisfied)”
Amendment 139 agreed.
Clause 64, as amended, agreed.
Amendment 140 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.
Clause 65: Duties in connection with operation of filtering arrangements
Amendments 141 to 144 not moved.
Clause 65 agreed.
Clause 66 agreed.
Schedule 4 agreed.
Clause 67: Power to modify section 66 and Schedule 4
145: Clause 67, page 53, line 38, leave out “add a public authority to, or”
My Lords, Amendments 146 and 147 in this group are also in my name and the name of my noble friend Lady Hamwee. Much concern has been expressed about the number of public authorities that can intrude into people’s privacy, and as a result, restrictions have been put in the Bill. If the Bill is enacted there will be fewer public bodies with that ability, and that is to be welcomed. We therefore do not think it is right that under Clause 67 the Secretary of State should be allowed by regulation to add a public authority. Amendment 145 would delete this power from Clause 67(2)(a) and Amendment 146 would make a similar change to subsection (3).
Amendment 147 would impose a duty on the Secretary of State to consult representatives of local authorities—for example, the Local Government Association—if she intends to make regulations to change a local authority-designated senior officer to someone of lower office, rank or position, in addition to consulting each of the local authorities concerned, as set out in Clause 69(5). I beg to move.
My Lords, these amendments all concern the public authorities that are able to acquire communications data. I should take this opportunity to mention a document which we published last week and which is available in the Printed Paper Office: Operational Case for the Use of Communications Data by Public Authorities. It sets out why it is essential that the authorities listed in Schedule 4 to the Bill are able to acquire communications data. It is important to recognise that the crimes they investigate are not trivial. They include offences such as bribery and corruption, defrauding vulnerable people of their life savings, stealing sensitive personal information and supplying dangerous counterfeit medicines. That document is pertinent to this group of amendments, because Amendments 145 and 146 would remove the ability of the Secretary of State to add public authorities to Schedule 4 by regulations.
I recognise the well-intentioned purpose of the amendments. However, it is not something that the Government can support because it goes against our stated aim of ensuring that the Bill is future-proofed. Although we have no plans to use the regulation-making power, and, indeed, we think it unlikely that any additional authorities will be identified, it would not be good policy to specifically rule it out. That is because communications data are an essential investigative tool for numerous investigations and they are used by a number of different authorities. As I said, we have published the operational case demonstrating why it is so essential that the authorities listed in Schedule 4 continue to be able to use these powers.
As that operational case demonstrates, the authorities that acquire communications data, including the so-called “minor users”, often do so to investigate serious crime and, in some cases, save lives. Should a new investigative body be established—for example, with a remit to investigate a specific type of serious crime—we would want the flexibility to give it the powers that it needed. Similarly, we need to be able to adapt the list if changes in the roles and responsibilities of public bodies mean that it falls out of date.
Of course, there should be full and proper scrutiny of any decisions to provide powers to an additional body. The Government will consider giving powers only where a public authority can make a robust case and, perhaps more importantly, the Bill allows a public authority to be added to Schedule 4 only under the enhanced affirmative procedure. This procedure requires additional consultation above and beyond the affirmative procedure and ensures that a parliamentary committee is provided with an opportunity to consider the draft regulations.
This power has been considered by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. In her letter to the Joint Committee that scrutinised the draft Bill, my noble friend Lady Fookes reported that the committee accepted the need for the delegated power and welcomed the strengthening of scrutiny procedures under the Bill. She said that,
“the enhanced affirmative procedure ... provides an appropriate level of Parliamentary scrutiny”.
I hope that that reassures the Committee that sufficient scrutiny is already built into the process to ensure that an additional public authority would be added to Schedule 4 only where it had a robust and compelling need for the powers.
On Amendment 147, I hope I can reassure noble Lords that the intent of this amendment is already met by the Bill. Should there be a need to make changes by order to the “designated senior officer” position within local authorities, the Bill already requires the Secretary of State to consult each local authority to which the amendment relates. If the intent of the amendment is to ensure that organisations such as the Local Government Association are consulted, I can also assure noble Lords that the Government regularly consult such organisations and would consult them should we wish to make changes in respect of investigatory powers that affect their members.
However, we do not think that it would be appropriate to include a requirement to consult representatives of local authorities without identifying who that specifically means, particularly when there is already a requirement to consult the local authorities themselves. I hope that that provides reassurance to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick.
Amendment 149 would remove a power that will be used as a safeguard. I am sure that that cannot be the intent of the noble Lord. The provisions in the Bill relating to collaboration agreements provide that, where a collaboration agreement is in place, single points of contact and designated senior officers in one relevant public authority are able to act on behalf of another relevant public authority. The Bill allows the Secretary of State to require authorities to enter into collaboration agreements, where appropriate.
Smaller users of communications data being mandated to request data through the single points of contact and designated senior officers in authorities that acquire communications data more frequently can be an important safeguard. That is because, inevitably, those authorities that request data most frequently will be able to build up more experience and expertise in acquiring communications data, thus reducing the possibility of errors or inappropriate use. Accordingly, the Government do not believe that it would be sensible to remove this potentially important safeguard. I hope that that is helpful to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and gives him sufficient comfort at this stage to withdraw his amendment.
Obviously, this is a very important area, which has given rise to a lot of public concern about how widely this would go in terms of all the authorities that might have access to information in this way. But it must be right that, if there is to be a list and it is to bear the power to remove names—which the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, is not suggesting should be deleted—there must be a power to add to the list as well where appropriate. Knowing the way that Governments, bodies and names change, I can see without altering the impact at all that it would be necessary to exercise this power. Could the Minister say a little more about the committee that he was talking about? Is it a standing committee, special committee or advisory committee? When he mentioned the proposal to add somebody to the list, he said that that would be scrutinised by a committee. What sort of committee would that be?
My Lords, I was referring to the procedure relating to the enhanced affirmative process. That procedure is set out in Clause 239 of the Bill. Importantly, it provides for a relevant parliamentary committee to report on the regulations. I do not think that I can be more specific at this stage. The enhanced affirmative procedure has been used in the past, albeit not very frequently, and is there as an additional safeguard. I endorse everything that my noble friend said in support of my remarks. He is absolutely right that we cannot foresee at this stage the need to add to the list, but we must and should provide for the circumstances where that becomes necessary.
I am grateful for the noble Earl’s explanation. The noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, raised this important concern that people have about the range of public authorities that will be able to access this data. There is a real concern that the Secretary of State by regulation can simply add to the list included in the Bill. As a general principle, to have provisions in a Bill in order—to quote the noble Earl —to future-proof it, even if those are unlikely to be used, is not the ideal way forward. However, the enhanced affirmative procedure does give some reassurance on that issue.
On the other matters, I will read carefully what the noble Earl has said, but at this point I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 145 withdrawn.
Amendment 146 not moved.
Clause 67 agreed.
Clause 68 agreed.
Amendment 146A not moved.
Clause 69: Local authorities as relevant public authorities
Amendment 147 not moved.
Clause 69 agreed.
Clauses 70 to 72 agreed.
147A: After Clause 72, insert the following new Clause—
“Authorisation to obtain data from an internet connection record
An authorisation to obtain data from an internet connection record is not to have effect until such time (if any) as a Judicial Commissioner has approved it.”
My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 147A in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Paddick. My noble friend also has Amendment 156A in this group and he will speak to that amendment; I may have something to add on it after he has spoken.
Amendment 147A requires a judicial commissioner to authorise requests to obtain data from internet connection records. As it happens, this is a very hot topic because only this morning an Advocate-General of the European Court of Justice issued his opinion in the case brought by Tom Watson and, before his appointment to the Cabinet, David Davis. Of course this is not the final judgment of the court, but it is usual for it to confirm an Advocate-General’s opinion. This case concerns the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014, one of the Acts that this Investigatory Powers Bill seeks to replace.
