House of Lords
Tuesday 11 October 2016
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Norwich.
Introduction: Baroness Sugg
Elizabeth Grace Sugg, CBE, having been created Baroness Sugg, of Coldharbour in the London Borough of Lambeth, was introduced and took the oath, supported by Lord Strathclyde and Baroness Goldie, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.
Introduction: Baroness Cavendish of Little Venice
Hilary Camilla Cavendish, having been created Baroness Cavendish of Little Venice, of Mells in the County of Somerset, was introduced and took the oath, supported by Baroness Hogg and Lord Bridges of Headley, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.
Imprisonment for Public Protection Sentences
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many people still serving sentences of imprisonment for public protection have been detained for longer than the maximum term of imprisonment otherwise statutorily prescribed for their offence, and what plans they have for the release of those people.
The required detailed data are not routinely collected. However, an exercise to estimate the number of current prisoners sentenced to an IPP who have served beyond the maximum term available for their offence indicates that there are around 200 such prisoners. The independent Parole Board directs the release of a prisoner serving an IPP sentence who has completed his tariff only when it is no longer necessary on the grounds of public protection for the prisoner to be detained.
I am grateful to the Minister for that somewhat sobering Answer. Given that statistic, given that the whole IPP scheme was abolished four years ago in 2012 as being inherently unjust, given that there are 600 to 700 prisoners serving years beyond their tariff terms—sometimes eight to 10 times as long—given that more than half of IPP prisoners self-harm, and given the recent excoriation of the system by an ex-Lord Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, in a radio programme as being a “stain” on the system and its condemnation by the three last Lord Chief Justices, does the Minister agree that it is high time that steps were taken to bring this continuing scandal to an end?
Steps are being taken to reduce the population of IPP prisoners. Indeed, in the last year the largest number did in fact qualify for release. The parole service carries out independent examinations for this purpose, and where IPP prisoners fail to respond at these parole hearings the National Offender Management Service has now brought in psychologists and policy experts to undertake a central case review of those IPP prisoners, in the hope that they can complete their tariffs and then progress to open conditions.
My Lords, is my noble and learned friend aware that concern about this matter is not confined to noble and learned Lords? A number of us feel as strongly as the retired judges and others do on this matter. I hope he can do better next time.
I am obliged to my noble friend. The significant majority of IPP prisoners will actually never reach the point of serving more than the statutory maximum penalty because the very large majority have already been sentenced to life imprisonment.
The Minister referred to a number of prisoners who qualified for release. How many of them have been released?
In the past year, 512 have been released into open conditions.
My Lords, as the Minister who saw the abolition of IPPs through this House, can I assure the Minister that it was the wish of Parliament at that time to see an end to IPPs? His replies today show the same immobility which so frustrated me as a Minister. There will be IPP prisoners well into the next decade unless Ministers and the Parole Board take advice from those informed with a welter of information. With his reputation, I ask the Minister to take a close look at some of the facts he has given to the House today, because he will find that they mask the fact that many thousands of prisoners will remain under these schemes long after Parliament intended them to end. The reason why so many distinguished lawyers now call for this to end is that it is not only an injustice to the individual but is now doing real, serious damage to our criminal justice system.
The facts are the facts. There is mobility and we are moving in the right direction. There is an increasing reduction in the number of IPP prisoners who are held. Let us remember that the test is whether these prisoners will represent a high or very high risk of serious harm to others when they leave prison. There is a necessary balancing act between the interests of society as a whole and the very great problem which these dangerous prisoners present. We are conscious of that and have provided further resources to the Parole Board. In light of the Osborn decision in the Supreme Court, we have taken forward the requirement for oral hearings, and we are doing everything in our power to ensure that this prison population is reduced. Let me add one further point. In 2012, when the IPP sentence was abolished, there were put in its place some seriously increased sentences for dangerous offenders, including the extended determinate sentence. If those sentences had been applied to this present cohort, it is not easy to say that they would be released in the foreseeable future.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for the Question and to the Minister for his responses so far. May I ground it in the particular case of a prisoner I met in HMP Onley a few months ago? A young man who had engaged fully with prison training programmes preparing him for release was on the way to a qualification through a well-known cycle and auto repair business, which runs a workshop in that prison, yet there was no assurance as to when or indeed whether he would be released. It is important that such prisoners have the incentive to engage with programmes like that young man had—I commended him for that. Is the Minister able to offer hope to such a prisoner?
I am obliged to the right reverend Prelate. There is hope for such prisoners. Indeed, the very prisoners who engage in that sort of programme and work their way towards a successful hearing before the Parole Board often have only one such hearing before they are able to move to open conditions.
My Lords, as the Home Secretary who introduced the Criminal Justice Act 2003, I am painfully aware of the flaws in the original implementation of IPP, although it has to be said that judges provided the sentences, not Ministers. This issue needs dealing with, but it is not confined to IPP prisoners. David McCauliffe, who has been in prison for 26 years, was sentenced to an eight-year term. He remains in jail because the Parole Board feels that releasing him is inappropriate and would be dangerous. However, the emotional and therapeutic requirements and the necessary courses to put things right are crucial here, not just whether we got it wrong 13 years ago.
We entirely endorse the idea that now we have this cohort of prisoners within the prison population, it is necessary to develop programmes that take them closer to the opportunity of open conditions and ultimate release. But we have to bear in mind that these sentences were imposed on those who have been convicted of serious violent or sexual offences, and the safety of society has to be paramount in our minds.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they will publish their decision about additional runways for London airports.
My Lords, the Government are absolutely committed to delivering the infrastructure projects the country needs, including delivering runway capacity on the timetable set out by the Airports Commission. It is vitally important we get the decision right. As noble Lords will know, the Government commissioned extra work looking at the three options shortlisted by the commission. Ministers are carefully considering all the evidence, and will be in a position to announce a preferred scheme shortly.
It sounds as though we are getting closer. Would it not be wonderful if this were the last time I asked the same Question about a third runway at Heathrow? Would it not be even more wonderful if it were the last time I got the same answer?
I agree with the sentiments my noble friend expresses.
My Lords, last time I asked my noble friend this question he said that “shortly” would be “soon”. Is it any sooner?
I suspected this question might come up, so I have been thumbing through my thesaurus, which is quite well read. All I can say is that perhaps “shortly” will also mean “imminently”.
My Lords, what is the current status of the Conservative Party pledge in 2009: no ifs, no buts, no third runway at Heathrow?
As the noble Lord is aware, the previous Prime Minister made that statement when he was looking at a very different proposition. Since then, as the noble Lord is also aware, the commission has reported and presented three viable options. The Government will be looking to make a call on south-east capacity shortly.
My Lords, will the Minister give consideration, apart from all this metropolitan stuff, to the interests of regional airports in this country, particularly Birmingham, which, when we have HS2, will be as close to London as is Heathrow or Gatwick? This is the sort of thing that is stalking up and it is likely to be ready before the runaway at Heathrow.
The noble Lord raises an important issue about regional connectivity and regional airports. I had the opportunity to visit Birmingham last week and I saw its plans. The noble Lord is quite right that, once HS2 has been built, it will take 30-odd minutes to go from London Euston to Birmingham. That underlines the importance of ensuring that our national infrastructure supports the general infrastructure of aviation. The regional connectivity of airports will be in my review of the airport policy framework.
How long have the Government and others had to make up their minds about London’s additional runways? Does the Minister believe that it is possible for some sort of decision to be advanced rather than, as I fear it will be, regarded as something that can be withdrawn?
The noble Lord raises the important issue that a decision needs to be made. I assure your Lordships’ House that the Government are looking to make that decision. They also fully appreciate and understand the importance of making a decision in this respect to ensuring the continuing viability and growth of the British economy.
My Lords, would the Minister confirm whether, in making this decision, the Government will consider the possibility of one of the two Heathrow options and Gatwick? We probably need both of them as, if one of the Heathrow options is chosen, the legal objections might drag on, and at least we would be able to get on with one airport in the meantime. Could the Minister also confirm the rumours that the current Foreign Secretary is going to go back on his promise to lie in front of the bulldozers if Heathrow is chosen and spare damage to the bulldozers?
My right honourable friend has a very important job as Foreign Secretary and is doing a sterling job in that respect. As far as expansion is concerned, the commission reported back on the need to increase capacity by 2030 with the addition of one runway in the south-east, and that is where the Government’s decision is focused.
My Lords, HS2 notwithstanding, is the Minister aware that it is currently possible to get from London to London Luton Airport in less than half an hour?
I am fully aware of that fact, and the noble Lord will be pleased to learn that I shall be visiting London Luton Airport in the next two weeks, as my next visit since my appointment as the Aviation Minister.
My Lords, can my noble friend tell us whether, when the Government make their decision shortly, they will take into account the likelihood of legal challenge?
The important issue is that, once the Government have taken a decision, there is a set process to follow for the proposal which is given the green light. A formal process will then be initiated, and we have already agreed that there will be a national development framework through which this will be presented. After that, there will be a development consent order by those who have successfully got the green light for this. During that process, if there are legal challenges to any decision or any element of that, the Government and those who are putting forward the proposal will deal with them according to the planning process which has been determined.
My Lords, the Minister will be aware that British industry has almost completed two airports in Rosyth naval base, which will enable people to go around the world and which have been built in less time than the various debates about this runway at Heathrow have taken. Does the Minister not agree that perhaps some more orders to British shipbuilding would be appropriate, considering how well they have done in doing this in such a short time?
I have always been a strong advocate for British shipbuilding, and I will continue to be.
County Court Judgments
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many county court judgments were issued against people who did not put in a defence, and what plans they have to take steps to reduce that number.
In the financial years 2014-15 and 2015-16, just over 1.48 million county court judgments were issued as default judgments because the defendant had failed to file a defence or to acknowledge the claim. The Ministry of Justice is investigating the number of default judgments made because the defendant did not receive the claim and whether any steps should be taken to reduce that number.
My Lords, I thank my noble and learned friend for his Answer and certainly hope for urgent action. Thousands of people every day have their credit records damaged by county court judgments without a chance to defend themselves and without even knowing anything about it, often by firms operating in NHS hospital car parks or utility companies. Will the Government consider asking courts to require proof that all reasonable efforts have been made to use correct addresses and ensure that any legal action is against the right person before issuing a judgment? Will the Minister also consider imposing penalties on those businesses which repeatedly fail to do so?
The rules regarding money claims in the county courts seeks to strike a balance between the rights of creditors quickly to claim and receive money that is owed to them and the right of defendants to be informed of a claim against them. Since the last Labour Government amended the rules in respect of these matters in 2008, the rules have required claimants to take reasonable steps to ascertain the defendant’s current address. Claimants must sign a statement of truth confirming that the details in their claim are true, and this includes the address of the defendant. Anyone deliberately providing false information to the court faces prosecution.
My Lords, the noble Baroness’s Question raises an issue about so-called enhanced court fees. Claim fees are 5% of the sum claimed up to a fee of £10,000, even on uncontested debts, whatever the prospects of recovery, so it is the creditor who takes the risk of insolvency. Does the Minister accept that these very high claim fees deter creditors from claiming genuine debts and encourage debtors to avoid payment?
In light of the fact that there have been 1.48 million county court default judgments in the past two years, it does not appear that claimants are being deterred by court fees, which have to be managed in order that the court estate can somehow remain solvent. At the end of the day, court fees are a recoverable element.
My Lords, I invite the Minister to consider another, equally important aspect of this matter: where no defence has been filed in a situation where a judge would otherwise have had ample scope either to dismiss the claim altogether or to rewrite the matter in a more equitable way, many people who are under severe financial strain are unable to have their side of things put in court. How can that circle be squared, if at all?
It can be squared by defendants entering an appearance into the court process and putting forward, in any appropriate manner, the defence that they have to the claim. In these circumstances, it would appear that the system works equitably. I point out again the need to balance the interests of claimants, many of which are small and medium-sized enterprises that suffer serious problems of cash flow due to debtors, and the interests of defendants.
My Lords, is the alarming picture reflected in the noble Baroness’s Question not another symptom of what is increasingly a failing civil justice system? Will the Government look at their support for Citizens Advice and other advice agencies as well as—building on the Minister’s last remarks—perhaps publicising the need for people to respond to any such claims and to seek advice where it is available?
It has to be made clear that resort to the court is the last step in the process of debt recovery, and that those responsible for debts are given notice of their indebtedness and are required to pay. It is only when they fail or refuse to respond to these entreaties that any application is made to the court. In these circumstances, defendants are given ample opportunity and notice to defend their interests.
Mental Health: Young People
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they intend to amend the 2012 national suicide prevention strategy to take account of the mental health challenges faced by young people.
My Lords, we will publish later this month the next annual progress report of the national suicide prevention strategy, which will set out details of how we are strengthening the strategy in key areas, including to target specific groups such as children and young people. The national strategy recognises children and young people as a group with specific mental health challenges that require a tailored approach to meet those needs.
I thank the Minister for that informative Answer. Front-line clinicians and local authorities are very aware of the role that family dysfunction and relationship breakdown frequently play in the onset of pronounced mental illness in adolescents. What steps are the Government taking to prevent mental health problems from developing, particularly where family breakdown is a root cause?
My Lords, in his recent national confidential inquiry, Louis Appleby reported that in 36% of all suicides of people aged under 20, family breakdown or family circumstances were part of the cause. My noble friend is absolutely right that families are critically important. That is very much part of the strategy in our Future in Mind paper. I was horrified by the figure that 43% of all people who took their own lives under the age of 20 had had no prior contact with any agency—no contact with GPs, no contact with CAMH units, no contact with schools—about their condition. Nearly half the people who took their own lives were completely below the radar. That is a shocking figure.
My Lords, I ask the Minister about young people with mental health problems in the criminal justice system, where they are particularly vulnerable to self-harm and suicide attempts. Recent draft NICE guidelines recommend that all staff working in the criminal justice receive training to recognise and respond to mental health problems. Although the NHS is not responsible for the physical or mental health of those in custody, the guidelines recommend co-operation between healthcare and the criminal justice system on mental health, so how will his department respond to them, and who will fund the training?
My Lords, I do not think I can answer the question about who will fund the training; I will write to the noble Baroness to answer it. She is absolutely right that a huge proportion of people who are in the criminal justice system, in prison, also suffer from mental health problems. Tackling the mental health problems of people in prison is just as important as tackling them outside. If I may, I shall write to the noble Baroness on this matter.
I must tell the Minister that there is very little sign of any investment in mental health services taking place in Merseyside. Will he investigate what is happening to that investment strategy and why Merseyside is failing our children and failing to invest in this vital service?