In particular, the ruling addresses the legality and the safeguards around the speculative retention of communications data. As such, it is of direct relevance to the provisions in this Bill regarding the retention of communications data and the retention of internet connection records. So I have discarded most of my speech and instead I will let the Advocate-General’s words speak for Amendment 147A on my behalf. At paragraph 236 of his ruling he states:
“Lastly, I would add that, from a practical point of view, none of the three parties concerned by a request for access is in a position to carry out an effective review in connection with access to the retained data. Competent law enforcement authorities have every interest in requesting the broadest possible access. Service providers, who will be ignorant of the content of any investigation file, are incapable of checking that requests for access are limited to what is strictly necessary and persons whose data are consulted have no way of knowing that they are under investigation, even if their data is used abusively or unlawfully … Given the nature of the various interests involved, the intervention of an independent body prior to the consultation of retained data, with a view to protecting persons whose data are retained from abusive access by the competent authorities, is to my mind imperative”.
So the Advocate-General is saying that, because the police have a strong interest in the request for the data, and because the service providers cannot judge the merits of the request, and because the subject of the request does not know that it exists, it is imperative, in his words, that an independent body should decide. Incidentally, he goes on to suggest that there could be exceptions in cases of “extreme urgency”.
To my mind, that independent body he speaks of can only be the judicial commissioner, which is precisely what Amendment 147A stipulates. If the Government believe that the independent body could be something other than the judicial commissioner, perhaps the Minister can inform the Committee when he responds, and say how the Government intend to incorporate the Advocate-General’s opinion, should it be confirmed by the court, into this Bill. I beg to move.
My Lords, I wish to speak to Amendment 156A in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Hamwee. Before doing so, I endorse wholeheartedly what my noble friend Lord Strasburger has just said. The decision of the Advocate-General released today appears very much to add considerable weight to the arguments in favour of Amendment 147A.
Amendment 156A is an amendment to Clause 83, headed, “Powers to require retention of certain data”. It would exclude internet connection records from the types of data that telecommunications operators can be required to store, and, as such, would effectively remove the only new provision—the use of internet connection records—from the Bill.
We believe that such an amendment is necessary for several reasons. Internet connection records do not do what the Government claim they do. They do not provide the police and security services with the internet equivalent of the communications data they already have—for example, access to mobile phone provider data. It is far more complex than that. At best, internet connection records provide only details of which communications platforms have been used, most of which are based in the United States.
Whether useful communications data can be accessed depends on voluntary co-operation by the American companies, which is unlikely in all but serious cases—for which there is an alternative. Internet connection records may provide leads, but they are difficult, complex and time-consuming to follow up. They fail the necessity test. The security services—MI5, MI6 and GCHQ—say that they do not need internet connection to be stored by telecommunications operators because they have other ways of securing the data that they need. In serious crime cases, GCHQ can, does and will help law enforcement to secure the communications data that the police need without recourse to internet connection records.
Indeed, there is a co-located joint operations cell in which the National Crime Agency and GCHQ have joined forces to tackle online crime—initially child sexual exploitation, but in the future other online crime as well. This information is in the public domain. At Second Reading, when I suggested that law enforcement could use security service powers instead of ICRs, the Minister said:
“But of course that is neither practical nor effective because many of the powers of the security services produce investigative material that is not admissible as evidence in a court of law”.—[Official Report, 27/6/16; cols. 1459-60.]
It would appear that the National Crime Agency and GCHQ agree with me rather than with the noble and learned Lord. Indeed, case studies that I was shown when I visited GCHQ tend to undermine the Minister’s assertion.
We began Committee stage by looking at RUSI’s 10 principles for the intrusion on privacy. I will quote just one, on “necessity”, which states that,
“there should be no other practicable means of achieving the objective”.
Internet connection records fail the necessity test. The National Crime Agency and GCHQ co-operation shows that there is a practical alternative.
These measures can easily be evaded. Any terrorist or criminal who is the least bit technologically aware can easily and simply avoid giving away any useful communications data derived from internet connection records by using a virtual private network. If you use a VPN, the only internet connection record visible to law-enforcement agencies is the one connection to the secure server operated by the virtual private network provider. If you use a VPN, ICRs will not provide any information about any websites you have visited, or any apps you have used to communicate with other people.
ICRs are unacceptably intrusive on innocent people’s privacy. Those unaware of how to evade internet connection records providing any useful data—there will be a diminishing number of such people as those who are aware seek to make money by publicising VPN services—will have details of every website they visited and every app they have used over a rolling 12-month period stored by private companies. While the communications data beyond the first page of each website are considered by the Government to be content, even the first page can provide sensitive personal information about the individual, and the time when and place where that webpage was accessed.
If you access the Alcoholics Anonymous website, a domestic violence website or a gender-reassignment website, you immediately reveal sensitive personal information about yourself. If your internet connection records show that you do not use your home internet service during working hours on weekdays, they provide information about when your home is unoccupied. Much about your lifestyle, personality and whereabouts can be gleaned from internet connection records.
The storage of internet connection records is a security risk. Technology experts claim that there is no such thing as a totally secure database and that commercial companies should assume that their security systems will be breached.
I understand the importance of safeguards, but the noble Lord’s thrust is that he is against the retention of internet connection records in total. He therefore totally disagrees with the impressive Joint Committee of both Houses, which considered the matter at some length. It said:
“We consider that, on balance, there is a case for Internet Connection Records as an important tool for law enforcement”.
Does he disagree?
I am grateful for the chance to clarify my position. That is my position: we disagree with the conclusions of the Joint Committee. We believe, on balance, that the retention of internet connection records is disproportionate and unnecessary.
Technology experts recommend that companies should plan on the basis of their security measures having been breached, not just plan for the security of their databases. This makes highly intrusive personal data potentially available to criminals and hostile foreign powers. If a criminal establishes that a married man is accessing gay websites, or a hostile foreign Government establish that an intelligence officer is accessing lonely hearts websites, that could increase the risk of blackmail or entrapment. Knowing from ICRs when someone is not at home can increase the risk of burglary.
Internet connection records are hugely expensive to analyse and store. Based on estimates from Denmark, where the storage of internet connection records has already been explored extensively, the set-up costs alone in the UK could be around £1 billion. As in the UK, the cost estimates provided by the Government and telecommunications providers in Denmark varied widely. The Government therefore asked independent management consultants to establish the true cost, which confirmed that the telecommunications service providers’ estimates were the correct ones. Extrapolating from the independently verified Danish costs using the relative populations of both countries would take the set-up costs alone for internet connection records in the UK to more than £1 billion.
For those who think that this cannot be right, I should say that 80% of all the data ever created since the beginning of time has been created in the last two years. That is the rate of increase, and, with more and more devices being connected to the internet, such as those controlling our central heating, and with even refrigerators and ovens being connected to the so-called internet of things, the number of internet connection records is set to increase exponentially. Apart from not being able to see communications in among all these other internet connections, the storage costs alone will be enormous.
Taking all these arguments together, the storage of the internet connection records of everyone in the UK for 12 months, whether they are suspected of wrongdoing or not, fails the proportionality test. I quote the RUSI report again, this time on proportionality. It states:
“Intrusion must be judged as proportionate to the advantages gained, not just in cost or resource terms but also through a judgement that the degree of intrusion is matched by the seriousness of the harm to be prevented”.
The advantages gained through the storage of internet connection records are limited, the costs are prohibitive, the degree of intrusion is huge and serious harm can be prevented through other means.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord King, touched on the issue of the Joint Committee. It may be useful for your Lordships to hear what it said about ICRs. The noble Lord, Lord King, was quite right in that regard. The Joint Committee said:
“While we recognise that ICRs could prove a desirable tool for law enforcement agencies, the Government must address the significant concerns outlined by our witnesses if their inclusion within the Bill is to command the necessary support”.
The Joint Committee also said:
“We recommend that the definition of Internet Connection Records should be made consistent throughout the Bill and that the Government should give consideration to defining terms such as ‘internet service’ and ‘internet communications service’. We recommend that more effort should be made to reflect not only the policy aims but also the practical realities of how the internet works on a technical level”.
The Joint Committee also recommended that,
“the Government should publish in a Code of Practice alongside the Bill advice on how data controllers should seek to minimise the privacy risks of subject access requests for ICRs under the Data Protection Act 1998”.
The Government accepted the recommendation on a code of practice—and, indeed, on the definitions. However, in general, the majority of members of the committee believed that ICRs are absolutely necessary to protect our citizens and give the security agencies and the law enforcement agencies the tools they need.