My Lords, I am obviously disappointed to hear what the noble Lord says about Merseyside; I cannot answer specifically on Merseyside today. We have the Future in Mind strategy, which pledged £1.4 billion of extra spending over the lifetime of this Parliament for children and young people. If it is not reaching the front line in Merseyside, we should look at that.
Can the Government provide assurance that the phenomenon of suicide contagion is now being recognised? That is contagion both from personal contact with somebody who has attempted or committed suicide and through media reporting, where the higher the profile in the media, the more likely there is to be suicide contagion. That appears to be a linear relationship. Do the Government recognise that the best way to deal with the complex problem of suicide contagion among children and adolescents at school is to provide suicide screening within schools—for the precise reason that the Minister outlined, which is that many of these people are below what you might call the healthcare radar?
My Lords, the issue of suicide clusters and contagion is serious and real. By 2017, as recommended by the Five-Year Forward View on Mental Health prepared by Paul Farmer, every authority will have a multiagency plan addressing that issue. I agree with the noble Baroness that we need to do a lot more in schools. Interestingly, 255 schools are now part of a pilot scheme where there is a single point of contact within the school, so that when a child is feeling suicidal or has mental health problems, it is at least clear who they should go to to seek advice.
My Lords, it is clearly not just an issue of funding, but you cannot escape the issue of funding. Yesterday, police chiefs said that they were being forced to act as emergency mental health services because of the inadequacy of provision up and down the country. Recently, an FoI request showed that two-thirds of CCGs which responded are spending less as a proportion of their budget on mental health this year, rather than more, as Ministers required them to do. The Minister mentioned the review to come out later this month, which will reflect on this distressing issue. The question is how one can have confidence in what the Government are saying, because they clearly are having such little impact on what the NHS does locally.
My Lords, this is a difficult issue. As the noble Lord will know, a key part of the five-year forward view is to take resources out of acute physical care, out of acute hospitals, so that there is more available for mental health care, community care and primary care. It is very difficult to do that. As the noble Lord will know, we have been trying to do this since 2000 but all that has happened is that more and more of the available resource has been sucked into the big acute hospitals. Getting that resource out and into the community and into mental health is extremely difficult. The STP process is going on at the moment. We are committed to seeing more money going into mental health, but I acknowledge the difficulties.
My Lords, will the noble Lord confirm that last year we saw the highest level of teenage suicides in 17 years? Welcome though the review of the 2012 strategy is, will the noble Lord say that, as well as looking at issues such as family breakdown, he will look at issues such as cyberbullying? Did he see the case only last week of an 11 year-old boy who committed suicide? His mother said that he had been subjected to cruel and overwhelming social-media and cyber bullying. Will the review examine these links with breakdowns in mental health and teenage suicide, and the very poor state of mental health provision inside the National Health Service for young people?
My Lords, on the noble Lord’s last point, the very poor state of mental health provision in the NHS has been with us since 1948, if not earlier. We are trying to address this problem but there is a huge way to go. I acknowledge absolutely the difficulties to which the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, also alluded. Professor Appleby, in his report which came out in May of this year, cites cyberbullying as one of a number of factors. They tend to be multifactorial. When someone takes their own life it is normally the end result of often years of misery and a whole range of things. It could have to do with sexuality, bullying, family breakdown or bereavement. This is not an easy situation to solve. Last year, 145 people under the age of 20 took their own lives. This is a tragedy for them and, of course, for their families as well.
My Lords, may I draw to the Minister’s attention the specific needs of children and young people from refugee and recent immigrant families? In many cases, they have been through dreadful trauma in other countries and find themselves dislocated and here, sometimes, without their families. There is a need for proactive mental health care as well as for reactive and responsive care, both of which seem to be in short supply.
My Lords, the right reverend Prelate makes a very important point. The life history of some of these children and young people in refugee camps who have fled from desperate parts of the world is truly shocking. I can only completely agree with the sentiments to which he has drawn our attention.
National Citizen Service Bill [HL]
A Bill to make provision for the national citizen service.
The Bill was introduced by Lord Taylor of Holbeach (on behalf of Lord Ashton of Hyde), read a first time and ordered to be printed.
Investigatory Powers Bill
Report (1st Day)
Clause 1: Overview of Act
1: Clause 1, page 1, line 5, at beginning insert—
“( ) This Act sets out the extent to which certain investigatory powers may be used to interfere with privacy.”
My Lords, I rise briefly to speak to Amendment 1, tabled in my name. I declare an interest as a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee. When the ISC reported on the draft Bill, we recommended that privacy protection should form the backbone of the legislation, around which the exceptional, intrusive powers would then be built. This recommendation was to underline at the very outset of the Bill that a delicate balance must be struck between an individual’s right to privacy and the exceptional powers needed by the intelligence agencies to ensure our safety and security.
The Bill has seen substantial changes in the other place and at earlier stages in this House, and those changes have introduced significant improvements in the protection afforded to privacy. Very important in this process was the introduction by the Government at the overview of the Bill of the clause on general duties in relation to privacy. This amendment seeks simply to reinforce the Government’s approach. The Intelligence and Security Committee still feels that there is merit in placing a simple statement right at the forefront of the legislation to provide additional clarity that there should be no doubt that privacy protection remains a fundamental priority. I hope that, on this occasion, the Minister may feel able to support this very brief amendment, and I look forward to hearing his response. I beg to move.
My Lords, I hesitated because I thought the Minister might wish to introduce the government amendments before I spoke to mine, as I think one of mine may be an amendment to one of his. We on these Benches support the noble Lord, Lord Janvrin, on Amendment 1. It would provide a very clear statement of purpose for the Bill, and one which would be very useful. The Lord Advocate said in Committee that an amendment similar to this would not add value. On the contrary, it would add value by giving that statement of purpose. The first clause is badged as an overview of the Act. In fact, what it does is to list the different parts of the Act and give an overview of each of them. The clause does not give an overview of the Act; the noble Lord’s amendment would do so, and the clause would live up to its name.
We have Amendments 8, 9 and 12 in this group. Amendment 8 would provide that the powers should not be used if the objectives could be achieved by other, less intrusive means. This, too, was an amendment that we debated in Committee. The Bill provides that regard must be had to the possibility of achievement by other, less intrusive means. My noble friend Lord Lester of Herne Hill apologises that he cannot be here today—although I am not sure whether one should apologise for an illness. He has kept me up to date with his position. He talked about the “rubbery” quality of the term “have regard to”. This amendment would make the obligation an absolute one—but not an unreasonable one, because the term “reasonably”, as in,
“could reasonably be achieved by other less intrusive means”,
is included. My noble friend Lord Lester referred to this as,
“classic principle of proportionality language”.—[Official Report, 11/7/16; col. 53.]
I was pleased that, on that occasion, we had the support of my noble friend Lord Carlile of Berriew, who said that the wording,
“would be more useful and more certain”,
than that with which he was comparing it, and that, above all, it would,
“avoid unnecessary disputes about the meaning of and compliance with Article 8”—
that is, Article 8 of the convention—
“in the courts”.—[Official Report, 11/7/16; col. 54.]
My noble friend Lord Lester had painted a rather gloomy picture of the problems that could arise if the legislation was not absolutely clear.
The noble Earl agreed to consider the proposition. He referred to the use of the wording in codes of practice. My noble friend Lord Carlile, who was more polite than I was about problems with codes of practice, said that he supported the amendment because it would be preferable to have the words in the Bill,
“rather than face the inevitable consequences of legal discussions in the courts as to the role of codes of practice and their enforceability? Putting the words in the Bill at least provides certainty”.—[Official Report, 11/7/16; col. 56.]
Both my noble friends have very considerable experience of arguing the case—no doubt both ways—in the courts. I am not sure whether the Government’s Amendments 10 and 11 are intended to address the point that we were debating. I am sure I will be told.
Our other amendment, which I will have to speak to now because we are on Report, is an amendment to government Amendment 11. I welcome government Amendments 10 and 11, but I am a bit uneasy about intrusiveness being gauged against the sensitivity of the information. My point is a wider one: everyone in every case should expect the least intrusive means to be tried first. Amendment 12 to government Amendment 11 is tabled to understand whether everything in Amendment 11 falls within Amendment 10. We have wording in Amendment 10 about the “particular sensitivity” of information. Amendment 11 gives examples of “sensitive” information. Are there, therefore, two hurdles to be crossed: “sensitive” and “particular sensitivity”? Amendment 12 seeks to understand how the two amendments relate to one another.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Janvrin, has again spoken persuasively on the importance of making clear that privacy is at the heart of the Bill. The amendment tabled in his name, on behalf of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, serves to reinforce that point and provide greater clarity. He will be pleased to know that, on that basis, I am happy to support it.
Included in this group are a number of government amendments. Clause 2 brings together in one place at the front of the Bill the considerations a public authority must have regard to, and the duties that apply, when exercising a power provided by this Bill.
Amendments 2 through to 7 are technical amendments to ensure that the obligations under Clause 2 continue to “bite” in relation to the roles of judicial commissioners under the Bill as amended in this House. Some of these could be seen as consequential to amendments that we shall discuss in the coming days. If the House will allow, I do not believe that it would be helpful to expand on them here, save to say that the Government propose to introduce greater protections in respect of the retention of communications data and the treatment of sensitive professions under the Bill. Where those protections create a role for judicial commissioners, the amendments will again ensure that the duties imposed by Clause 2 continue to apply in respect of the commissioners’ expanded remit.
I turn to Amendments 8 and 9 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. Clause 2 imposes a general obligation on public authorities, including the Secretary of State and judicial commissioners, to consider whether what is sought to be achieved by a given action could reasonably be achieved by other less intrusive means. As the noble Baroness explained, the effect of the proposed amendment would be to turn this into a hard rule, such that public authorities must positively “rule out” the availability of less intrusive means before embarking on a course of action under the Bill. The House will recall that when a very similar amendment was proposed in Committee, we on the government Benches said that we were sympathetic to the spirit behind it. That remains the case here. However, it also remains the case that I am unconvinced that the amendment is appropriate. The Government believe that the right approach is to require public authorities to carefully consider whether less intrusive means would be more appropriate, as required under the privacy clause. Perhaps the words I should emphasise in this context are “consider” and “appropriate”.
The issue here is that we are not dealing with a choice that is objectively black or white. Deciding which tool to use and what is “reasonable” is a matter of judgment for the officer conducting the inquiry and will depend on the specific circumstances of the case. There will be occasions when a number of investigative tools could be used to achieve the same or a similar end. These tools may intrude on privacy in different ways and it may not be objectively clear which, in fact, is more intrusive. Where comparing communications data with CCTV or deployment of a covert human intelligence source, for example, the judgment of what is more intrusive is complex and people may take very differing views on which of the different powers is more intrusive. Indeed, it may be the case that an officer would decide to use a technique that they considered more intrusive if they felt it was nevertheless still proportionate to do so as the most appropriate tool in the circumstances—for example, if it was less likely to compromise the investigation.
I want to be very clear here that officers cannot simply choose to use the powers in the Bill because they consider it would be simpler or quicker than using other tools. The strong safeguards the Bill puts in place mean that any request must be necessary and proportionate for the intended aim, and the use of the powers is subject to strict oversight by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner.
I hope that noble Lords will agree that it is better that there should be a general requirement to consider intrusiveness when exercising functions under the Bill rather than a hard and fast requirement that cannot be determined under any objective criteria. I hope that I have provided sufficient explanation of why that is preferable to the proposed amendment, and that the noble Baroness will, on reflection, not press it.
Returning to the government amendments, in limited circumstances, law enforcement or the intelligence and security agencies may have a legitimate need to acquire communications or communications data that are particularly sensitive—for instance, information which constitutes confidential journalistic material or identifies a journalist’s source.
Amendments 10 and 11 put beyond doubt the importance of taking particular care in relation to such communications. The clause as a whole makes it clear that public authorities, including the Secretary of State and judicial commissioners, should have regard to the human rights implications—in the widest sense—of interfering with communications that attract particular sensitivity. The amendments make explicit that in such situations the public authority must consider whether the sensitivity of the information to be acquired merits the application of a higher level of protection in exercising the power. Of course, Clause 2 already requires that public authorities must have regard to other relevant considerations, including specifically all the rights and freedoms guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights, which are given effect to by the Human Rights Act 1998. I want to be clear that such considerations apply across all the powers in the Bill.
Finally, turning to the proposed amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, the term “sensitive information” is intended to be read broadly and, as the government amendment makes clear, is not restricted to the examples given. I am happy to reassure her that the alternative formulation that is proposed would not substantively alter the effect of the clause. So I hope on that basis she will not press her amendment.
Amendment 1 agreed.
Clause 2: General duties in relation to privacy
Amendments 2 to 7
2: Clause 2, page 2, line 46, after “give” insert “or vary”
3: Clause 2, page 2, line 46, after “under” insert “Part 4 or”
4: Clause 2, page 2, line 46, leave out “or 229” and insert “, 229 or 233”
5: Clause 2, page 2, line 46, at end insert—
“(ga) to approve the use of criteria under section 144, 180 or (Additional safeguards for items subject to legal privilege: examination),”
6: Clause 2, page 2, line 46, at end insert—
“(gb) to give an authorisation under section 200(3)(b),(gc) to approve a decision to give such an authorisation,”
7: Clause 2, page 3, line 3, leave out “or (f)” and insert “, (f) or (gb)”
Amendments 2 to 7 agreed.
Amendments 8 and 9 not moved.
10: Clause 2, page 3, line 6, at end insert—
“(aa) whether the level of protection to be applied in relation to any obtaining of information by virtue of the warrant, authorisation or notice is higher because of the particular sensitivity of that information,”
Amendment 10 agreed.
11: Clause 2, page 3, line 24, at end insert—
“( ) For the purposes of subsection (2)(aa), examples of sensitive information include—(a) items subject to legal privilege,(b) any information identifying or confirming a source of journalistic information, and(c) relevant confidential information within the meaning given by paragraph 2(2) of Schedule 7 (certain information held in confidence and consisting of personal records, journalistic material or communications between Members of Parliament and their constituents).”
My Lords, I beg to move.
Amendment 12 (to Amendment 11) not moved.
Amendment 11 agreed.
13: Before Clause 3, insert the following new Clause—
“Investigatory powers: civil liberties board
(1) An independent body, to be known as the investigatory powers: civil liberties board (referred to in this section as “the Board”), shall be established.(2) The Board’s primary purpose shall be to—(a) ensure that civil liberties are considered in the development and implementation of policy, legislation and executive action related to investigatory powers, and(b) analyse and review actions taken or proposed to be taken by the Government which relate to the use of investigatory powers, having regard to the need for such actions to be balanced with the need to protect privacy and civil liberties and the duties set out in section 2.(3) The Board shall be composed of a full-time chairman and four additional members who shall be appointed by the Secretary of State in consultation with the Investigatory Powers Commissioner and Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation.(4) Members of the Board shall be selected on the basis of professional qualifications, achievements, public stature, expertise in civil liberties and privacy, and relevant experience, and without regard to political affiliation, and in no event shall more than three members of the Board be members of the same political party.(5) The Board—(a) shall have access to all relevant material (including classified information) held by any government department or agency;(b) may interview and take statements from personnel of any department and agency related to their functions;(c) may request information or assistance from any Government department or agency.(6) The Secretary of State may by regulations made by statutory instrument make provision for—(a) the payment of expenses and allowances to members;(b) the circumstances in which a person ceases to be a member;(c) the appointment of staff, their terms and conditions of employment and their pensions, allowances or gratuities.(7) The Board shall report to Parliament at least once annually on—(a) its activities and any recommendations; and(b) any other matters it considers appropriate.”
My Lords, Amendment 13 is also in the name of my noble friend Lord Strasburger. In Committee, we moved an amendment that would have triggered implementation of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Board that the Liberal Democrats in the coalition Government insisted was part of the package of measures included in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015. We withdrew that amendment but the Government have failed to give us any hope that it will be accepted. At this stage we are introducing a new amendment to establish an alternative Privacy and Civil Liberties Board based more closely on the well-regarded American model.
In the United States the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board is an independent, bipartisan agency within the executive branch. It comprises four part-time members and a full-time chairman, and the board is vested with two fundamental authorities: first, to review and analyse actions the executive branch takes to protect the nation from terrorism, ensuring that the need for such actions is balanced with the need to protect privacy and civil liberties; and secondly, to ensure that liberty concerns are appropriately considered in the development and implementation of laws, regulations and policies related to efforts to protect the nation against terrorism. We want a similar body in the UK, and we are not the only ones who do. The Prime Minister, when Home Secretary, committed the Government to,
“ensure we have more transparency from Government”,
which we are doing through this Bill. She continued:
“We will also reduce the number of bodies that are able to have access to the communications data”,
which, again, we are doing through this Bill, and,
“establish a privacy and civil liberties board based on the US model”.—[Official Report, Commons, 10/07/14; col. 472.]
It is only the latter commitment that this Government have failed to fulfil and which this amendment seeks to address. Noble Lords will see that the wording of the amendment seeks to reflect as accurately as possible the American model, which is widely seen as a world-class example of its kind.
Is the noble Lord therefore saying that the American approach to this matter is totally protective of civil liberties?
My Lords, I am saying that the American model provides significant safeguards, in that somebody represents the side of privacy and civil liberties in the argument; it is not simply a case of the security agencies’ side being put, as perhaps some might see in this country.
Unlike the previous amendment, this amendment does not seek to replace the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. On the contrary, noble Lords will see that the independent reviewer must be consulted on the appointment of members of the board. This is complementary to, not a replacement for, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. The current reviewer, Mr David Anderson, has previously argued that the post of independent reviewer is under-resourced and that it does not cover a wide enough range of laws. He said:
“If appropriately staffed and directed by the Independent Reviewer, the proposed new body could sharpen that investigative function and increase its scope”.
I accept that Mr Anderson also has concerns, and no doubt my noble friend Lord Carlile of Berriew, his predecessor, will tell us that he too has concerns. However, it continues to be the view of the Liberal Democrats—
My noble friend tempts me to rise at this stage because there should be no misunderstandings. Does he accept that David Anderson has made it absolutely clear that he is opposed to this provision?
My Lords, Mr Anderson has made statements in the past in which he has supported the idea, but I accept that he also has serious concerns about it.
I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I do not understand this amendment. Can he explain the point of having this board when we will already have the commissioner?
My Lords, at the moment we have an Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, whose job it is to look at the operation of the current legislation, as far as I understand it. This is a wider panel, whose emphasis is on looking at the civil liberties and privacy aspects. There is a subtle difference in where the independent reviewer and the panel are coming from, providing a better balance between the arguments put forward by the security agencies and an advocate for those who argue to protect civil liberties and privacy.
Will the civil liberties to which this proposed board is to have regard and consider include—as one would hope—the civil liberties of those who are at risk if there is a terrorist outrage, or will it look at only one side of the civil liberties picture?
I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for that intervention. Of course they must look at civil liberties in the round when addressing this issue.
I just wonder whether the noble Lord has considered the possibility that the security and intelligence agencies may also have an interest in civil liberties. It is not one side against the other. In deciding what you go for, that is a key part of the provision.
I am very grateful to the noble Baroness. Yes, of course I understand that for the security agencies, at every point when they are deciding to apply for warrants or to carry out intrusive activities, civil liberties are at the forefront of their minds within the framework provided to them by the law.
I come back to the point that a form of this privacy and civil liberties board has been agreed by all sides and put into legislation, but the Government have not enacted it. This is a variation on what is already on the statute book, and something that all sides have previously considered and agreed to.
Throughout the debates on the Bill, the Government have maintained that it is world-leading legislation. I believe that it can be regarded as such only if the Privacy and Civil Liberties Board is a part of it. I beg to move.
My Lords, I wonder whether we might first get what might be called “private grief” out of the way—that is, the difference between my view on this matter and that of my party’s Front Bench. If I run the risk of being accused of consistency on this, I am proud of it.
Let us start with the point that my noble friend made about the United States of America. Yes, the United States of America has the body he has described, but how effective is it? I wonder whether my noble friend has examined the Patriot Act and its consequences. It is a set of provisions that allows the American authorities to do what is unimaginable here; for example, at their own whim, to look up the credit card transactions of any citizen throughout the United States for any given period. I do not want to replicate that.
I want also to pick up on a point made very briefly but eloquently by the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller. This amendment, in my judgment, betrays a lack of confidence in the security services that is completely unjustified. Anyone who has ever looked properly at the way in which the security services have been managed, at least in recent times, or anyone who, like myself, has examined the behaviour of the security services in very difficult circumstances in Northern Ireland in recent times, will know that the management is extremely rigorous and does not need the help of an expensive and ill-conceived quango to ensure that its staff behave properly.
The risks to national security from the sloppy drafting of subsection (5) of the amendment are manifest. There is no provision here for the members of the board to be directly vetted. That means that whoever the members of the board were, they would be entitled under subsection (5)(a) of the amendment to have access to,
“all relevant material (including classified information) held by any government department or agency”.
Presumably it would be their opinion as to what was relevant. Indeed, they would be able to call as witnesses or take statements from,
“personnel of any department and agency”.
That is a provision completely unparalleled in our history.
Furthermore, this proposal usurps the powers of the Intelligence and Security Committee. There is nothing provided by the amendment that the Intelligence and Security Committee cannot at least reasonably do. The amendment clearly envisages that this will be a political board, but outside the control of Parliament, because it says that no more than three members should come from any single political party. It is a sort of freeloading, undisciplined version of the Intelligence and Security Committee, without the control of either the Executive or Parliament.
Also, it looks like a very expensive board, compared, at least, with the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. Neither David Anderson, nor I as his predecessor, ever complained about our remuneration as independent reviewer, but it pales into insignificance by at least two noughts on the end compared with this unnecessary board.
Furthermore, such a board would duplicate not just the Intelligence and Security Committee, but all the additional provisions, some contained in welcome government amendments, that have been added to the Bill. I have been watching every detail of the Bill over its very long period of gestation. More information was given when the Bill was first tabled than on any other Bill I have ever known, including more information about the security services than we have ever seen in parliamentary papers. We will now have an independent reviewer, commissioners, judges—a whole panoply of people applying sound management and good judicial principles to the considerations that the board would vaguely look at. It is not even a civil liberties board: it is not what it says on the tin, because civil liberties are not merely connected with investigatory powers.
This proposal is a fudge and it is misleading. I apologise to my noble friends for saying so, but as I have said, I have been completely consistent about this. It is one of the worst proposals I have seen on national security that has ever been proposed to your Lordships’ House. I shall not support it, I hope that others among my noble friends will not support it, and I urge the House to reject it.
My Lords, all I can say in response so far is thank heavens we do not have the coalition Government in power. I support entirely what we have just heard from the noble Lord, the former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation.
I will choose my words carefully. One of the things that is worth thinking about with legislation like this is that we have the Government today, but we are legislating; we are Parliament. How would the Opposition use this? When I look at my friends in opposition, frankly, I will support the Government to vote this down. I am not prepared to abstain on such a barmy and dangerous amendment, as the noble Lord just said.
I will not go through the amendment. In fact, the noble Lord who moved it did not go through it. He did not explain what it meant by “professional qualifications, achievements” and “public stature” for the appointments. It is preposterous and a nosy parker’s charter into investigatory powers because it does not talk about looking at things; it demands access to all material from an agency and requests information from any agency or government department. There is nothing about the staff of the body. Forget the fact it is envisaged that three out of five members of the board will be of the same political party—it is envisaged to be party political—there is nothing about the security aspects of the staff, let alone the vetting of the people.
It is not, as the amendment says, just about civil liberties. It is in many ways trying to second-guess the powers of the commissioners. It is trying to second-guess the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the parliamentary security committee. We should have nothing to do with it. I hope the noble Lord will think twice if he is thinking about calling a Division on this. They will be laughed out of court.
My Lords, I fully support what the noble Lords, Lord Carlile and Lord Rooker, have said. The amendment would create a security nightmare and be a recipe for obfuscation, muddle and confusion. Indeed, it is a dangerous proposal and I am amazed that it has been put forward. If the House divided, I would vote against it. Accepting it would be a grave error, and I am surprised and shocked to see such an amendment.
My Lords, I wonder whether I might be helpful to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, in his quest in some way to emulate the American model. I was recently at a conference in Vienna as a member of the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy, where we discussed the issue of financing global terrorism. I had the pleasure of meeting two distinguished members of the American civil liberties board. They spoke at great length; they were eloquent, distinguished and had great expertise. I asked them the question: do their Government have to listen to them? The answer was no—there was no point.
My Lords, I, too, have the misfortune to disagree with my noble friend Lord Paddick, although perhaps in not quite such trenchant terms as my noble friend Lord Carlile. I want to make two points.
First, the original proposal, now contained in this amendment, was made against a wholly different framework and its necessity must be considered against the background of the statutory framework which the Bill now encompasses. On that basis, the fact that the proposal may have been considered previously—by the way, I am much more favourably disposed to the coalition Government than the noble Lord, Lord Rooker—is no argument for its inclusion in the Bill now.
My second point draws not least on my experience as a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee and is about the attitude of the security services. Subsection (2) of the proposed new clause simply rehearses existing law and adds nothing to the obligations already incumbent on the security services.
As I understand the situation, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson QC, was consulted by the Government on whether it would assist him in his role if he had the support of a privacy and civil liberties oversight board. The outcome was that the independent reviewer is now supported instead by the provision of specialist legal assistance, as David Anderson himself recommended in his 2014 annual report.
David Anderson announced the appointment of three specialist advisers, whom he had personally selected, earlier this year and to the best of my knowledge the independent reviewer has welcomed that approach. Given the measures in this Bill, including provision for the Investigatory Powers Commissioner and his or her role in protecting civil liberties, and the changes made as a result of recommendations of the different independent committees which looked at the Bill as originally worded—including a Joint Committee of both Houses—and the further changes and commitments made both during the Bill’s passage through the Commons, which led to us voting for it at Third Reading, and in this House, it is not clear what an additional board would positively contribute. We cannot support the amendment.
My Lords, it may appear that there is little I can add, but I have my brief.
Considerable praise has been expressed throughout the passage of this Bill for the work of David Anderson QC, whose report, A Question of Trust, provides the backdrop to this legislation and whose subsequent review of the operational case for bulk powers has informed our scrutiny of Parts 6 and 7. There can be no doubt about the importance of Mr Anderson’s office, that of the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation.
Following the passage of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, which has been alluded to, the Government undertook a consultation on whether David Anderson would benefit in his role from the support of a privacy and civil liberties oversight board. Having been informed by a public consultation on the board’s establishment, by David Anderson’s own recommendations on this matter and by the need to ensure the best value for public money, the Government decided that they could most effectively support the reviewer in discharging his statutory functions by instead providing him with specialist legal assistance in the form that he himself recommended—as noted by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser.
David Anderson welcomed this approach, which we consider the best way of ensuring that his vitally important role is properly supported. It is therefore difficult to see what the creation of a new board would do to support the role of the independent reviewer. Moreover, this Bill already creates a powerful new office charged with considering privacy issues—that of the Investigatory Powers Commissioner. The commissioner will have a clear mandate to ensure that the robust privacy protections set out in the Bill underpin the use of investigatory powers.
Parliament already set a clear expectation that the commissioner should lead an outward-facing organisation that will engage widely with industry, academia and non-governmental organisations. He or she will have the funding and resources to do that, along with the technical and legal expertise to ensure that powers are used proportionately and that interference with privacy is minimised. Subject to amendments that we will debate over the coming days, the commissioner will be assisted in this role by a technology advisory panel, again precisely as recommended by David Anderson. The Investigatory Powers Commissioner will also bring clarity to what is currently a fragmented oversight landscape. He or she will replace three existing commissioners to become a visible figurehead, providing assurance to Parliament and to the public—again, precisely as David Anderson recommended.
While I agree with noble Lords that there should be a means of assuring the public that these powers are necessary and proportionate, we have provided just that through the creation of the Investigatory Powers Commissioner. The creation of another body alongside the IPC would introduce not only unnecessary costs but also unwelcome confusion. In this context, I adopt the observations of the noble Lords, Lord Carlile of Berriew, Lord Rooker, Lord West of Spithead and Lord Campbell of Pittenweem. It is for these reasons that I hope the noble Lord will see fit to withdraw this amendment.
My Lords, I am very grateful to those who contributed to this debate. As far as my noble friend Lord Carlile of Berriew is concerned, I am not familiar with the Patriot Act but I know that the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has made a significant difference in redressing the balance of some laws in the United States. Even though the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, spoke to members of that board and asked whether the Government must listen to it, the fact is that the Government in America did listen and acted on some of the board’s recommendations.
Clearly, these people would need to be security vetted. They will be appointed by the Secretary of State, who could impose whatever conditions she thought fit on those people.