My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 156A and cite the simple facts about internet connection records. They do not currently exist, would be very difficult and costly to manufacture, have very limited usefulness and collecting and storing them, far from making us safer, would expose everyone in Britain who uses the internet to new and serious risks. In addition, they are highly intrusive into everyone’s private lives and cannot be stored securely by service providers. So it is little wonder, then, that no other western democracy is collecting internet connection records, including the four other members of the “Five Eyes” partnership, the long-standing security alliance between the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In fact, the new Australian data retention law specifically excludes the retention of web browsing histories. As for the USA and Canada, David Anderson pointed out in his report that in both countries,
“there would be constitutional difficulties in such a proposal”.
As my noble friend Lord Paddick has already pointed out, Denmark is the only country known to have tried to collect internet connection records—session logs, as they called them. That project was abandoned after a review by the Danish ministry of justice found that it had been of almost no use to the police. The Home Office claims, with some justification, that the proposal in the Bill has some differences from the Danish system but this year the Danish Government came up with a revised scheme that is almost identical to the internet connection records provisions in the Bill. That was promptly abandoned when the prohibitively expensive cost estimates of the Danish service providers were confirmed as accurate by independent accountants. We must ask ourselves: what is it about our country that makes the Government believe that we should be in a stubborn minority of one on this important matter? I hope the Minister will be able to explain it to the Committee.
It is important to understand that internet connection records—ICRs—do not currently exist. Unlike itemised phone bills, which phone companies keep for billing purposes and are the basis of the current communications data regime, communications service providers—CSPs—have no need whatever for ICRs so they do not create or keep them. The Joint Committee heard from many technical and industry experts, including the committee’s two excellent technical advisers, that it would be very far from simple for CSPs to start intercepting these data as they pass through their networks. Each company would have to devise a method suitable for their own systems. They would need to install expensive and complex equipment to carry out “deep packet inspection”, which copies data packets as they fly past on fibre-optic cables. They would then need to process the collected data to find and discard the very large amount of internal housekeeping signals that keep the network healthy but have absolutely no intelligence value. The warnings the committee heard from the service providers about the difficulties of making ICRs happen and their negligible intelligence value echoed what Danish service providers told their Government before they embarked on their ill-fated and wasteful scheme.
However, if some British service providers could do better than their Danish counterparts and succeed in creating internet connection records, it would not make Britons safer; it would make us less safe. I will explain why. The very existence of internet connection records would create more hazards and dangers for the British public than they currently face, and these risks are as good as impossible to mitigate. The first rule of digital security is to not keep any data you do not need because they are all vulnerable. Yet here, we are talking about storing everything that we all do on the internet for 12 months. We should bear in mind that this information would be gold dust to those who would do us harm and would attract the efforts of hackers, blackmailers, criminals and rogue states from around the world. The prize for them would be the details of the private lives of millions of UK citizens: all our personal secrets, including our banking and credit card details; our problems with addiction; our mental and physical health; our sexual proclivities; our financial struggles; our political leanings; our hopes, our worries, our plans—just about everything about our lives.
If the Government attempt to convince themselves and this House that service providers will be able to keep these data safe, they will be deluding themselves and the British public. It is a matter of when, not if, these sensitive data get into the wrong hands. I will explain why. Our service providers make their money from transmitting our data on their way to and from our devices. They are not in the business of storing it securely. The noble Baroness, Lady Harding, who is the chief executive of TalkTalk could, if she were in her place, recount how 156,000 of her company’s customers had their data accessed by hackers last year. In February this year, SWIFT, the interbank financial transaction network, which presumably needs and has much stronger security than service providers, had $81 million stolen in one set of transactions. It would have been much more, but for a simple spelling mistake by the culprits. Canadian police reported in August last year that two clients of the infidelity website Ashley Madison had taken their own lives, following the theft of the personal data of 33 million Ashley Madison customers. Also last year, Chinese hackers stole the details of 4 million US Government employees, including their security clearances.
I could go on but the Committee will be pleased to hear that I will leave it there for now. Suffice it to say that our data are very likely to be hacked and used to steal from us, blackmail us or otherwise harm us and our families. That might happen through a clever cyberintrusion originating in China or North Korea, or in a teenager’s bedroom in Cleethorpes. It may be a disgruntled or greedy insider. It may even be a police officer misusing the proper authorisation channels—and before the Committee discounts that possibility, your Lordships should be aware that over the last five years there were 877 instances of inappropriate data disclosure by police officers to third parties, of which 297 cases resulted in either resignation or dismissal and 70 in a criminal conviction or caution.
The intelligence agencies are clear that they have no need for internet connection records. The policemen who gave evidence to the Joint Committee did not seem to have their hearts in it when they were sent in to bat for ICRs by the Home Office, which has been pushing for this power for years. The new power fails the necessity test. Its usefulness is tiny and its intrusiveness for every citizen is very high, which means that it fails the proportionality test as well. It is technically difficult and very costly to deliver. It opens up a whole new set of risks for innocent internet users, making us substantially less safe, and for all those reasons no other country is doing it. Internet connection records have nothing going for them and should not be part of the Bill.
My Lords, I will speak briefly. The Committee has listened with great interest to the noble Lord, Lord Strasburger, who was a member of the Joint Committee, which agreed unanimously—himself included—to this statement:
“We agree that all of the proposed purposes for which access to ICRs could be sought are appropriate”.
It went on to say:
“Whether ICRs are included or not”—
subject to the European Court of Justice—
“we believe that, in light of the ongoing need for communications data and the imminent expiry of DRIPA, a continued policy of some form of data retention is appropriate and that these provisions should accordingly form part of the Bill”.
A number of us have come to this Committee anxious to see the work done under the noble Lord, Lord Murphy, whose chairmanship of the Joint Committee was impressive. We were under the impression that its report was an accurate record. Now the noble Lord, Lord Strasburger, stands up and says something entirely different from what was unanimously agreed in the Joint Committee.
My Lords, I will speak in support of Amendment 156A but I also support Amendment 147A, which was moved by my noble friend Lord Strasburger. I will not go into all the details set out so ably by my noble friends Lord Paddick and Lord Strasburger but there are some key issues which really have to be addressed. It is not good enough, frankly, to say that the Joint Committee may have said this or that; we need answers to the questions that have been posed.
The first question is: why is it that the United Kingdom, as far as I understand it—I hope that the Minister will correct me if I am wrong—uniquely among the “Five Eyes” countries requires this power? Indeed, as far as I understand it this is unique among any equivalent western democracies. I hope the Minister will tell us what is so unique about the situation we find ourselves in. It is not shared by the United States, Canada, New Zealand or any other western democracy.
Secondly, it is important to understand that, at the moment, 25 countries around the world are considering investigatory powers legislation—countries such as India, Pakistan and many others. They are looking towards us and at what we do. We have to think extremely carefully about what we are doing and we must ensure that our questions are answered. It is incumbent on the Government to do that.
We are also in a time of quite a lot of political upheaval. As a result, I doubt many people have been paying a huge amount of attention to the Bill. I imagine the public will be absolutely horrified when they discover that Parliament has granted a power to government to insist on the retention of the details of every single person in this country’s access to every single website. They will want to know why and they will want to know under what conditions of security such information is to be held. They will want to know the cost and whether this Parliament rigorously examined the cost and the need for their data—the data of innocent people—to be held in this manner. It is not good enough for us just to say that this power might be desirable or useful at some point; we have to be clear that it is proportionate, that it can work and that it can be held securely.
Does the noble Lord not remember that some of us tried to anticipate some of these problems and bring in amendments to a previous Bill? We were told then that we must not rush this. This Bill must now have been subject to the most exhaustive scrutiny of any that I can remember. It has been the subject of three independent reports and of scrutiny by a Joint Committee of both Houses, on which the noble Lords, Lord Murphy and Lord Butler, who are present, and other Members served. The noble Lord stands there and suggests that this is some impetuous reaction to a problem that has just arisen. I have been critical—I should have liked to see earlier action—but I accept that the Government decided that the Bill should be subject to the most exhaustive public scrutiny that I can remember for any Bill. In fairness, the noble Lord might recognise that in his speech.
If the noble Lord had been in his place at Second Reading, he would have heard me give exactly that recognition. I recognise entirely the scrutiny and excellent work. I note that it is only because of the actions of people such as the then Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, that we had that scrutiny. I am grateful that we had it and the Bill is much better as a consequence. I welcome it. That does not mean, however, that as a result of that scrutiny we should abandon our Committee proceedings; it does not mean that those of us who have not served on Joint Committees should not be able to ask questions or seek answers. That is certainly what I will continue to do in this matter.
What is being required is an extraordinary power. We must be absolutely clear about that: it is unique. The noble Lord, Lord King, the Minister or any other noble Lord needs to explain—and nobody has, certainly not in all the proceedings so far in this House—why we, uniquely, need this power. The power is one that even such eminent people as my noble friend Lord Carlile—no slouch on counterterrorism measures—have questioned in the past. Indeed on 25 May 2013, he penned an article, I believe in the Daily Mail, in which he said:
“I, Lord Reid, Lord West and others of like mind have never favoured the recording of every website visited by every internet user, though we have been accused of that ambition”.
I hope the Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but as I understand it that is exactly what is proposed: the retention of data on the internet connection records of every internet user in the country. I hope that the Minister will address and answer all the detailed points put by my noble friends Lord Paddick and Lord Strasburger, and tell the House why we, uniquely, need a power required by no other constitutional democracy of a similar type in the world.
I did not say that. Perhaps I can assist the Committee. What I said was that the security services—MI5, MI6 and GCHQ—have told me, in my visits to those agencies, that they do not require the retention of internet connection records for them to carry out their very important work around national security and serious crime. It is not the case, nor did I state, that the National Crime Agency does not support this measure. The National Crime Agency has supported it in its presentations to me. I have been to the National Crime Agency twice, because it failed to convince me the first time, and I am sad to say that it did not convince me the second time either.
I apologise if I misunderstood the reference to GCHQ and the National Crime Agency and the way in which that was phrased. I ought to declare that I am a former non-executive director of the National Crime Agency. I have been very affected in my thinking on this by the extent to which every law enforcement agency that I have spoken to, in particular the National Crime Agency, seems to believe that this is a very necessary power to enable it to have the evidential ability to pursue serious crime. That is where the distinction lies between the intelligence agencies, which are not seeking this as an evidential tool, and the National Crime Agency and other law enforcement bodies, which see it as an evidential necessity. Depending on a relationship between the NCA and GCHQ within the National Crime Agency seems an unlikely way around this. If there is an evidential requirement, we should put that in the Bill and provide it to law enforcement, rather than relying on GCHQ to provide it by some particular piece of machinery within the NCA, because that would not then be available to all those who might need it within law enforcement.
This is also relevant in terms of why, or the extent to which, other countries have not gone down this road. There is plenty of evidence that the United Kingdom has been considerably more successful, particularly in the pursuit and prosecution of paedophile crime online, than a number of other jurisdictions. That is partly because we have provided appropriate powers to law enforcement to be able to pursue this. The UK has been much more successful in terms of prosecution figures for very similar situations to those facing some European countries. We should continue to provide the powers that enable the UK to pursue those sorts of crimes, which are at the moment an absolute wave hitting the law enforcement community. If we do not provide it with the powers, we will leave a situation where very many people who have committed online paedophile crime are not prosecuted. From my point of view, that certainly does not seem a satisfactory way forward.
I am also slightly cautious about the argument that people can always get round this and that anyone applying their best security would not get caught. Almost all investigation, whether intelligence or criminal, relies on those who are criminals or threats to our security not being as good at what they are doing as they hoped. To say that we should not introduce powers because they are not infallible and that if someone applied all security measures they might be able to get around them would mean that we would provide very few powers to either the intelligence services or law enforcement agencies, because someone somewhere might be able to avoid them. Most people, most of the time, do not apply all the security that they could when they are undertaking either national security threats or crime. That is why we can catch them. We should provide as many powers as we can to catch these people before they damage us, and prosecute them afterwards.
My Lords, I, too, was a member of the Joint Committee. This is the first time I have spoken on the Bill, for various reasons, and I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Murphy, who chaired us so splendidly. The Bill has gone through a model of pre-legislative scrutiny. Compared with the state of most legislation that comes to us, it has really been chewed over, not least in the Commons, to improve it further. I am broadly comfortable with it.
It is good that we are looking at these issues because we are pushing the boat out. Inevitably, in the internet age, we are having to do things we have not done before. I understand the practical challenge of keeping internet connection records effectively. The Danish experiment is salutary—they effectively abandoned it. We had a witness from Denmark who explained it all to us: they had tried and failed. I think that the case for having access to internet connection records has been made. There is a document to which no reference has yet been made entitled Operational Case for the Use of Communications Data by Public Authorities—that is, other than the police—which lists about 20 authorities, such as the Financial Conduct Authority, and sets out case by case the value of having such records. I was with the majority on the committee which felt the case has been made in principle.
The Bill sets out various checks and balances. The companies which will be required to keep these records have a right to appeal against the notice and that must be discussed with the Information Commissioner to ensure that what is being asked of them is practically possible. They must put in place adequate security systems to ensure that the internet connection records which are retained are properly secure.
There are practical questions because we are pushing the boat out a bit internationally as to how this is to be achieved and how much it will cost. As I understand it, the cost will not fall on the companies concerned but will be reimbursed to them by the Government. It would be helpful to know the latest estimate of those costs. I have a feeling that it was about £200 million when we met in the committee, but it would be good to know just what it may cost.
At the end of the day, we live in an ever more fragile and dangerous world and there are good reasons for thinking that that will be the case in future. If we can provide this tool, with proper safeguards, to the police and other agencies it is well worth doing, but we should not underestimate the practical difficulties of being the first country to do this effectively; there are real questions there.
My Lords, after a good deal of thought, my conclusion is that I support the conclusions of the Joint Committee, not the amendments. I previously joined the noble Lord, Lord King, in trying to bring provisions such as this to the statute book rather more urgently. I agree with his comment that it is the most scrutinised Bill we have ever seen—certainly in my more than 30 years in one or other House of Parliament. It was published with three independent reports supporting it, one of which, David Anderson’s report, was extremely complete and considered every aspect of the proposed legislation. It comes to this House with more documents published by the Government, including some of the inner work of GCHQ, than we have ever seen before. It is a great tribute to GCHQ that it accepted the advice that many people outside its establishment gave to it that it should reveal more of what it is doing. I absolutely agree with what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Evans, who had great experience of these matters throughout his career until he entered your Lordships’ House.
What are we really trying to achieve? I think that we are trying to achieve what we already do when we have the opportunity to do it. There is a clear analogy here with mobile telephony records. As the Crown Prosecution Service has said, in 95% of the serious cases that are tried—when there is a not guilty plea, in other words—in the Crown Courts, mobile telephony records and cell site analysis are used as an extraordinarily powerful tool contributing to the conviction of very serious criminals.
On this occasion, I am not going to bore your Lordships with anecdotes about cases that I and other noble Lords have been involved in, for the simple reason that there are far too many cases to describe from those anecdotes in which mobile telephony records have been used to good effect. What technique is used—or has been used up to this stage, until this Bill is enacted—for accessing mobile telephony and internet connection records? Where they are available, the police and other authorities try to obtain access to them; when they obtain access to them, they can track the activities of the people whom they suspect; and, when they can track those activities to good, evidential effect, they use them. The result of that is to be able to put extremely powerful evidence before the courts. All that we are trying to do in this Bill is to create a reliable system that is as uniform as possible so that this type of information can be used in all cases.
Underlying the criticism of this provision is some kind of mythology about the activities of the security services, GCHQ and the police. There seems to be a myth about that they are so bored, so inactive, so idle and so inert, and suffer from such excessive curiosity, that they have the time to look at the completely uninteresting, irrelevant internet records of any member of the public for something to do. That is an appalling suggestion, quite apart from the extremely strong discipline exerted—and I looked at this in some detail when I was Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation and subsequently—on members of those security services. There are some far more experienced than me in this House, sitting in this House today, but I am sure that those noble Lords and noble Baronesses would agree that, if people were so stupid as to use their time in the security services to look up our credit card accounts, for example, they would be in very serious disciplinary trouble. So let us put that canard aside.