On sloppy drafting, I am afraid it is that no more than three members of the board should be of the same political party rather than that three members should not be of any political party, which is what I think my noble friend suggested.
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord again, but could he clarify what that phrase is intended to mean? The way I, and I think my noble friend, read it is that, of a board of five, three can be of the same political party. Is the noble Lord saying that it is in the interests of civil liberties and all these other things to have a board of which three members are from the same political party—presumably the government party? Will that really then be an independent board?
The fact is that it is up to the Secretary of State to appoint those members to the board. One would hope that the Secretary of State would use the freedom provided by this amendment to ensure that the board is balanced. As with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, I also have my brief. However, on this occasion it would be disrespectful to the House to press this amendment to a vote. Despite my brief, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 13 withdrawn.
Schedule 1: Monetary penalty notices
14: Schedule 1, page 201, line 33, after “hearing” insert “, at which he or she may be legally represented,”
My Lords, this will be, I hope, short and uncontentious. The amendment was suggested to us by the Law Society of Scotland. It seeks clarification and, of course, an amendment if one is required to achieve the point.
Clause 7 introduces Schedule 1 to the Bill and provides for “Monetary penalties for certain unlawful interceptions”. Under paragraph 4(4) of Schedule 1, a person who is the subject of a penalty notice may,
“request an oral hearing before the Commissioner in order to make representations”.
Our amendment would provide that such a person may have legal representation to assist with those representations.
The Law Society of Scotland says that,
“given the nature of the Bill and from an equality of arms perspective, legal representation should be available as a right”.
I would say that legal representation should generally be available, whatever the Bill, whether it is 10 pages or 250-plus pages and complicated. It is an important point to clarify. There is no provision which says there may not be legal representation, so it may be that this can be dealt with outside the Bill; certainly, there should be no block on it. I hope that the Minister will be sympathetic to the point. I beg to move.
My Lords, I trust I can deal with this amendment with a degree of brevity equal to that employed by the noble Baroness. I reassure her that the amendment is not necessary. It is already the case that a person on whom a monetary penalty notice has been served who requests an oral hearing before the commissioner can be legally represented at the hearing. There is nothing in the Bill that would preclude such representation, and of course it will be up to the person on whom the notice is served to choose whether or not they wish to be so represented. Therefore, what is intended by the amendment is already provided for. Accordingly, I hope the noble Baroness will feel comfortable in withdrawing the amendment.
I am grateful for that assurance. The point is that it is not provided against, rather than that it is provided for. I dare say somebody will be writing rules about these hearings at some point, so I am glad to have that assurance on the record. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 14 withdrawn.
Clause 8: Civil liability for certain unlawful interceptions
15: Clause 8, page 7, line 10, leave out “D” and insert “C”
My Lords, I will speak to all the amendments in my name in this group. The main one, Amendment 18, which inserts a new clause, is slightly revised from the version that was debated in Committee on 11 July. The feeling of the House then was that this should be brought back on Report and it was clear that I would seek to test the opinion of the House if there had been no progress by this stage. I am grateful to the Minister for meeting me and other noble Lords, including some of those engaged in 2013 with the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, the Defamation Bill and the Crime and Courts Bill, to discuss this matter,
The amendments have two functions. First, Amendments 15 to 17 amend the statutory tort in Clause 8 for interception of communications previously available under Section 1(3) of RIPA by making it applicable for use by victims of phone hacking or email hacking undertaken by third parties such as newspapers. The primary purpose of Amendment 18 is to provide costs protection in court cases for claimants as well as for Leveson-regulated news publishers with respect to these claims. The protection intended is equivalent to that which would exist for such claims had the Government commenced Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013. There has been no explanation to Parliament as to why the former Culture Secretary announced last October at a meeting of newspaper editors that he was not minded to commence Section 40. That represents a change of government policy, which both breaks the cross-party agreement and betrays promises made to both Houses and to press abuse victims.
As very brief background, I remind noble Lords that after the Leveson inquiry, to which my family and I gave evidence, Sir Brian Leveson recommended that any new regulator set up by the press should be accredited as independent and effective by an independent recognition panel, which would be wholly separate from Parliament and the industry. This panel was to be set up by royal charter rather than by statute, essentially as a concession to the press. His recommendations also dealt with how to provide incentives for newspapers to join an accredited self-regulator, since it was clear that press owners would not volunteer for effective and independent regulation, and how to provide access to the courts for press victims facing a deep-pocketed defendant. The Government accepted those recommendations but have failed to implement them.
Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act would deliver those incentives and that access to justice. It should have been commenced before the exemplary damages sections, which were commenced automatically a year ago. The intention of the signatories to this amendment is to persuade the Government to commence Section 40 of the 2013 Act and to do so without delay. Naturally, if the Minister can reassure the House that Section 40 will be commenced before Third Reading, the amendment will not be pressed. I beg to move.
My Lords, earlier this afternoon in Amendment 10, the House accepted the principle of protection for journalistic sources. That seems very important, for reasons which I will not spell out but are well known. My noble friend’s amendments, in particular Amendment 18, propose a modest measure to balance Amendment 10 and I will try to explain why I think some balancing is necessary.
Noble Lords will note, as my noble friend has set out, that Parliament has already agreed a more extensive way of balancing this privilege for journalists with a comparable restriction. It was in Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 but that section—we must remember that the principle has received cross-party support—has not been commenced. I do not comment on the reasons. The amendment cannot entirely remedy that oversight but it can go some way to balance the additional powers and protection given to journalistic activity, in the clause that we agreed earlier this afternoon, by limiting the costs against their misuse—by the media, that is, which refuse to be audited by an approved regulator.
The point is fundamentally simple: protecting journalistic sources is a profoundly important liberal purpose but the misuse of those sources, whether by invention, illegal interception of private communication or forms of blackmail and the like is not a good liberal cause. I believe that we need to balance this additional protection for journalistic sources with additional protection for those who are abused by journalists—or those posing as journalists—and then claim that the source was only invented or misrepresented, or that the information was obtained by criminal means. Those positions need to be not protected but audited. The new clause would achieve most of that purpose. It cannot achieve it all but, like my noble friend, I look forward very much to hearing what the Minister can tell us about progress on the possible implementation of Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, which would render this move redundant.
My Lords, I added my name to the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, and spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady O’Neill of Bengarve, whose name is also on the amendment. While it is probably not an interest in terms of the register of interests, I declare an interest in that between December 2012 and March 2013 I spent copious hours, along with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, trying to put together the cross-party agreement in the immediate aftermath of the report from Sir Brian Leveson. It took a long, long time. Even beyond 18 March 2013 there was still more work to be done.
I was not present in the early hours of 18 March because of family engagements in Scotland, but I well recall coming back to Westminster during the course of that day and the efforts that were made to ensure that effect was given to the cross-party agreement. Some tweaking was required and agreements had to be made within the usual channels that certain amendments, such as the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, had to be withdrawn. Indeed, I think the record will show that this House delayed consideration of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill to allow the Prime Minister of the day to make a Statement in the House of Commons on the cross-party agreement. Indeed, at a later stage, the Defamation Bill had to be unamended in the House of Commons to take out an amendment in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Puttnam and Lord Fowler, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, and the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, which this House had agreed to in response to the Leveson report. In the House of Commons, amendments were made and withdrawn and new government amendments were brought in to the Crime and Courts Bill to give effect to the cross-party agreement. One of the amendments which the Government brought in became Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013.
Those of us involved in this were never in any doubt that this was a package intended to be delivered in full, and not one from which a Government at a later date could pick and choose which bits to implement and which not. The commitment on commencement was done in the common way. It was for the Secretary of State to bring in the provision, but, again, it was never anticipated that a future Secretary of State would try not to bring into effect that particular provision. I was not present when the agreement was reached, but I am advised that there was a proposal from the Conservative Members in the cross-party talks for a version that would have expressly required that commencement of this costs provision should not take place until after recognition—but that was not agreed cross-party and the final cross-party agreement was that what became Section 40 should be commenced to provide a pre-existing incentive to join a recognition candidate regulator, not one that would bring jam tomorrow.
I hear that it has been suggested that the Government think that it is better to consult further before they commence Section 40 and that somehow or other Parliament has given the Government the discretion on whether to commence Section 40. All I can say is that those of us who were involved never anticipated that. Indeed, what was put to your Lordships’ House did not anticipate that happening. That is why I very much hope that, when he comes to reply, the Minister will indicate that the good will and spirit of that agreement and the undertakings that were made will be honoured. It would be far better for Section 40 to be commenced. This amendment does not go quite that far, but, if it is not commenced, we need to have some way of forcing the Government’s hand on this to ensure that what Parliament understood is given effect.
I do not think that I was in my place for the bit of Committee when the precursor to this amendment was discussed. However, I sat on the pre-legislative scrutiny committee on the Bill under the able chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Murphy, so I have some status in this matter. I stress to noble Lords—as the noble Baroness, Lady O’Neill, and possibly the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, said—that this should really be about what the Minister says when he comes to respond. I do not think that the amendment is appropriate for the Bill at this stage. This is something we want to hear from the Minister on; the amendment should not be pressed at this stage.
The Investigatory Powers Bill itself is crucial legislation to give the police and security services the powers that they need. Noble Lords on all sides of the House who have taken a very constructive approach to the issues in the Bill would find it unfortunate for Parliament to be distracted at this stage by an amendment that, I have to say, seems to be only barely related to the substance of the Bill before us—important though the amendment might be in its own right. I am sure the debate itself will send a clear message to the Government about the importance of this issue, which is why we want to hear from whoever of my noble friends is going to respond to this. But now is not the time for noble Lords to press this amendment on the Bill, because it is not relevant.
My Lords, I intervene to support the amendment that has been moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, and supported by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace. This is an issue of confidence in this place and in government. We are not seeking to change a Bill but to implement what the Government and all parties have agreed: that the Section 40 concept, which has just been discussed, should be included in this Bill. The Government have agreed the law but are not prepared to implement in statute this right to justice and financial support for people who have phone-hacking complaints against the press.
I declare an interest, as I did in relation to the Policing and Crime Bill, in that I am one of those who was hacked—46 times for my phone messages. However, the police and the Crown Prosecution Service denied it, and the Press Complaints Commission sided with the police and the prosecutor. In those circumstances, the only way I could seek any redress was to sue in the civil courts. I could not afford it, even though I have come here to the Lords—I still cannot afford it—but how else could I seek justice? We are talking about people who cannot afford to get justice in cases in which they have been offended against by phone hacking. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, has pointed out, the Government and all parties agreed we should do this. We passed the legislation, but the Government have refused. I wait to hear what the Minister is going to say. I had hoped we were going to hear beforehand, when we met him yesterday, whether the Government’s position had changed and whether they intended to bring that element of justice into statute. I wait to hear what he has to say about that, but it is essential that we have it.
In these circumstances, doubts have constantly grown about the Government’s position. The last Secretary of State for Culture, Mr Whittingdale, actually went to a press dinner and cheered them all up by saying, “I am inclined not to do this”. Is that the Government’s position? We want to hear today whether it is still the same. We have a new Prime Minister, a new Secretary of State and a new Government—are they going to carry out what the previous Government promised in an all-party context? This debate is about the intention of the new Government. The Prime Minister said that she wanted to help weak and poorer people against the big rich ones, and by God, there is an example here. All these people who have told us time and again that they cannot afford an action are looking to us to make the adjustment and to implement the statute so that they can pursue cases.
My main concern is that we have no justice from the police or the prosecutor. They work together. I cannot call it a conspiracy, but they happened to agree that there was no evidence. But as the courts pointed out, when I took the case to them on human rights grounds, I was right: they did have the evidence, but together they conspired to not look at it or to ignore it. That is not acceptable. If that was past history, I could perhaps think that we had at least learned the lessons. But we have not. We are still not implementing this essential part, which would provide money to allow people to secure justice in our court system. If it was only that, okay, but have we not noticed the Times even this week? The press are completely ignoring most of the actual requirements under the editors’ code.
I raised the editors’ code in a previous debate. I thought I would go to the Press Complaints Commission; rather foolishly, I hoped to get some sort of judgment from among the press at least, but I could not get it. After that debate, I got letters from the Associated Press and the judge in charge of the inquiry saying my complaint, that most inquiries dealing with press complaints are dominated by the press, was wrong. However, I have checked it all out. The emphasis in the criteria is different depending on whether journalists are employed by papers and magazines or are working in TV or other areas, where suddenly the balance changes. That was my complaint. I will deal with the industry—I have been invited by the judge to come and talk to him, so I look forward to a cup of tea with him to see what he has to say—but as to whether or not these bodies are independent, including the new body, IPSO, we have to make a judgment. That came out of Leveson.
My main complaint is that part two of Leveson was meant to look at the relationship between the press and the police. There are still offences every day; today’s Daily Mail says:
“How top QC ‘buried evidence of Met bribes’”.
There are a number of such cases, such as Orgreave or the football scandal at Sheffield. There has been co-operation for a long time between the press and the police. What worries me most is another story that appeared in the Telegraph—these are not my favourite papers, as your Lordships have probably guessed—about the new body that is coming in, which is covered partly by the Bill. It says that the investigatory powers that the police will now have will allow them to monitor every phone call and every text. All this information is now going to be brought in, and seven of our police forces have already invested the money to buy it. That means they are going to get even more information.
We are told that this is to deal with terrorists and criminals—I am not going to be against that; I think we all understand that—but I am talking about the victims of their actions. Why are they not considered to deserve some justice? They are the ones who really suffer, but they do not have the money or the power to intervene. Now there is going to be more information about them; I think an earlier debate mentioned credit card information of people in America. A massive amount of information is given to public institutions that we have to have trust in but I am afraid that, given their record at the moment, even since Leveson, I have no reason to believe that the co-operation between the police and the press has stopped. Mass information is going to make the situation even more difficult.
For God’s sake, can the Government tell us what they intend to do? If they are not going to do it, why do they not tell us? Then we would know where we stand. Let the victims know; they have been promised by Prime Minister after Prime Minister, “Don’t worry, we’re going to look after you”. All parties agreed to that and passed the legislation in the other Chamber, where we have done nothing since. It is in our hands to do something. When the Minister comes to reply, I hope he can say something more fruitful than, “We’re thinking about it”. It is three years since we passed the legislation, so thinking about it just means avoiding it. Let us have a statement from the Government for the victims, not for anyone else, acknowledging that they have a right to justice when the press have abused them, whether by phone hacking or otherwise.