Let us also remember that we are not comparing like with like when we talk about other countries. The Joint Committee came to the conclusion—and the Government have, rightly, come to the same conclusion—that the Danish experiment failed because it was different and did not use the most appropriate technology. It was unfortunate for the Danes—they did it before we decided to do it—but the fact is that the Danish experiment is irrelevant to this discussion. Let us not forget, too, the powers of investigators in other countries. We are setting down in this Bill controls of the security services and anybody else who wishes to obtain access to those records, which will be the best controls in the world. We are ahead of the rest of the world in these provisions.
Compare it with what juges d’instruction can do, for example, in France or Belgium. If any one of us is an accused in France or Belgium or any other country on the continent where they have that kind of system, not only will the juges d’instruction have access to those records in any event, and not only do they have powers to direct that they have disclosure of those records to themselves, but the subject will never have the faintest idea that that has been done. Although it is tempting to compare what we do in this country with a number of other countries, it is misleading because no two systems are the same.
I agree with the right reverend Prelate that this proposal has been examined. It has had as objective an examination as one could imagine. It is a matter of record that my noble friend Lord Strasburger, like it or not, agreed with the committee’s conclusion. History will say that he agreed with that conclusion because it is there in the committee’s report. It is now time that we move on, accept that this Bill contains an objective analysis and pass this important set of provisions which will help our authorities to catch the most serious criminals, including hundreds of paedophiles, as alluded to by the noble Lord, Lord Evans.
My Lords, I have not spoken at all on this Bill so far but I should like to make a practical point following what the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, and previous speakers have said. I speak as a former family judge who over the years has been very involved in safeguarding. One of the most important things is to be sure that the police—it is really the police that we are talking about, rather than the security services—have all the tools that they can possibly have to be able to convince a jury, on a prosecution, that a really serious crime has been committed. If this is going to catch even more paedophiles I endorse it, and I hope the House will agree with me.
My Lords, I shall be very brief. As has been said, the provisions of this Bill have been subject to considerable scrutiny. The heart of Amendment 156A is about the balance between privacy, security and safety. Inevitably there will be disagreements, which have been highlighted in this debate, about where an appropriate and proper balance lies.
On Amendment 147A, I have virtually no knowledge about the Advocate-General’s opinion, to which reference has been made. However, if we have that opinion, we would like to hear at some stage whether the Government think that it would have implications for any of the provisions and procedures in the Bill, were that opinion subsequently adopted.
My Lords, Amendment 156A seeks to prevent the retention of internet connection records. The Committee will not be surprised that the Government cannot support such an amendment. We have been absolutely clear about the need for internet connection records. We addressed that when publishing the operational case for these powers.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester referred to a model of pre-legislative scrutiny. The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, referred to the most scrutinised Bill ever seen. My noble friend Lord King alluded to the three reports we have had, and the noble Lord, Lord Murphy, spoke about the Joint Committee that he had chaired which scrutinised these matters. Over and above that, we had the evidence given to the Public Bill Committee by, for example, the noble Lord, Lord Reid, and Charles Clarke. They were asked whether they thought that ICR were a key part of updating legislation for the current world, and both agreed definitively. I commend the contents of those three reports to the noble Lord, Lord Oates, and also commend to him the findings of the Joint Committee. He asked whether the UK was unique within the “Five Eyes” or indeed the world in seeking to develop these powers. It may well be that we are the forefront of developing them, and a good thing it be. I quote from the report by David Anderson QC:
“Comparing the UK’s legal regime with those of other countries is fraught with danger”.
I commend to the noble Lord, Lord Oates, what follows in that report because David Anderson develops those points and explains them. It is on the record, we have had it for a long time, we have considered it in the development of the Bill and the Joint Committee considered these matters. That is why the Bill is in its present condition.
The noble Lord, Lord Evans, observed that we have the ability to secure effective police investigations in areas where other countries have failed. I mentioned on a previous occasion the comparison between the results in the UK and Germany regarding the investigation and prosecution of cases involving paedophilia. I do not accept that, because we are ahead of others, somehow we are wrong.
Does the Minister accept that the point is not just that we are in front of other common-law jurisdictions such as the US, New Zealand and Australia but that, in the case of Australia, as alluded to by my noble friend Lord Strasburger, this issue was specifically considered by the Australian Government and Parliament, and the Australian data retention law specifically excludes the collection of such information precisely because it was felt to be a disproportionate invasion of privacy?
I invite the noble Lord to have a little more confidence in the parliamentary procedures in the UK, in the scrutiny that is being given by our institutions to the provisions of the Bill, and even in the Committee procedures of this House. We have looked with care at these matters repeatedly and have come to a view regarding ICRs.
Not just yet. The fact that other jurisdictions may have taken a different view is to be noticed but is not necessarily of any great moment in this context.
I want to deal with the suggestion by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, that somehow GCHQ could provide the alternative route into all this material, and that somehow the security services would be there at the beck and call of the police authorities in order to in-gather and provide the appropriate information by different means. He asserted that the security services said, “We do not need”. That is far too hard-edged. They have other means but they did not say, “We do not need” in that context.
The noble Lord suggested that I had made an assertion on a previous occasion about the admissibility of certain intelligence acquired by the security services. I did not make an assertion; I made a statement of fact. Intelligence acquired through interception cannot be used as evidence in court. That is the factual position.
This Committee is part of the process of the scrutiny of legislation, and therefore this House should have respect for noble Lords who wish to use it to challenge what the Government are proposing. With regard to the greater success that the UK has had compared with, say, Germany in the prosecution of paedophiles, will the Minister confirm that that is using existing legislation without the use of internet connection records?
On the question of an evidential basis, why, in the operational case for internet connection records, is the need for evidential material not included in any of the examples provided by the National Crime Agency? Why, when I visited the NCA on a couple of occasions, was none of the examples that it gave of a need for evidence that could be presented in court? Indeed, the case studies presented to me at GCHQ confirmed that the work done by GCHQ in conjunction with the NCA was sufficient for the NCA to bring successful prosecutions, notwithstanding that the interception of content is not acceptable in giving evidence in court.
I am most obliged to the noble Lord for his intervention. Of course, I did not accompany him to the NCA, so I do not know what examples he was or was not given, and nor did I prepare or draft the operational examples that he referred to earlier. Of course, there are other means by which evidence may be gathered for the purpose of prosecution, but we are looking to the most effective means of doing this going forward, remembering that people are moving away from telephonic communication—using mobiles and telephone systems—and into the use of internet connection by way of such examples as WhatsApp. Our police forces will be blinded if we allow that development and do not attempt to keep up with such developing technology.
On the question of whether there is an evidential requirement, I note that the noble Lord now acknowledges that there is an evidential requirement in the sense that intelligence gathered by way of interception is not admissible as evidence in court.
The question of the cost of carrying out this exercise was raised. The figure of £1 billion has been put about repeatedly, and the experience in Denmark has been referred to on many occasions. However, one has to look at this from the perspective of the United Kingdom and its approach to this matter. We do not accept the estimate of £1 billion that has been given, and indeed—in response to the inquiry from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester—the current estimate of costs is about £175 million. Our figures factor in the existing infrastructure and the requirements already placed on individual communications service providers, as well as the technical complexity of their networks in this context.
One has to bear in mind that, for example, the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 and the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 already provide for the retention of source IP addresses and port numbers, which make up part of an internet connection record. So I cannot accept the assertion from the noble Lord, Lord Strasburger, that none of these records are provided for under existing legislation. Furthermore, the Bill allows the Government to require the retention of communications data, including internet connection records, only when necessary and proportionate. One must not lose sight of that test in this context.
So we consider that a case was made in the reports regarding internet connection records. We entirely agree with the view arrived at by the Joint Committee. The noble Lord, Lord King, has already quoted from its report that,
“on balance, there is a case for Internet Connection Records as an important tool for law enforcement”.
That has been clearly established by the work that has been done. I acknowledge that of course the Committee of this House wishes to scrutinise this legislation, and it is right that it does so, but it is helpful if it does so against the background and with an understanding of the pre-legislative scrutiny that has already taken place, with regard to the three reports and indeed the recommendations of the Joint Committee. So we submit that the ability to require the retention of internet connection records is a fundamental power that will provide substantial benefits to law enforcement and indeed to the security and intelligence agencies. It is in these circumstances that I say that we cannot support Amendment 156A.
I turn for a moment to Amendment 147A, which seeks to require judicial commissioner approval for applications to acquire internet connection records. I hope that I can persuade noble Lords that the amendment is not needed because we already have a stringent authorisation regime in place that protects against the abuse of applications for communications data. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, alluded to the suggestion that somehow our security agencies and police would have such time on their hands that they would simply roam around such communications data for their own amusement. One is entitled, surely, to discount such a proposition.
The Bill contains robust safeguards for every stage of the acquisition of any form of communications data. This includes requiring the use of an expert single point of contact; authorisation by a designated senior officer who is independent of the investigation and who must be of a rank approved by Parliament; comprehensive oversight by the new Investigatory Powers Commissioner; and the new offence of unlawfully acquiring communications data from a telecommunications operator.
On top of those general requirements, there are extra, specific safeguards for the acquisition of internet connection records. So internet connection records will be able to be acquired only if they are needed for one of the four specified investigative purposes—and local authorities, for example, will be barred from acquiring internet connection records in any form. As well as these protections, we have also tabled an amendment that provides for a crime threshold that must be met before internet connection records can be acquired. We addressed this issue earlier. This will prevent their use for low-level crimes.
So while we recognise that there are sensitivities concerning internet connection records, they will, among other things, be fundamental in resolving IP addresses in certain cases. For example, where the telecommunications operator uses technology that allocates the same IP address to a number of different customers, the internet connection record will help to determine the specific individual in whom law enforcement is interested. There has been cross-party agreement that we need to solve the problem of IP address resolution and I cannot see how it would make sense to require judicial authorisation for some types of IP address resolution but not for others, simply because of the technology that a telecommunications operator uses.
If a public authority were considering acquiring internet connection records in a way that was novel or contentious, it would certainly be right for additional safeguards to apply. That is why the draft communications data code of practice requires any novel or contentious application for communications data to be referred to the judicial commissioner. The Government believe that it is absolutely right that novel or contentious cases are referred to the commissioner, but we do not believe that the tried and trusted authorisation system for communications data should be fundamentally changed when there is no evidence that it is not working. Furthermore, none of the three independent reports that we have referred to and which informed the drafting of this Bill—from David Anderson, the ISC and RUSI—suggested or recommended any changes to the authorisation regime for communications data.
Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Strasburger, referred to the recent opinion of the Advocate-General in the case of Watson in the CJEU, which came out this morning. We note what was said in a fairly lengthy opinion. Your Lordships will be aware that that is the opinion of the Advocate-General, not the judgment of the court; a final judgment is anticipated in the autumn of this year. The Government maintain that the existing regime for the acquisition of communications data and the proposals in the Investigatory Powers Bill are compatible with EU law, and clearly it would not be appropriate to comment further while legal proceedings are ongoing. In these circumstances, I invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
The Minister may have given an impression, which I am sure he did not intend, that by scrutinising the Bill and seeking to do so, noble Lords were somehow not cognisant of the history of the development of these proposals and of the various bits of scrutiny. He should correct that. I myself spent five years in the coalition Government very much involved in these discussions, and one reason I am sceptical about many of the things I hear about why we must do things is because I have heard them before. For example, on the third-party data issue, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation David Anderson said in his report that it was unnecessary and no operational case had been made for it. So I want the Minister to be clear on that. Noble Lords are concerned not because they have not studied or are not aware of these things but because they are very much aware of them.
No doubt noble Lords are cognisant of the three reports and the Joint Committee’s recommendations on the Bill. But I sought and seek to remind noble Lords of what those recommendations contained and of the terms of the Joint Committee’s report—particularly as the noble Lord, Lord Strasburger, who was a member of that committee, seemed to think it appropriate to depart from the recommendations which appear to have been made in its report.
My Lords, I thank the House for an interesting and lively debate, which this subject absolutely deserves. I am somewhat disconcerted by an assertion made by the Minister and one or two other noble Lords. Just because the Bill has been heavily scrutinised—I fully recognise that, and if it is the most scrutinised Bill in the history of this House, so be it—it does not mean that we should abandon our role in this House. We have six days in Committee; are we wasting our time attempting to honestly and genuinely scrutinise the Bill before the House? I do not think so. I will save most of my responses to the debate for Report. I will just say quickly to my noble friend Lord Carlile that there is a world of difference between communications data on mobile networks and internet connection records. I will leave it at that for now, and I am happy to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 147A withdrawn.
Clause 73: Commissioner approval for authorisations to identify or confirm journalistic sources
Amendment 148 not moved.
Clause 73 agreed.
Clause 74 agreed.
Clause 75: Collaboration agreements: supplementary
Amendment 149 not moved.
Clause 75 agreed.
Clause 76 agreed.
Clause 77: Lawfulness of conduct authorised by this Part
150: Clause 77, page 61, line 6, leave out from “(1)” to end of line 11
My Lords, perhaps this is a bit of light relief. Clause 77(1) defines what conduct is lawful when it comes to obtaining communications data, and Clause 77(2)(a) goes on to say that someone cannot be sued if what they do,
“is incidental to, or is reasonably undertaken in connection with”,
the lawful conduct defined in subsection (1). So far, so good. Clause 77(2)(b) goes on to say that someone cannot be subject to any civil liability in respect of conduct that,
“is not itself conduct for which an authorisation or warrant … is capable of being granted”,
under various acts set out in subsection (3) and,
“might reasonably have been expected to have been sought in the case in question”.
If I understand this correctly—and I am sure I have not—if that conduct could and should have been authorised but was not, they can be sued, but if it was not something that could or should have been authorised, no civil liability arises. Either that cannot be right, or it is capable of misunderstanding and should be changed. Can the Minister put the provision in plain English? Our amendment is probing to ensure that we know what we are dealing with. I beg to move.
My Lords, the provisions on the lawfulness of conduct authorised by Part 3 replicate those that apply currently in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. As we made clear in response to an identical amendment in the other place, the Bill goes no further as regards providing indemnity from civil liability for conduct that is incidental to, or reasonably undertaken in connection with, a communications data authorisation.
The provision as drafted ensures that a person who engages in conduct only in connection with an authorisation cannot be subject to civil liability unless that activity could itself have been authorised separately under a relevant power. That, we submit, must be right. The amendment would remove that provision entirely, which, in effect, would mean that a person acting lawfully under an authorisation that had properly been granted under the Bill would be at risk of civil liability if some incidental or reasonably connected conduct were not expressly covered by the authorisation.
I notice that it is a probing amendment. In those circumstances, I invite the noble Lord to withdraw it.
I thank the noble and learned Lord for what he has said. However, we tabled this probing amendment in order to understand what the provision means. Unfortunately, simply saying that it replicates legislation that is already on the statute book does not really help our understanding. Perhaps the noble and learned Lord can say whether the provision has been applied in the past under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.
I am very grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his promise to write on this issue. My question is genuine. Perhaps it is because I am not a lawyer and my brain is not very big, but I contend that the provision is impenetrable. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 150 withdrawn.
Clause 77 agreed.
Clauses 78 and 79 agreed.
Schedule 5 agreed.
Clause 80: Application of Part 3 to postal operators and postal services
151: Clause 80, page 62, line 32, leave out from beginning to “were” and insert “sections 58(3)(za) and (Restrictions in relation to internet connection records)”
Amendment 151 agreed.
Amendment 152 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.
Clause 80, as amended, agreed.
Clauses 81 and 82 agreed.
Clause 83: Powers to require retention of certain data
Amendments 153 and 154 not moved.
155: Clause 83, page 65, line 20, at end insert—
“( ) The fact that the data which would be retained under a retention notice relates to the activities in the British Islands of a trade union is not, of itself, sufficient to establish that the requirement to retain the data is necessary for one or more of the purposes falling within paragraphs (a) to (j) of section 58(7).”
Amendment 155 agreed.