The victims need money to go to court, make no mistake, particularly after the Government got rid of legal aid in most areas. They have no chance. Can we in this House think of the victims? I understand that we are extending powers to try to deal with criminals and terrorism; although I have worries about them, I am prepared to accept that. But who is thinking about the victims? That is our job. The Government should get on with the statute now, not just give us, “We’re thinking about it. We’re talking about it”. They should put it in language that the victims understand, as they are the ones who need to be considered here.
My Lords, I declare a couple of interests, particularly in the light of the comments from the noble Lord, Lord Prescott. The first is that I was a senior police officer at Scotland Yard during that time. I was also a party to the noble Lord’s suing of the Metropolitan Police for failing to inform us that we—myself included—were victims of phone hacking, in breach of our human rights and the responsibilities that the police had to protect those rights under the Human Rights Act. As with the noble Lord, the police initially denied that I had been a victim of phone hacking, but it subsequently transpired that I had. On that basis, I should limit my remarks, but I would say to noble Lords that I went with the Dowler family to visit the three leaders of the political parties—the two leaders who were in coalition at the time and the Labour leader. To hear the family’s story about how they were impacted by the press hacking into Milly Dowler’s voicemails was tragic.
The amendment does not weaken the Bill in terms of our nation’s fight against terrorism or trying to keep people safe. It does not directly affect the law enforcement or security services. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Henley, if the amendment was not relevant to or within the scope of the Bill, the clerks would not have allowed it to be tabled. We on these Benches will support the amendment, should the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, divide the House.
My Lords, it seems to me that the Government have a responsibility to implement the section in the Act that has been referred to. They have the power to commence that provision, and the reason for such delays is normally to make the necessary provision to enable it to be put into force. On this occasion, it looks as though there may be other reasons. I have to hope that those reasons do not include anything like succumbing to any particular influence that might be contrary to implementing what has been enacted—with the agreement, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, pointed out from his personal experience, of all the political parties at the highest level at the time. I think it is the right thing to do for the Government to implement that provision. I am not at all sure that it is wise to enact some less effective provision in the hope that it will stir the Government up to enact the better one.
I sincerely hope that the new Secretary of State and the new Prime Minister will see the obligation that rests on them to carry out what had been undertaken by their predecessors. Indeed, the Prime Minister was a party to that agreement at the time as the Home Secretary of a Government who consented to the operation.
On the basis that the amendment is different from and less effective than the section in the enacted Bill, it is not particularly wise to put the amendment forward for enactment, but I hope that the new Secretary of State, having had a chance to consider the matter, and the Prime Minister, in her new role, will ensure that the agreement—so fully come to some years ago, after an amendment to another Bill had been passed in this House—will be honoured, and enact that moral obligation without further delay.
I will be brief, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, and other noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Prescott, have set out the case for and reasoning behind the wording of the amendment in very clear terms. Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 was part of the cross-party agreement, which included the royal charter, which was signed by the then leaders of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties. As a result, amendments were withdrawn both in the Commons and in this House. Ministers subsequently continued to make explicit commitments in both Houses to bring in Section 40. They have, however, failed to honour that commitment, and have thus not implemented this part of the 2013 Act, in accordance with the wishes of both Houses and indeed, the previously declared intention of the Government. We will support the amendment if the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, having heard the Government’s response, decides that she still needs to test the opinion of the House.
My Lords, we discussed this issue in Committee when the noble Baroness tabled an amendment seeking to introduce a cause of action which would allow victims of unlawful interception to bring a civil claim. As she is aware, the Investigatory Powers Bill already contains a criminal offence where a person intercepts, without lawful authority, a communication in the course of its transmission via a public or private telecommunications system or a public postal system.
The cause of action, or tort, provided for in Clause 8, is intended to replicate the safeguard which existed in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. This focuses on circumstances where an individual’s communications are intercepted on a private telecommunications system by a person who has the right to control the operation or use of that private telecommunications system. This was a necessary safeguard to protect individuals in very limited circumstances where their employer may unfairly be intercepting communications on a company’s internal computer system, which is not within the scope of the offence of unlawful interception.
This provision was not intended to provide a route for anyone who believed their communications had been unlawfully intercepted to bring a civil case. As we have seen in recent times with the phone hacking cases brought by a number of individuals against media organisations, the appropriate civil routes of redress already exist, for example, for misuse of private information.
I fully understand that many noble Lords here, particularly those who have been victims of press abuse themselves, are frustrated as to what they see as a lack of progress towards implementing the recommendations of the Leveson inquiry report. I want to reassure noble Lords that that is not the case. The Government, as has been said, have implemented the vast majority of Leveson’s recommendations for reforming press regulation. Importantly, they have set up and are funding the Press Recognition Panel, which is currently considering an application for recognition from the self-regulator IMPRESS.
The exemplary damages provisions have been commenced in line with the date set out in the 2013 Act. However, it is important to make clear to the House that no specific date was set for the commencement of the Section 40 costs provisions. Notwithstanding that, the Government continue to look at this issue closely. Indeed, to better understand the issue, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and the Minister for Digital and Culture met Hacked Off and victims of press abuse as their first priority. DCMS officials met Hacked Off at official level again only last week. So this is something that the Government are actively considering. I suggest to the House that it is not unreasonable for Ministers who are new in post to take time to understand the issues at play. The position is that, for the time being, Section 40 remains under consideration.
We should also bear in mind that no recognised regulator is yet in place, although I realise that that could change on 25 October when the Press Regulation Panel rule on IMPRESS’s application. Regardless of the panel’s decision, it is true to say that the press landscape has undergone a huge amount of change over the last four years and the Government need to be sensitive to that. A crucial part of Section 40, for example, is around ensuring both sides have access to low-cost arbitration as an alternative to expensive litigation. The arbitration scheme run by IMPRESS is relatively new, while IPSO is currently trialling an arbitration scheme to better understand how it could work effectively. Given the importance of arbitration to making Section 40 operate effectively, it would also be useful to see how both IMPRESS’s arbitration scheme and IPSO’s arbitration pilot work in practice.
I return to the specifics of the amendments which the noble Baroness has tabled.
When Secretary of State Whittingdale went to the editors’ conference and told them, “We are minded not to implement this”, was that government policy or his policy—and is the Minister’s policy any different?
That is precisely why I have suggested to the House that it is not unreasonable for the new Ministers in post to take a fresh look for themselves at the issues involved, as I hope the noble Lord will appreciate.
That being said, can I follow up my noble friend’s question? The Minister listed groups that have asked the Government to implement Section 40. Is there an individual or group that has requested the new Government not to implement it?
I am not aware of that, but I can seek advice and let the noble Lord know when I have received it.
I do not believe that the amendments that the noble Baroness has tabled will achieve the outcome that she seeks. This clause deals with the interception of private telecommunication systems, such as a company’s internal email or telephone system. That is not, I think, what the noble Baroness is driving at, so I do not believe the amendment would be capable of being used as she intends.
That reflects a broader point that these issues should not really be dealt with in this Bill. I am all too well aware that many people suffered terribly at the hands of unscrupulous members of the media, and I have a great deal of sympathy with the noble Baroness, whose family, I know, suffered unspeakable wrongdoing by people who called themselves journalists. While we all agree that the outcome of Leveson and the proper regulation of the media are clearly important matters, the powers for law enforcement and the security and intelligence agencies provided in this Bill are vitally important, too. It is not right to try to deal with serious but largely unrelated matters in a Bill of this vital national interest.
Is the Minister aware that very few people in this House think that this is the ideal way in which to deal with the issue? They think that the ideal way in which to deal with it is to implement Section 40. Is he also aware that, when he says that the Government have implemented many of the aspects of Leveson, the implementation of Section 40 was regarded as absolutely critical to the system working? It was not put in the Bill at the Government’s discretion; it was put in and regarded at the time by all the party leaders, who gave solemn undertakings to the victims, as absolutely critical.
I accept the point that the noble Lord made about the agreement made in 2013 on a cross-party basis. If the noble Baroness chooses to withdraw the amendment, the clear message given out by the debate will not be lost on my right honourable friend the Secretary of State as he considers these matters.
What we have here is an attempt to insert a clause into a Bill that just happens to be passing to force an issue that has no direct bearing on the Bill in question, and I question whether that is an appropriate thing to do. Mechanisms are provided for in both Houses of Parliament to debate subjects of particular interest to parliamentarians, and perhaps that would be a better route by which to raise these matters.
I hope that I can reassure the noble Baroness that the Government continue to look closely at the cost provisions in the Crime and Courts Act, and respectfully urge her to withdraw the amendment and allow the Government to consider the issue thoroughly.
My Lords, I thank noble Lords for their support and understanding. I am, frankly, unconvinced by the Minister’s words. The Public Bill Office agreed the amendment as within the scope of the Bill. I am not just frustrated at the delay to commence Section 40; I am somewhat dismayed that Ministers are not yet up to speed on this issue. Perhaps I can help by briefly reviewing some of the past assurances and agreements.
Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act was part of a package. This agreement was reached in March 2013, to avoid the Government being defeated in both Houses over delays in implementing the Leveson recommendations. We are being asked to consider a further delay. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, reminded us, several other Bills were not then amended. I will not go through them again because I appreciate that time is short in this House. The amendment does nothing to weaken this Bill or affect security measures in any way. All the Government need to do is honour their commitment and commence Section 40. So many times over the past three years we have heard assurances that have come to nothing. It would be an injustice to victims if I passed up this chance to progress the intentions previously enshrined in the Crime and Courts Bill. Peers would not need to use this Bill to do the job if the Government had not used the device of non-commencement.
I assure noble Lords that I strongly support a free press, but freedom comes with responsibilities and claimants have rights, too. I would like to test the opinion of the House.
11 October 2016
Division on Amendment 15
Amendment 15 agreed.View Details
Amendments 16 and 17
16: Clause 8, page 7, line 18, leave out subsection (4)
17: Clause 8, page 7, line 21, leave out “D” and insert “C”
Amendments 16 and 17 agreed.
18: After Clause 8, insert the following new Clause—
“Interception without lawful authority: award of costs
(1) This section applies where—(a) a claim is made under section 8 (civil liability for certain unlawful interceptions) against a person (“the defendant”),(b) the defendant was a relevant publisher at the material time, and(c) the claim is related to the publication of news-related material.(2) If the defendant was a member of an approved regulator at the time when the claim was commenced (or was unable to be a member at that time for reasons beyond the defendant’s control or it would have been unreasonable in the circumstances for the defendant to have been a member at that time), the court must not award costs against the defendant unless satisfied that—(a) the issues raised by the claim could not have been resolved by using an arbitration scheme of the approved regulator, or(b) it is just and equitable in all the circumstances of the case to award costs against the defendant.(3) If the defendant was not a member of an approved regulator at the time when the claim was commenced (but would have been able to be a member at that time and it would have been reasonable in the circumstances for the defendant to have been a member at that time), the court must award costs against the defendant unless satisfied that—(a) the issues raised by the claim could not have been resolved by using an arbitration scheme of the approved regulator (had the defendant been a member), or(b) it is just and equitable in all the circumstances of the case to make a different award of costs or make no award of costs.(4) This section is not to be read as limiting any power to make rules of court.(5) This section does not apply until such time as a body is first recognised as an approved regulator.(6) Subsections (2) and (3) shall apply to any claim issued after this section comes into force. (7) For the purposes of this section “approved regulator” shall have the same meaning as in section 42 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, and “relevant publisher” shall have the same meaning as in section 41 of that Act.”
Amendment 18 agreed.
19: After Clause 10, insert the following new Clause—
“General public reporting
(1) No offence shall be committed by a person who is subject to a warrant or notice under this Act disclosing by way of publication of a report—(a) the number of warrants received;(b) the number of accounts affected; and(c) the number of warrants complied with,during the period of 180 days prior to the date of the report.(2) Nothing in this section shall restrict the publication of information referred to in this section at a different time, or in a different form or manner agreed by the Secretary of State.”
My Lords, this might be a mouse after the last amendment but it is not unimportant. It is about transparency—and perhaps more than transparency. It is about positively putting information into the public domain and not simply providing information which can be looked through. It is, if you like, a companion to the very welcome privacy clauses in the Bill. It is intended to help the citizen understand what is going on and to enable operators to put into the public domain the warrants and so on with which they have to deal. It provides that they will not commit an offence by disclosing not details but the number of warrants, the number of accounts and the number of warrants complied with, going back only for a limited period of six months. The second limb of the amendment —that they can do more, or more can be done by whoever, if the Secretary of State agrees it—should go almost without saying.
I am told, and would welcome confirmation if the Minister can give it, that the Government are considering regulations to introduce a clear framework for transparency and that provisions such as this might fall within those. To that extent, my amendment is a probing amendment.
User transparency around engagement with law enforcement and government agencies is a key component of accountability to users. It is a prerequisite too, I would say, of redress. Given that the Government are committed to greater transparency than we have had hitherto through this Bill, and to this being a world-leading piece of legislation, I hope that they will be sympathetic to the provisions proposed. The amendment would permit providers to publish statistical data and would complement the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s annual report, looking at the issues through a different lens and from another perspective. I beg to move.
My Lords, it is the Government’s view that a new public reporting clause, as proposed by this amendment, is unnecessary. I will seek to explain why.
Clauses 55 and 125 already provide for the Secretary of State to make regulations that will permit operators to report information in relation to the number of interception and equipment interference warrants they have given effect to. Furthermore, the Government have proposed amendments to these clauses to give more flexibility to permit operators to publish greater statistical information about the warrants they have received. In response to a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, I can tell the House that it is the Government’s intention that the regulations will permit companies to publish details relating to the number of warrants they have given effect to and the number of customer accounts to which these warrants refer.
However, as was previously discussed in Committee, we need to be very careful about any exemptions to prohibitions on revealing sensitive information and the extent to which they might reveal the capabilities of the agencies. It is already the case that terrorists and criminals change their behaviour and the means they use to communicate to evade detection, and we must not give them further information that would help them to do so.
The Secretary of State must have the ability to protect the technical capabilities deployed by law enforcement and the security and intelligence agencies by setting out the way information relating to warrants may be reported—for example, the time period between being served with a warrant and publication of that information, or the bandings to be used for reporting on the numbers of warrants received. It is our view that the level of detail required is appropriate for such conditions to be provided for in regulations, not in the Bill.
The Government will of course continue to work closely with telecommunications operators on their transparency reporting. We have already discussed the proposed content of the draft regulations with them. Indeed, the government amendments to Clauses 55 and 125 reflect our efforts to address issues raised by operators in response to this consultation. Of course, also, the regulations issued under Clauses 55 and 125 will in due course be subject to parliamentary scrutiny.
It is therefore our view that the Bill and the Government amendments already provide for what these amendments seek, in in a way that allows companies to be transparent and the Government to protect sensitive capabilities. Accordingly, I invite the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.
My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for that response. What we are really being told is that the fleshing out of transparency provisions that I seek is in train. I of course understand points such as the need to consider exceptions.
I am prompted by this to mention a question that I should perhaps have asked the Government a little while ago, but I think all noble Lords will be interested. I am not expecting the noble and learned Lord to respond to this instantly, but we would all be interested to know the timetable for introducing regulations. We know there is a deadline of the end of this year because of DRIPA coming to the end of its natural life, but I assume the Bill cannot operate without a lot of secondary legislation. I wonder whether there could at some point be an indication of not only how the Government propose to deal with regulations but how the House, which is generally very supportive of the thrust of the legislation, despite one or two bits and pieces, can be helpful without losing its proper role of scrutinising regulations.
I should not perhaps take time on Report to be as pompous as that sounds. It is intended to be both an inquiry and an expression of concern about a matter that is for Parliament, not just the Government. Having said that, and welcoming the information about the work going on on this subject, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 19 withdrawn.
Clause 20: Grounds on which warrants may be issued by Secretary of State
20: Clause 20, page 16, line 11, at end insert—
“( ) A warrant may be considered necessary on the grounds falling within subsection (2)(b) only where there is a reasonable suspicion that a serious criminal offence has been or is likely to be committed and it is reasonably believed that the communications sought for interception will contain information relevant to the criminal investigation.”
My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendments 20 and 67, because they are very closely linked. They both, in essence, would require a reasonable suspicion of a serious crime. They would need the authorities to demonstrate a reasonable suspicion of a serious crime, and a nexus between the communications sought and the crime suspected, for a targeted surveillance warrant to be authorised. I see absolutely no reason not to make this clear. I hope very much that Government see sense on this.
One of the biggest problems in every single power the Bill gives and sometimes creates is the lack of a reasonable suspicion—lack of a threshold that is absolutely clear for surveillance powers to be authorised for the purpose of preventing and detecting crime. Intrusive powers can be authorised to prevent and detect serious crime, but this general purpose is left wide open to broad interpretation and abuse without requiring the authorising authority to verify the existence of that reasonable suspicion of criminality. A requirement of reasonable suspicion, when the purpose of preventing and detecting serious crime is invoked, would protect people and prevent the abusive surveillance of law-abiding citizens that we have seen in the past, without unduly limiting legitimate use of surveillance powers.
The threshold of reasonable suspicion has long been an important safeguard for both citizens and law enforcers against the risk of arbitrary use of police powers. The “necessary and proportionate” standard invokes an important assessment of the extent of the intrusion, but it does not necessitate a threshold of suspicion. While one would expect targets of surveillance in practice to meet this modest burden of proof, it would be a great mistake not to include the reasonable suspicion threshold in the Bill and leave these serious powers open for abuse.
Diane Abbott, now shadow Home Secretary, wrote in the New Statesman in June that the Investigatory Powers Bill without a single reasonable suspicion test is the stop and search of the digital age. She continued:
“My own privacy has been violated because of the political whims of unknown state officials, when they decided to monitor my emails, calls, texts, browsing history for years. The private lives of my colleagues known for their assiduous campaign work were also opened up, including Jeremy Corbyn, Harriet Harman and the late Bernie Grant and Tony Benn. Also targeted was Baroness Doreen Lawrence, who posed no threat to anyone in her pursuit of justice for her murdered teenage son, except to the reputation of the Metropolitan Police, which she eventually helped expose as being ‘institutionally racist’”.
While I concede that the thrust of the Bill is incredibly important for any nation state, the case for the amendments is simple and obvious. They would require merely a threshold of reasonable suspicion that a serious crime had been planned or committed and a factual basis for believing that targeted communications contained information relevant to the criminal investigation. They would reassure the public that intrusive targeted surveillance powers could be used only where there was reasonable suspicion of a serious crime. To that end, I hope that the Government will accept the amendments. I beg to move.
My Lords, I have sympathy for the concerns held by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, but bearing in mind the double lock that now applies in almost all warrant applications, which would not have applied when abuses of powers happened in the past, can the Minister reassure the House that the new provisions in the Bill for independent oversight of the granting of warrants may be sufficient to obviate the need for the amendments?
I, too, have sympathy with many of the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones. If there were to be a requirement for reasonable suspicion in addition to requiring decisions to be necessary and proportionate, because the two are not the same thing, one could envisage a situation—for example, in a kidnap case—where it could make life rather more difficult. In such a case, it might not be known whether it was a kidnap or simply a person who had gone missing.
My Lords, as indicated by the noble Baroness, the amendments would provide that a targeted interception or equipment interference warrant could be issued in the interests of preventing or detecting serious crime only where there was a reasonable suspicion that a serious criminal offence had been or was likely to be committed.
The amendments are simply not necessary. I assure the House that for a warrant to be issued for the prevention or detection of serious crime, a sufficiently compelling case will always be required. A speculative warrant could never be approved, so these amendments address a concern that is fundamentally misplaced.
The Bill already provides strict and robust safeguards that ensure that a warrant may be issued only where it is necessary and proportionate. That is a well-established test. This decision must be approved by both the Secretary of State and a judicial commissioner. I pick up a point made by the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Rosser: in the case of a warrant for the prevention and detection of serious crime, the test of necessity and proportionality simply could not be met where there was not a reasonable suspicion that a serious crime had been or was likely to be committed. In these circumstances, I invite the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment.
I thank the noble and learned Lord for his answer. I never tire of telling this House that I was targeted by the Met police, monitored by them and put on to a domestic extremist database with, I would argue, absolutely no cause. Noble Lords will forgive me if I do not quite believe that there are enough safeguards. Quite honestly, I wonder if in five or 10 years I will have the opportunity to come to Ministers and say, “I told you so”. However many safeguards are put in, without strengthening them and making them absolutely clear you leave the door open for abuse. We have seen it in the past. We know very well that part of this Bill’s meaning is to cover abuses of previous legislation. I am deeply unconfident about the safeguards proposed, as are other organisations outside the House. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 20 withdrawn.
Clause 24: Approval of warrants issued in urgent cases
21: Clause 24, page 19, line 29, at end insert—
“and section 23(5) does not apply in relation to the refusal to approve the decision.”
My Lords, I shall also speak to the other government amendments grouped here. These amendments relate to warrants: their scope, authorisation process and modification. I shall begin by discussing a number of amendments, many of which are minor and technical in nature.
Amendments 32 to 34 provide that a targeted interception warrant, targeted examination warrant or mutual assistance warrant authorising or requiring the interception or selection for examination of secondary data must specify the address, numbers, apparatus or other factors or combination of factors that are to be used for identifying the communications. This will bring the requirements for a warrant authorising the obtaining of secondary data into line with those warrants seeking to obtain communications. By “secondary data” I mean systems data attached to or logically associated with the communication that is capable of being separated from the remainder of the communication and which, if separated, would not reveal the meaning of the communication.
On Amendment 35, Clause 17 states that a warrant may relate to a person, organisation or set of premises, and Clause 29 goes on to set out requirements that must be met by warrants. Clause 29 already caters for the circumstances surrounding warrants intended for communications from or intended for any person, and for communications originating on or intended for transmission to any premises named or described in the warrant. This amendment makes a small change to include communications relating to an organisation within Clause 29.
Amendments 36, 261 and 272 are technical amendments that simply clarify that the communications described in a targeted interception warrant can include communications sent between anything owned, controlled or operated by the person or organisation specified in the warrant, including communications that are not sent by, or intended for, a person. This is nothing new and simply makes explicit the position in existing law. The amendments also clarify that any “premises” described in such a warrant include but are not limited to,
“land, movable structure, vehicle, vessel, aircraft or hovercraft”.
I thought it would assist the House if I gave an example of where such communications are crucial: gathering intelligence on the technical characteristics of military systems. This activity is vital to understanding, reducing and countering the threat to our interests around the world, including threats from foreign weapon systems in operational and strategic theatres, both directly through the understanding of the threat and through longer-term countermeasure development by the Ministry of Defence. It reduces the threat to our deployed and strategic forces—on the ground, at sea and in the air—and it is essential for keeping our Armed Forces safe, ensuring that they can operate effectively, and for providing options to protect our national interests.
As I speak, the RAF is deployed on counter-Daesh operations in the Middle East. Intelligence garnered from such signals or communications has played an important role in getting the RAF there and keeping it safe, in both the short and long term. The specifications that our aircraft and their on-board offensive and defensive systems have been built to were in large part shaped by the historic understanding of adversaries’ weapons capabilities. The long-term analysis of these data allows us to develop understanding of the way our adversaries operate, and assists in training and equipping our Armed Forces. It also informs deployment decisions, including risk assessment, force size and shape, and affordability. The way the world has changed over the past decade makes it more important than ever that we maintain this broad situational awareness so that, if our Armed Forces are required to provide support during a future global crisis, they are prepared and can be protected.
Given the global nature of these communications, the international nature of the arms trade and the inherent unpredictability of global instability, most warrants of this nature will relate to thematic subjects under Clause 17(2) such that relevant systems can be targeted wherever they are in the world. For example, if it is necessary to issue a warrant to obtain data emitted by military ships controlled by states posing a threat to the UK, the warrant must provide for data to be obtained from those ships irrespective of their location. However, as noble Lords will appreciate, the main purpose of this activity is to obtain information from and about systems, such as missile systems, ships, radar and aircraft. It is not about obtaining the private communications of individual people, whether in the UK or overseas. Nevertheless, the obtaining of the data and their subsequent handling, retention, use and destruction would always be subject to all the safeguards required by the Bill, as for any other targeted interception warrant. This includes the double lock of Secretary of State and judicial commissioner approval.
The activity that I have talked about here is crucial to our national security. It is activity that is already undertaken under existing law and it has always been the case that the Bill was intended to cater for it. These amendments simply make it absolutely clear that that is the case.
Amendment 39 is a minor amendment to correct the position whereby a competent authority outside the UK, such as a foreign law enforcement agency operating under a mutual assistance warrant, could make major or minor modifications to a warrant in an urgent case. It is not our intention that a competent authority outside the UK should be able to make major or minor modifications to an urgent mutual assistance warrant. Therefore, this amendment simply removes that ability for a competent authority outside the United Kingdom to make major or minor modifications to a mutual assistance warrant in an urgent case.
Similarly, Amendment 51 is a minor amendment which makes the definition of “interception subject” in Clause 38 simpler and clearer. There is no change in the meaning.
I turn to a series of amendments that seek to amend the clauses that relate to the approval of major modifications made in urgent cases. Amendments 49, 85, 88, 182, 199, 207 and 233 will reduce the time period within which a judicial commissioner must decide whether or not to approve the modification and notify the issuing authority of this decision from five working days to three. We have already debated equivalent amendments to the targeted provisions in the Bill. We heard during our previous debates how important it is for the security and intelligence agencies to have the operational agility to respond at speed to events in their efforts to keep us all safe. These provisions reduce the time available to judicial commissioners to consider whether to approve a major modification in an urgent case, bringing the period into line with that for the approval of urgent warrants in the Bill. These amendments act as a further safeguard in so far as they limit the time that a modification is in force without being subject to the full judicial commissioner double lock, while still allowing them sufficient time to undertake their deliberations.
Amendments 50, 86, 89, 183, 200, 208 and 234 clarify that, in instances where the judicial commissioner does not approve the urgent modification, there is no right of appeal to the Investigatory Powers Commissioner for the Secretary of State. Where a judicial commissioner does not approve an urgent modification to a warrant, those modifications are cancelled. These amendments make it clear that there is no route to appeal their cancellation.
Finally, I turn to four further minor and technical amendments. Amendments 21, 68, 204 and 228 confirm that, where a judicial commissioner refuses to approve the decision to issue a targeted interception, targeted equipment interference, bulk equipment interference or bulk personal dataset warrant in an urgent case, that decision may not be appealed. Once the judicial commissioner has refused the urgent warrant, it ceases to have effect and the person to whom the warrant is addressed must, so far as is reasonably practicable, stop any activity under it as soon as possible. If the refusal could then be overturned, the Investigatory Powers Commissioner would be authorising activity which had ceased to have effect. Instead, the Government believe the appropriate course of action in such a scenario is for the warrant requesting agency to make a fresh application, potentially setting out more detail as to why it continues to believe the application is both necessary and proportionate.
In the case of bulk equipment interference, Amendment 204 also makes it clear that an urgent warrant which is not approved by a judicial commissioner cannot then be renewed. This corrects minor drafting discrepancies between the bulk and targeted regimes. This amendment therefore does not alter how the Bill operates substantively but maintains consistency in approach across the Bill.
The amendments that I have discussed seek to clarify a number of points on the use of the powers already contained in the Bill and correct a number of minor errors. I hope that what I have said is helpful, and I beg to move Amendment 21.
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Paddick and I have three amendments in this group—but, first, I thank the noble Earl for the amendment reducing the five-day period in the case of urgency regarding modifications so that it is in line with the urgent issue of warrants. He referred to agility; three days preserves agility as it requires a judicial commissioner to be slightly more agile. More importantly, it is consistent and sensible. We were puzzled during Committee as to why the very similar arrangements about urgency were not consistent with regard to the time period, so we are glad to have taken that step forward.
Two of our amendments, Amendments 40 and 41, also refer to modifications. Clause 34 refers to modifications using provisions about,
“adding the name or description of a person, organisation or set of premises”.
We would add “or varying” to “adding” because it seems that a variation may be as significant as—and in effect amount to—an addition. I acknowledge that under Clause 32, which defines major modifications, variations of “name or description” are included. But Clause 34, to which our amendments would apply, allows modifications which are “necessary” and “proportionate”. Do we actually have consistency here? I am worried that by not allowing for variations within the regime of major modifications, we might let some additions in through the back door.
Amendment 66 would amend Clause 96, which is about the subject matter of equipment interference warrants. There is no restriction on the use of targeted thematic equipment interference warrants, unlike bulk EI warrants, which can be used to obtain only overseas communications data or information and are available only to the security services. Under the clause, there is no limit to the size of,
“a group of persons who share a common purpose”—
although I accept that “common purpose” contains a natural limit—nor to what is meant by,
“more than one person or organisation”.