156: Clause 83, page 65, line 21, leave out subsection (9) and insert—
“( ) In this Part—“relevant communications data” means—(a) communications data of the kind mentioned in the Schedule to the Data Retention (EC Directive) Regulations 2009 (SI 2009/859),(b) internet connection records, or(c) relevant internet data not falling within paragraph (a) or (b);“relevant internet data” means communications data which may be used to identify, or assist in identifying, the sender of a communication (whether or not a person).”
The intention behind this amendment to Clause 83 is to replicate the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act in its original form. In so doing, it would restrict the scope of Clause 83 and equate it to existing data retention provisions in DRIPA, with the only addition being the inclusion of internet connection records.
Under the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act, the term “relevant communications data”, as I understand it, covers internet access services, internet email and internet telephony. Those categories replicate the 2009 data retention regulations, which implemented the then EU data retention directive. The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 extended DRIPA to include what was called IP address resolution data.
Clause 83 currently empowers the Home Secretary to issue retention notices covering some six categories of data under the definition of “relevant communications data”. One of these categories is internet connection records. That therefore leaves five other categories, which on the face of it would appear to go wider than the existing data retention categories under the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 as amended by the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015.
As the Bill is currently drafted, the term “relevant communications data” could be interpreted as some sort of catch-all definition of relevant communications data that would cover the collection of virtually any type of communication on a network, including communications where the sender or recipient was not a human being. If that is an accurate assessment, the definition of “relevant communications data” in Clause 83 would cover not only background interactions that smartphone apps make automatically with their supplier servers but presumably also the entire internet of things.
I therefore seek an explanation from the Government as to why the scope of “relevant communications data” in the Bill is not consistent with that in current recent legislation, the reasons and justification for the apparent broadening of the scope, and the difficulties that presumably the Government believe would be caused if the scope of Clause 83 were restricted in line with the amendment and instead equated to existing data retention provisions in DRIPA, apart from the addition of the inclusion of internet connection records. I beg to move.
My Lords, the amendment seeks to amend the definition of “relevant communications data”—that is, the communications data that the Secretary of State will be able to require communications service providers to retain.
In looking at how the amendment is couched, I would like to bring the Committee’s attention to a statement made by David Anderson QC in his report on investigatory powers. He said that,
“any new law … must be couched in technology-neutral language”.
The Government agree. However, the amendment would go against that advice. It would seek to revert to the technical language from the data retention regulations 2009. This, in turn, as the noble Lord mentioned, was drawn from the EU data retention directive 2006, which was struck down in 2014.
I suggest to the noble Lord that it would be inappropriate to base today’s law on specific tele- communications definitions from a decade ago. For example, the amendment would ensure that we retained a reference to dial-up internet access in our legislation. That surely cannot be appropriate where broadband and mobile internet access are now the norm. The approach we have taken is to keep our definitions technologically neutral, as David Anderson recommended and as, indeed, is sensible in the drafting of any law that needs to apply across a range of technologies over time.
I hope that the noble Lord will recognise that it is not appropriate to tie our data retention regime to specific, and outdated, technological language. Those are the reasons why the Government cannot support the amendment.
Perhaps I may ask a question on that point. Not unfairly, the noble Earl made reference to regulations of some years ago, but presumably it is also accurate to say, and perhaps he could comment on this, that very recent legislation—namely, DRIPA 2014, as amended by the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015—has also used the wording referred to in the amendment. Therefore, it also relates to legislation that is not particularly old and indeed is pretty recent. As I see it, we are making a change in wording from legislation that was passed only a year or two ago.
The noble Lord makes what is, on the face of it, a fair point. We have language, as I have explained, that is out of date. But even where the language is not out of date in the kinds of instances that he refers to—for example, legislation refers to the “international mobile equipment identity” of devices—the rate at which telecommunications change means that that kind of language could become out of date very quickly. We try to read across the data descriptions that originated in the 2006 directive to the communications technologies of today, and do so in technology-neutral language. That is why we have departed from the approach that the noble Lord is advocating.
As the noble Lord will remember, DRIPA was emergency legislation. We simply replicated the existing language in that Bill. We now have an opportunity in the Bill before us to do rather better and try to future-proof the terms that the Bill contains.
Amendment 156 withdrawn.
Amendment 156A not moved.
Clause 83, as amended, agreed.
Clauses 84 to 87 agreed.
Clause 88: Variation or revocation of notices
157: Clause 88, page 67, line 34, at end insert—
“( ) The fact that additional relevant communications data which would be retained under a retention notice as varied relates to the activities in the British Islands of a trade union is not, of itself, sufficient to establish that the requirement to retain the data is necessary for one or more of the purposes falling within paragraphs (a) to (j) of section 58(7).”
Amendment 157 agreed.
Amendment 158 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.
Clause 88, as amended, agreed.
Clauses 89 to 92 agreed.
Clause 93: Warrants under this Part: general
158A: Clause 93, page 70, line 6, leave out paragraph (c)
My Lords, this amendment is one of several in this group in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Hamwee. Amendment 158A probes what is meant by the term “any other information” in terms of the purpose of an equipment interference warrant. Clause 93(2) states that an “equipment interference warrant”,
“requires the person to whom it is addressed to secure interference … for the purpose of obtaining—(a) communications”,
which is defined in Section 126(1); “(b) equipment data”, defined in Section 94; and “(c) any other information”, which is not defined. Can the Minister at least give some examples of what “any other information” means? Amendments 185B and 185C cover the same point in other subsections of Clause 93.
Amendments 158D to 158M and Amendments 169B to 169T make a different point—to try to ensure greater targeting of equipment interference warrants. Clause 95 sets out the subject matter of targeted equipment interference warrants. Clause 95(1)(b) states that the warrant may relate to,
“equipment belonging to, used by or in the possession of a group … who share a common purpose or who carry on, or may carry on, a particular activity”.
Such a broad and potentially large group of people can only in the loosest sense be described as targeted.
Amendment 158J applies the same arguments to targeted examination warrants in Clause 95(2)(b). Similar arguments of not being too broad and not being sufficiently focused apply to Clause 95(1)(f):
“equipment which is being, or may be, used for the purposes of a particular activity or activities of a particular description”.
Instead, Amendment 158H would insert:
“A targeted equipment interference warrant may be issued only if the persons or equipment to which the warrant relates are named or specifically identified using a unique identifier”,
which could, for example, be the IP address for a particular device. Similar wording in Amendment 158M would apply to targeted examination warrants.
It is worth remembering what targeted examination warrants are for. If, as a result of the bulk collection of the content of overseas communications, the security services discover UK-based communications that they want to examine the content of, they must first have a targeted examination warrant. This is to prevent the bulk collection of the content of communications of UK citizens. How then can it be right that such a targeted examination warrant applies to such a broad range of communications as,
“a group of persons who share a common purpose or who carry on, or may carry on, a particular activity”?
If the security services know that the communication is UK-based, they must also know whose communication it is and can therefore specify that in the warrant.
Subsections (1)(g) and (h) and (2)(d) and (e) of Clause 95 make provision for the issuing of targeted equipment interference warrants and targeted examination warrants for the purposes of testing, maintenance of equipment and the training of people. Amendments 158F, 158G, 158K and 158L would leave out those provisions.
In the first Committee sitting we discussed the issuing of interception warrants for the purposes of testing equipment and training agents, and the noble and learned Lord responded to the debate at cols. 105 and 106. In response to the Minister’s explanation, I said that I was still puzzled about training and testing warrants. I accepted that new equipment required testing and individuals needed to be trained in real-life situations but said that I was concerned about who the individuals or organisations were that might be targeted in these training exercises, bearing in mind that the normal provisions regarding proportionality and necessity in terms of suspicions that these individuals were up to no good would presumably not apply in training and testing situations. If they were real bad guys, a non-testing and training warrant could be issued. The noble and learned Lord failed to convince me then, but perhaps he can try again now.
Amendments 169B and 169T make the necessary consequential changes to the requirements that must be met by warrants in terms of the details that must be included in equipment interference warrants. I beg to move.
My Lords, I listened very carefully to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and his explanation of his amendments, but I was not at all convinced. If we believe that there is a need for the Bill, which I do, but have reservations about some of the issues around encryption, we have to ensure that the relevant agencies have some tools in their kit box. One of those tools has to be the ability to interfere with or look at the specific equipment. What the noble Lord is trying to do is to restrict the availability of that power to such an extent that it would effectively become almost useless. It would simply be available if you have one named individual. Therefore surely it is right that a significantly broader power should be available to engage here.
The question that the Minister who is going to respond needs to answer is this: how will the test of proportionality be applied in such cases? Presumably it is not proportionate to have such a broad sweep contained within the authorisation that it is inappropriate and overly onerous. The mechanism is therefore this: how is it determined that this is a proportionate and proper use of the power, and can we and the public be reassured that the mechanisms exist to ensure that that proportionality is adhered to?
I am obliged to noble Lords. I know that these are probing amendments and I shall address them in that light. Of course some of these amendments were discussed in the other place and, as noted, were considered again by this Committee in the context of interception.
Amendments 158D to 158M and 169B to 169T would remove the ability of the warrant-requesting agencies to apply for a warrant against an organisation, a group of persons with a common purpose, or a group of persons carrying out the same activity. They would require a warrant to name or identify each person or piece of equipment to which the warrant relates and they would remove the ability to obtain warrants for testing and training activity. As I have already set out when we considered similar amendments in the context of interception, it is important that those responsible for keeping us safe have the powers they need. These amendments would undermine their ability to employ those powers.
Let me start with the amendments regarding unique identifiers. As I explained in the context of interception warrants, it is not always possible at the outset of an investigation to know or have identified all of the individuals who may be subject to a warrant over the course of that investigation. The example of a kidnap gang applies to equipment interference just as it applies to interception. When a warrant is granted against a gang, the person applying for the warrant may not know that there are four members of the gang rather than three. The ability to grant a warrant against the gang in order to establish its size and to identify co-conspirators is precisely why the Bill provides for thematic warrants. Thematic warrants are already available to the equipment interference agencies under the Intelligence Services Act 1994 and the Police Act 1997 and they are invaluable when investigating complex or fast-moving threats. It is right that the Bill should not undermine their ability to do this.
I would seek to reassure your Lordships that the Bill already provides in Clause 107 that the warrant has to describe the relevant persons, locations, activity or groups and the type of equipment to which the warrant relates in so far as it is reasonably practicable to do so. This is an important safeguard which will assist the oversight of thematic targeted warrants. The Investigatory Powers Tribunal recently considered the use of equipment interference in this way. It determined that,
“a warrant is lawful if it is as specific as possible in relation to the property to be covered by the warrant”,
“it need not be defined by reference to named or identified individuals”.
Let me turn to the amendments that seek to remove the ability to grant a warrant relating to particular subject matters. This was also discussed at some length in the other place and very recently in this Committee, again in the context of interception. Such a change would be operationally damaging and is moreover unnecessary. The Bill and the statutory code of practice impose strict limits on the issue of warrants, including in relation to organisations or groups of persons. I should emphasise that such warrants are not open-ended. Their scope must be sufficiently limited that the issuing authority can properly assess the necessity and proportionality of the interference. Further, under the Bill a judicial commissioner will need to approve the issuing authority’s decision. So the clause does not allow for overly broad warrants to be issued. Moreover, removing the ability to seek warrants against persons carrying out the same activity could prohibit the agencies from, for example, seeking a warrant against individuals accessing a particular website in order to access child abuse images. In such cases it is vital that law enforcement should be able to identify suspects and bring them to justice.
I turn now to the question of testing and training warrants and perhaps I may briefly restate our concerns regarding the amendments to remove the ability to apply for a warrant for testing or training purposes. This would be damaging operationally and would also result in a reduction in safeguards. It is vital that those who are authorised to undertake equipment interference are able to test new equipment and to make sure that those responsible for using that equipment are properly trained in its use. Without the ability to test equipment, we will simply increase the risk of mistakes being made where individuals are not able to receive adequate training in its use. The warrant application process in these circumstances allows the Secretary of State to understand the potential risk that data will be acquired incidentally and to agree the measures to be taken to reduce the risk. Indeed, material obtained under a testing or training warrant must be handled in accordance with the same safeguards as any other material, and that includes that such material must be destroyed when retaining it is no longer required for one of the statutory purposes. I would suggest that appropriate safeguards are already in place.
I will move on now to Amendments 158A to 158C, which refer to Clause 93. Clause 93 sets out the categories of data that may be acquired under an equipment interference warrant. These categories are “communications”, “equipment data” and “other information”. This clause makes it clear that a warrant must specify what categories of data are to be acquired through the proposed interference. Perhaps I may be allowed to explain briefly what each of these categories means and why it is appropriate to set them out in this way. I will begin with “communications”’. The definition is straightforward and appears throughout the Bill, and for Part 5 it is defined in Clause 126. An equipment interference warrant may be authorised to obtain communications that are “at rest”, such as an email saved on a suspect’s hard drive or a text message that is stored on his mobile phone. An equipment interference warrant may not authorise the obtaining of communications in real time, such as the interception of a telephone call; that would need to be authorised under an interception warrant.
“Equipment data” is defined in Clause 94. It comprises data that are typically less intrusive, such as the subscriber identification number associated with a SIM card. In some cases the security and intelligence agencies may need to acquire such data through an equipment interference warrant. Clause 93 allows for a warrant to be issued for this activity, and again this is an important privacy safeguard. It means that some equipment interference warrants will only authorise the acquisition of less-sensitive data.
Finally, the term “other information” reflects the fact that not all of the data that may be acquired through equipment interference will be either communication or equipment data. For example, an illegal image saved on a criminal’s hard drive may not constitute a communication if it has not yet been disseminated via the internet. It is of course vital that the police are able to identify such material in the course of a covert investigation, including through the use of equipment interference techniques. Such data would fall under the heading of “other information”. The proposed amendment seeks to narrow the clause, thus preventing the equipment interference agencies from applying for an equipment interference warrant where the purpose is to acquire “other information”. We consider that such an amendment would be a mistake because of the example that I have just given.
It is right that equipment interference agencies should be permitted to obtain information that does not fall into the categories of either communications or equipment data. It is also vital that the equipment interference agencies are able to fully investigate potential serious crime or national security threats subject to the rigorous safeguards and oversight provided by the Bill. I will reiterate this because, for example, it would severely detract from the equipment interference agencies’ current powers if they were to be prohibited from examining material that a suspected terrorist had hidden on a hard disk simply because the subject had not communicated the information. I hope that assists in explaining “other information”. The term should not be taken to imply that a warrant could be open-ended—that it could authorise the acquisition of data not described in the warrant. As well as describing the category of information that may be obtained under a warrant, Clause 107 makes clear that the warrant must specify the precise conduct to be undertaken, and a warrant for other information is simply one aimed at obtaining data that are not or not only communication or equipment data.
Clause 93 sets out the categories of information that may be obtained through the proposed interference. It envisages that some warrants will be permitted only for the acquisition of less intrusive equipment data. Equally, in some cases, the circumstances may merit the use of techniques to obtain communications or other data from a suspect’s device. That provides a clearer regime than the current statutory framework and indeed, for stronger privacy protections. Accordingly, I invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
I am very grateful for the lengthy explanation that the noble and learned Lord has provided. However, I still have questions. One of the examples he gave was to be able to interfere with equipment of a group of people who are accessing a particular website. I guess that you would need to know the IP addresses of the devices that were accessing that website to interfere with them, and that would be within the terms of our amendment. I may have lost concentration, and apologise to the Minister if so, but I cannot remember him addressing targeted examination warrants, where presumably the security services—the only ones who would apply for such a warrant—would know the identity of the people. I am still not clear about the need for thematic targeted examination warrants.
The big question that I have around testing and training is: who are the poor innocent people targeted by the warrants used for testing and training purposes? How is it decided who should be targeted? Will the Minister say what that other information is that needs to be specified in the warrant?
I accept that the withdrawal of these powers would be a mistake but, as the Minister acknowledged to begin with, these are probing amendments. I am grateful for the explanations he has given so far. Perhaps he might write to me to deal with my further and more difficult questions, but at this stage I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 158A withdrawn.
Amendments 158B and 158C not moved.
Clause 93 agreed.
Clause 94 agreed.
Clause 95: Subject-matter of warrants
Amendments 158D to 158M not moved.
Clause 95 agreed.