That has dictated where we have tabled this amendment, which suggests a limit of 50 persons for a single investigation. It is clearly an arbitrary figure but it is there to try to tease out, a little more than perhaps we were able to in Committee, how this will work and how it could not grow in the application to such an extent as to defeat what we see as the purpose of those provisions. So we are not of course wedded to 50 but we are wedded to finding out a little more about the operation of this.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for speaking to her amendments so clearly, as she always does. Perhaps I may first address Amendments 40 and 41, which relate to Clause 34. I do not believe that these amendments are in fact necessary. I agree that in circumstances where an agency seeks to add something to a warrant, that should be possible only where it is both necessary and proportionate. That is what the Bill provides, and that necessity and proportionality test applies whether a name or description is being added, or where a factor is being added.
However, I do not agree that a necessity and proportionality test is relevant where a name, description or factor is simply being varied. In such a case, the conduct authorised by the Secretary of State and approved by the judicial commissioner is not changing in substance. An example might be where an individual is identified initially by a nickname but their true identity subsequently becomes known. I will give another example, which I hope will reassure the noble Baroness. During Committee noble Lords expressed concern about warrants against premises. If an agency applies for a warrant against a premises at, let us imagine, 25 Acacia Avenue and it turns out that it actually intended to target 125 Acacia Avenue, in that sort of case the original warrant should be cancelled and the error reported to the Investigatory Powers Commissioner —and an entirely new warrant should be sought. So there are two types of variation, if I may put it that way. One, I suggest, should not require the process that the noble Baroness has suggested; the other also should not require the process because it should be subject to an entirely fresh warrant. I hope that that provides her with the necessary reassurance.
Turning now to Amendment 66, as the noble Baroness explained, the amendment seeks to limit the number of persons that a targeted examination warrant issued under Part 5 may relate to. The amendment would clearly mean that any individual targeted examination warrant that relates to multiple persons for the purposes of a single investigation or operation under Clause 96(2)(c) could not relate to more than 50 persons. I believe that inserting such an arbitrary limit would be a mistake—I know the noble Baroness realises that it is an arbitrary figure—and that it would not add to the strong safeguards already provided for in the Bill.
The decision on whether a warrant is necessary and proportionate is rightly one for the issuing authority and the judicial commissioner. There may be circumstances in which the case for examining the material of more than 50 persons is entirely proportionate to what is sought to be gained from that task. For example, if the security and intelligence agencies are investigating UK-based users of websites hosting illegal child pornography, it would be detrimental and dangerous to limit the number of people they could investigate to a particular figure. This could in some cases result in material relating to dangerous subjects of interest escaping entirely appropriate examination simply because they were past the relevant number that would be set out in statute if this amendment or something like it were accepted.
Mandating that a targeted examination warrant must not relate to more than 50 people would mean either that vital operations could not proceed or that the intelligence agencies would on some occasions need to submit multiple applications for warrants relating to a single investigation or operation. That would needlessly increase the bureaucratic burden placed upon the agencies and the issuing authority while also hampering the ability of the issuing authority and the judicial commissioner to consider the operation in full. Such a restriction would add no additional rigour to the already robust double-lock process.
Introducing an arbitrary restriction does nothing to ensure that the principles of necessity and proportionality are upheld, but the role of judicial commissioners, already provided for by the Bill, does. That is why the Bill requires both the issuing authority and the judicial commissioner to consider, on a case-by-case basis, whether the breadth of a warrant is appropriate without the imposition of indiscriminate limits. In summary, the amendment has the potential to be damaging, needlessly bureaucratic or both, and I invite the noble Baroness not to press it.
Amendment 21 agreed.
Clause 27: Items subject to legal privilege
22: Clause 27, page 21, line 2, leave out “and (3)” and insert “to (3A)”
My Lords, the Government have listened carefully to concerns expressed in this House and by the legal profession about the protections in the Bill relating to material which attracts legal privilege, and in response to those concerns the Government propose a number of amendments.
We have already discussed the amendment to the privacy clause which makes it clear that a public authority must consider, when seeking a warrant or authorisation, whether additional protections apply because particularly sensitive material is to be obtained, including that which attracts legal privilege. This sets the context for the additional protections which are set out in subsequent parts of the Bill. It puts beyond doubt the importance of legal privilege. It makes it clear that public authorities must be mindful of the particular sensitivity of material which attracts privilege and must apply the additional protections provided for in the Bill.
The next set of amendments provided for in this group amend Clauses 27 and 107, which set out the protections for items subject to legal privilege in the targeted interception and targeted equipment interference provisions. Amendments 99 and 132 make it clear that it will not be possible to target legally privileged material solely on the grounds that is in the interests of the economic well-being of the UK. Amendments 100 and 133 define the exceptional and compelling test that applies when the intention is to obtain legally privileged material. The Bill is currently silent on this test, and detail as to what it means in practice has been set out in the draft code of practice.
However, these amendments provide that legally privileged material can be intentionally obtained only when there is a threat to life, a risk of serious injury or when it is necessary in the interests of national security. Putting this language in the Bill puts beyond doubt that privileged material can be sought only in the most serious circumstances. These amendments also make it clear that the exceptional and compelling test is met only when the public interest in obtaining the information sought outweighs the public interest in maintaining the confidentiality of legally privileged material and when there are no other reasonable means of obtaining the required information.
We have provided an example to the House of what an exceptional and compelling case might look like—where it would be necessary and proportionate intentionally to obtain legally privileged material. I have referred to the suspected terrorist who is known to be planning an attack, but the agencies do not know where the attack will be or when it will take place. The suspected terrorist may be known to be communicating with a legal adviser on an unrelated matter, and the legal adviser is complicit in no wrongdoing, but the agencies have reason to believe that those communications with his legal adviser may provide vital information in determining when the attack might take place and where.
These amendments to the Bill speak to that situation. They make it clear that the Secretary of State, or the issuing authority in the case of a police equipment interference warrant, when deciding whether to issue a warrant where the intention is to obtain legally privileged material, must first consider the public interest in maintaining the confidentiality of such material. They then must be satisfied that the circumstances are so exceptional and compelling—so critical to protecting life or the UK’s national security—that the public interest in obtaining the information is greater than the public interest in maintaining the confidentiality of privileged material. Only if they are satisfied, in the full knowledge of the sensitivity of the material, that it is necessary and proportionate to obtain it to keep the UK public safe can they issue the warrant, and the judicial commissioner must approve that decision.
These amendments directly respond to calls from this House and from the legal profession that the Bill must be clear as to what is meant by “exceptional and compelling”. I suggest that these amendments provide that clarity. They ensure that the threshold is very high and that no one can be in any doubt as to the severity of the circumstances which must pertain where legally privileged material is to be targeted. Critically, they do not close the door to the agencies when targeting this sensitive material might be the only means of preventing an atrocity. This clarity around the exceptional and compelling test is applied to both the targeted provisions in the Bill and those which relate to the examination of material that has been collected in bulk.
We intend to go even further in the codes of practice. We propose to amend paragraph 2 of Schedule 7 to require that the interception and equipment interference codes of practice must provide further detail of what is meant by “exceptional and compelling” circumstances in practice. We will also require that the language in the code on this point must be kept under review by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner. This ensures that there is adequate and appropriate detail in the code to explain the test provided for in the Bill, and makes sure that this detail is kept under review to ensure it properly reflects operational practice and, for example, emerging threats.
The next set of amendments also speaks to concerns raised by the legal profession. The amendments address the so-called iniquity exception. They provide that where an agency wishes to obtain communications that would otherwise be privileged, were they not made in furtherance of a criminal purpose, the warrant application must set out the grounds for believing that the communications are being made with the intention of furthering a crime.
The amendment also makes it clear that the Secretary of State—or the issuing authority in the case of a police equipment interference warrant—in authorising such a warrant, can do so only if they consider that the communications or the material sought are likely to be made with the intention of furthering a criminal purpose. Again, of course, the judicial commissioner must approve that decision.
The next amendments directly speak to the role of the commissioner in safeguarding legally privileged material—new clauses after Clauses 52 and 123, and amendments to Clauses 144 and 180. These amendments provide that where legally privileged material has been obtained and examined, such that it is confirmed that it is material that attracts privilege, the Investigatory Powers Commissioner must be informed as soon as reasonably practicable.
This of itself is not new, but where we propose to go further is to give the commissioner the power to determine what happens to that material. He can decide whether it must be destroyed or impose conditions on the way in which it can be disclosed. This ensures it is a serving or former High Court judge who determines whether it is appropriate for the material to be retained, or whether it must be destroyed. I am sure noble Lords will agree that that is a welcome step. This new power for the commissioner will apply when material has been obtained through targeted means and when it has been collected in bulk and is then selected for examination.
The next amendment puts in the Bill a requirement for the Investigatory Powers Commissioner to include in his annual report information about the operation of the protections for legally privileged material. This ensures that the commissioner is particularly rigorous in his oversight of these important provisions, reflecting the sensitivity of the material. It ensures that particular attention is paid to the operation of the protections in the Bill for legally privileged material. It is not for the Government to fetter the independence of the commissioner by saying exactly what he must publish and in what format. Instead, the commissioner must report to the public on the operation of the protections as he sees fit. This amendment puts beyond doubt that he will do so.
In outlining this package of measures, I trust I have demonstrated to noble Lords that the Government recognise the importance of ensuring the Bill provides the proper protections for legally privileged material. I trust I have made it clear that the Government heard the strength of feeling on this issue when we discussed it in Committee. I hope noble Lords will agree that the revised protections in the Bill appropriately reflect the sensitivity of legally privileged material, while ensuring that the agencies we rely on to keep us safe have the tools they need to do their job.
My Lords, I was wondering whether the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, wanted to speak to his amendment before I came in with my rather more disparate ones. First, I thank the Government very much for the significant amendments which the noble and learned Lord has just introduced. The House will understand that, being members of the legal profession, the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, and my noble friend Lord Lester of Herne Hill were not leaving it there but were going to try to pin everything down. I have already given the apologies of my noble friend Lord Lester, and I need to give those of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, because of the religious holiday starting just about now. I also thank Tom Hickman of counsel, who drafted the amendments to which I will speak, instructed by the Law Society of England and Wales. As all the dramatis personae seem to come from the same chambers, I did suggest they might have got together over a cup of tea, but that did not happen.
Amendment 27 is an amendment to the amendment expanding the meaning of “exceptional and compelling circumstances”. The government amendment provides that the public interest in obtaining the information must outweigh the public interest in the confidentiality of it. We are of course talking about items subject to legal privilege, and the amendment would provide that it should “clearly” outweigh that second interest. I do not want to get into an argument here, but I suppose a current example would be whether 52 to 48 is a clear difference in the balance of concerns. Where a balance is being struck, it might well be one which is teetering, or where one consideration outweighs the other but barely, so is it not right to say that one public interest in this situation should “clearly” outweigh the other for the provisions to operate?
The next amendments also relate to the use of the intercepted material where the circumstances override privilege. The Bill specifies only such circumstances where a warrant is sought with the express purpose of obtaining legally privileged material or where this is the likely result of the interception. It seems to the Law Society that the principle should apply with equal force when privileged material is obtained as an unintended by-product of interception—for example, in circumstances where a warrant is sought to intercept the telephone of a suspected serious criminal who is not known to have contact with a lawyer but who, after the warrant is obtained, instructs a lawyer and speaks with him or her on his telephone.
The Bill as drafted provides that whenever material is retained, the Investigatory Powers Commissioner must be notified, but the Bill should make it clear that the commissioner should allow use of the material only in exceptional and compelling circumstances, and have express power to direct that the material not be further used, or that it should be destroyed. The amendments to the new clause after Clause 52 and those to the amendments to Clause 144 would address this.
Finally, there are proposals for protection in the Bill for privileged material in the context of communications data. The Government have accepted the principle of such protection but have proposed that it be addressed by the code. The amendment in question seeks to put the provisions into the Bill and not leave the matter to a code, which of course has a different status. It may be a more flexible document, but this issue is so important that a clause closely analogous to that requiring independent authorisation for information which could disclose a journalist’s source, which is in the Bill, should be provided to protect confidential access to legal advice.
I know that the noble and learned Lord has spent a good deal of time considering the detail of these amendments as well as the structure the Government now have, and I am grateful to him for the meeting he held with various legal luminaries and me yesterday. I hope he can accept some or all of these amendments, or help the House with a way forward in capturing in the Bill the points made by them, if not precisely in this form.
My Lords, it may be convenient for me to speak about my Amendment 55A, which seeks to amend the new clause proposed in Amendment 55. I approach the Bill on the basis that the security services should get what they require in order to perform their duties adequately for the safety of our country, but the degree to which those powers are given should affect only to a minimum the rights of citizens apart from the Bill. That seems a reasonable approach in looking at these provisions.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said, we are all grateful to the Minister for the amount of consideration he has given to this. I am sure that among the luminaries who were at the meeting yesterday, the noble Baroness would be included. I was not there, I am glad to say; I was at a separate meeting of less luminous people this afternoon.
There are two stages of dealing with privileged information. The first is the decision to make the interception. The provisions that have been put in place in that connection have been referred to, and I have no comment on them. There is a second stage, though, when the material produced by the interception is considered. There is room for a closer use of scrutiny in connection with that. Legal privilege extends to an application to a lawyer for advice and the advice given in consequence of that application. It is possible that, intertwined with those two, other material should arise. For example, the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, spoke in Committee about a lawyer who was handed a letter by a suspect to deliver, and the result of that was rather damaging to the investigation. I think it is clear that the delivery of a letter and the acceptance of that letter by the lawyer was not part of the application for advice or indeed of the advice given, and therefore it would not be covered by legal professional privilege.
I regard legal professional privilege as a fundamental right in our system, enabling a client to consult his solicitor with perfect freedom in relation to any matter on which he requires legal advice. The privilege applies to the application for advice and the advice given, but it extends no further. Therefore, once the interception has taken place, the material is there for consideration. I consider that however difficult it may be to judge in advance before you get the intercepted material, once you get the intercepted material there is scope for deciding to what extent legal professional privilege covers it. I consider that the Interception Commissioner has a very special position and power in relation to that. I therefore believe it is possible for him or her to separate out from the total material intercepted what is truly covered by legal professional privilege. My amendment is intended to permit that and to require that the matter covered by legal professional privilege should not be further used. That should be the principle that preserves our right to legal professional privilege.
The agencies and the Minister have explained that surrounding that may be factual material that is vital to the investigation. The example given is someone who says, “I’m going to Greece. Could I be extradited from Greece?”. The request for information is, “Could I be extradited from Greece?”, while the factual information is that he is going to Greece. If that is the case, I consider that the information about whether or not he can be extradited from Greece is covered by legal professional privilege but the information that says he is going to Greece is not. Therefore, in an edited version of the material, the Interception Commissioner could take out all that was covered by legal professional privilege and decide what use, if any, the remainder could be put to. That is perfectly in accordance with the doctrine of legal professional privilege.
To refer again to a point that the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, made in Committee, it is important that a lawyer should be able to tell his client about the protection. He should be able to tell him that, subject to the iniquity provision, the conference in connection with the request for advice and the giving of that advice is absolutely privileged, but of course it does not cover anything that might be said in addition to that.
It is also possible that the Interception Commissioner might be able, in addition to that kind of separation and editing, to consider whether inferences can be drawn from the way in which the advice was sought. For example, if the client says, without indicating that he is going to Greece, “Can a person be extradited from Greece?”, it could be inferred that he might well be going to Greece and the security services could use that inference as a subject for their investigation, which might help that investigation considerably.
It is therefore possible to use this system at the second stage, the stage at which the material is available to study, to ensure that legal professional privilege is not breached but that the maximum information that is useful to the security services can be extracted from the material that has been intercepted without breaching that principle. That is what I want to achieve with this amendment. I believe it could be better phrased—we had some problem with reception, which I need not go into—but what is required is a power for the commissioner, which could be well expressed by parliamentary counsel, allowing the genuine privilege to apply at the same time as giving to the security services all possible information that they could reasonably use from the material collected. That is the purpose of my Amendment 55A. I am conscious that the draughtsmanship could be improved upon and I would be happy to see that happen, but the principle that I want to achieve is very clear and I think it is well supported by common sense.
My Lords, I would like to make three points. The first is a general point. I am sure the whole House is grateful to Ministers and all others who have been involved in trying to produce a safe system that provides a public interest exception in relation to legal professional privilege. There was an argument running until a few days ago that there should be no public interest exception, but I do not believe that position is now going to be put forward in this House—certainly not voted upon. Indeed, we can think of examples that may or may not fall within legal professional privilege but could, which would properly be exceptions to which the authority should have regard.
My second point is about Amendment 27 and the proposal that there should be a new standard of proof— new to the criminal law or criminal procedure as far as I know it—containing the phrase “clearly outweighs”. “Clearly outweighs” means no more than the existing civil standard of proof, the balance of probabilities. There is no doubt that those who decide that the balance of probabilities, however expressed, applies will give their reasons in writing. With great respect, because I share the aspiration behind Amendment 27, I think it muddies the waters in an unwelcome way.
I turn with trepidation to Amendment 55A, spoken to with such eloquence by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern. Again, I am sympathetic to what he is trying to achieve, which is to narrow the area for removal or breach of legal professional privilege. It is something which we lawyers regard as near sacrosanct as any concept in the law. My concern is with the word “must” in his amendment. I am happy for an attempt to be made to redraft it, as he recognised might be necessary, but I would not be content to see “must” in any redraft for the following reasons.
When the procedure now set out in Amendment 55 is followed by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner, he—or she—may direct that the item is destroyed or impose conditions as to disclosure, but in making that decision he will be considering a number of contextual issues. Obviously, he will be considering the context at the time when he is making the immediate judgment, but he may also be considering another context. It may well be that it is envisaged that a criminal trial will ensue later.
The rules of disclosure for criminal trials are founded on the notion that the authorities retain material, except in wholly exceptional circumstances. For example, the material retained may materially undermine the prosecution case when a trial takes place, and it is required that evidence that materially undermines the prosecution case should be disclosed to the defence. At the moment when the interception takes place, it may not appear that that might be the result of the material, but it could happen, and the commissioner may well envisage that.
We should not have a provision in which that disclosure cannot occur. One reason why we have had such difficulty making intercept material admissible in court is because of the problems about disclosure. In the case of intercept, the issue is not destruction but huge volume, which makes the normal English and Welsh—and, I believe, Scottish—law requirements for disclosure very difficult to fulfil. There is a risk that the same might happen if there was compulsion of any kind to destroy material.
Answering, as I said, with great trepidation, what has been said by the noble and learned Lord, I oppose any form of compulsion in such a clause. I hope that the Minister will carefully consider that issue before determining whether or not to accept the advice of someone who I know is one of his most esteemed Scottish colleagues.
Like other noble Lords, I thank the Minister and the Bill team for the detailed discussions—perhaps negotiations is a better word—that they have had not only with us but with other interested parties. We have sought to balance our strong desire to protect clients’ confidentiality—their ability to speak openly and honestly with their lawyer, safe in the knowledge that information will go no further —with the need to safeguard the security of citizens and free them from the threat of terrorism or other risks to life. It would be wonderful if there were a nice, absolute and clear division between those two objectives but, sadly, in the real world there seldom is.
The Bill as drafted had not got the balance right. It was tipping towards the state’s ability to access or use legally privileged information. Since then, as the Minister outlined, the amendments to Clause 2, an overriding clause which should circumvent all the powers in the Bill, will significantly safeguard privileged material. It is not an absolute, but we acknowledge movement here and in other amendments, such as the public interest test needed before approving a warrant. It would require both the Secretary of State and a judicial commissioner to be satisfied that the public interest in obtaining the information outweighed that long-standing public interest in maintaining the confidentiality of legally privileged communications, but also, importantly, that there were no other reasonable means of obtaining the required information.
Similarly, we welcome Amendment 25, by which, when a warrant is requested to prevent or detect serious crime, the exceptional compelling circumstances have to relate to national security or preventing death or significant injury, and do not, as with some of the other powers, include being in the interests of the UK’s economic well-being. We are also pleased that the commissioner would have to be informed when any privileged material is retained by an agency and note that, as has just been mentioned, it can be ordered to be destroyed or for conditions to be imposed on its disclosure.
We are, however, sympathetic to the desire of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern—I cannot believe he really called himself less luminous—to allow the commissioner to differentiate between advice and, for example, the time when a phone call was made, which could be incredibly important but irrelevant to the content of the phone call. If there is a way to enable the commissioner to differentiate in that way, we hope that the Government will respond to that positively.
Finally, with regard to the so-called inequity exception, we note that any application for a warrant under this provision would have to set out the grounds for believing that communications are being made with the intention of furthering a crime, and we welcome that.
We are mindful that representatives of lawyers—speaking on behalf of their clients, because it is their interests that we are discussing—feel that the Government have not gone far enough to meet their concern. We acknowledge that, on paper, an enormous amount of progress has been made. Our concern is whether the resources, culture and mindset of the IPC will allow for the scrutiny and challenge that the words now on paper will require. I am reassured by the fact that the judicial commissioners are not just lawyers but very experienced and senior ones, so they will have a background of understanding the legal profession’s fears and long-standing views about this matter. Perhaps, when replying, the Minister, in addition to responding to the wider points made, can give an assurance that the commissioner and judicial commissioners will be appointed with a view to guaranteeing their complete independence and with sufficient resources to be able to look at these significant and demanding issues with due care and attention.
My Lords, I am obliged to noble Lords. I begin by looking at Amendments 27 and 88, which seek to insert the word “clearly” in the public interest test. On this point I concur with the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, that there is a danger that this would simply muddy the waters and not clarify.
The test as set out in the government amendment is straightforward. The public interest in obtaining the information sought either outweighs the public interest in maintaining the confidentiality of privilege or it does not. If the word “clearly” were inserted, that certainty would be lost. We would have to try to define what we mean by “clearly”. Logic suggests that it means that one public interest test should outweigh the other by a certain amount, as indicated by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, but it is not apparent what that amount would be. This would undoubtedly lead to confusion and uncertainty. Given that such a warrant can be sought only in exceptional and compelling circumstances, where national security or life and limb are at risk, confusion and uncertainty are one thing that we cannot afford.
The government amendments set out in detail what is intended by “exceptional and compelling”. The test is explicit on the face of the Bill and it is one that works. We are also introducing a requirement for the codes to include additional information about when circumstances are to be considered exceptional and compelling, and requiring the Investigatory Powers Commissioner to keep that language under review. It is in these circumstances that I invite the noble Baroness not to press her amendments.
The second set of amendments in this group—Amendments 56, 57, 192 and 193—seek to change the power of the Investigatory Powers Commissioner to determine what happens to legally privileged material when it has been obtained by an agency and the agency wishes to retain it. First, they would provide that the commissioner has the power to impose conditions on the use of the item as well as its disclosure. Secondly, they would also require the commissioner to direct that any privileged material that has been obtained must be destroyed unless there are exceptional and compelling circumstances that justify its retention. These amendments raise important issues in respect of legally privileged material that is inadvertently obtained and where the agency wishes to retain it. I would like to reflect further on our consideration of these points today and to return to this issue at Third Reading.
Amendment 107 deals with communications data and seeks to provide for judicial approval of authorisations for the communications data of a person who is or is likely to be a practising legal professional. It seeks to reflect the protections provided in Part 3 of the Bill for the identity of a journalistic source, but in practice this amendment goes much further by attaching the protections to the profession rather than to the sensitive information they manage. The debates in the House of Commons and at previous stages in this House have been clear that Parliament’s view is that protection should attach to the sensitive communication or to the function being carried out and should not simply apply to the person because they are a member of some profession. For example, there was consensus that protection should apply to the journalist’s communications with a source or the client’s communications with a lawyer. This amendment would go against that consensus by providing protection to a lawyer simply because he is a lawyer.
The Bill takes a reasoned and balanced approach. It applies additional protections where appropriate; provides for judicial authorisation of the most intrusive powers and for the use of less intrusive powers in the most sensitive circumstances; and provides a powerful and robust oversight regime to ensure that powers cannot be misused. The protections provided are specific to each power under the Bill, applying protection which is appropriate to the level of intrusion represented by each power. The draft Communications Data Code of Practice sets out the additional considerations that must be taken into account when any data relate to a member of a profession which routinely holds items subject to legal provision. Indeed, Schedule 7 to the Bill requires that the code shall include such detail. In addition, the current amendment to Clause 2 puts beyond doubt the importance of taking particular care in relation to sensitive information, such as items subject to legal privilege.
Our debate has already shown the importance that the Government place on the protection of legally privileged material, but I would suggest that it is not appropriate to introduce these additional protections within the context of authorisations for communications data. I invite the noble Baroness not to press Amendment 107.
Amendment 55A, tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, seeks to amend government Amendment 55. This amendment would require the Investigatory Powers Commissioner to direct that any material obtained that is subject to legal privilege must be destroyed and allow the agency to retain only material that is incidental to that which is privileged.
I have already indicated in response to Amendment 57, proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, that I am minded to look again at whether there is more we might provide on the face of the Bill regarding the test that the commissioner should apply when making a decision about whether material can be retained. However, I would respectfully suggest that what the noble and learned Lord proposes with this amendment is not appropriate in the circumstances. It is the case that the vital intelligence that an agency may require could intrude not only on incidental material in a legally privileged communication but on the legally privileged communication in general.
I take up the example which the noble and learned Lord gave of the individual communicating with a lawyer and asking, “Can I be extradited from Greece?”. One might say, in a very straightforward fashion, that the relevant intelligence there is Greece, not that he may or may not be extradited. But what if the communication goes like this: “Can I be extradited from Greece or Albania?”, and the answer is, “You can be extradited from Greece but you cannot be extradited from Albania”. Just giving them Greece and Albania will not assist the intelligence services very much. On the other hand, the legally privileged information that he can be extradited from Greece but cannot be extradited from Albania might lead the reasonable intelligence officer to infer that the individual was more likely to be found in Albania than in Greece. It is in those circumstances that I suggest that one cannot easily divide between the two. As I have indicated, we are conscious that in these areas we can look again to see whether we can strengthen these matters. At this stage I would invite the noble and learned Lord not to press his amendment.
My Lords, I am extremely happy that the noble and learned Lord should look at this matter further. To take his example on Greece and Albania, I think the correct way to deal with that would be to say that it was an inference from the legal advice that he might be going to Albania and you could separate that out from the advice itself as a matter of edit, allowing for inferences from the nature of the arrangement. I think that a little bit of, shall I say, creative editing would make this possible. I am very keen to conserve the idea that legal professional privilege is absolute—that is the purpose of my amendment. I believe that with a bit of ingenuity the Government could devise a formula that would allow that to happen. In the meantime, I am happy not to press my amendment on the basis that it will be considered by the Government, and if necessary, I can return to it at Third Reading.
Amendment 22 agreed.
Amendments 23 to 25
23: Clause 27, page 21, line 14, at end insert—
“( ) In deciding whether to issue the warrant, the person to whom the application is made must have regard to the public interest in the confidentiality of items subject to legal privilege.”
24: Clause 27, page 21, line 18, after “authorise” insert “or require”
25: Clause 27, page 21, line 24, at end insert—
“(3A) But the warrant may not be issued if it is considered necessary only as mentioned in section 20(2)(c).”
Amendments 23 to 25 agreed.
26: Clause 27, page 21, line 24, at end insert—
“( ) For the purposes of subsection (3)(a), there cannot be exceptional and compelling circumstances that make it necessary to authorise or require the interception, or the selection for examination, of items subject to legal privilege unless—(a) the public interest in obtaining the information that would be obtained by the warrant outweighs the public interest in the confidentiality of items subject to legal privilege,(b) there are no other means by which the information may reasonably be obtained, and(c) in the case of a warrant considered necessary as mentioned in section 20(2)(b) or (3) or (as the case may be) 21(4), obtaining the information is necessary for the purpose of preventing death or significant injury.”
Amendment 27 (to Amendment 26) not moved.
Amendment 26 agreed.
Amendments 28 and 29
28: Clause 27, page 21, line 30, leave out “and (3)” and insert “to (3A)”
29: Clause 27, page 21, line 46, at end insert—
“(7A) Subsections (7B) and (7C) apply if—(a) an application is made by or on behalf of an intercepting authority for a warrant under this Chapter,(b) the purpose, or one of the purposes, of the warrant is—(i) in the case of a targeted interception warrant or mutual assistance warrant, to authorise or require the interception of communications that, if they were not made with the intention of furthering a criminal purpose, would be items subject to legal privilege, or(ii) in the case of a targeted examination warrant, to authorise the selection of such communications for examination, and (c) the intercepting authority considers that the communications (“the targeted communications”) are likely to be communications made with the intention of furthering a criminal purpose.(7B) The application must—(a) contain a statement that the purpose, or one of the purposes, of the warrant is to authorise or require the interception, or (in the case of a targeted examination warrant) the selection for examination, of communications that, if they were not made with the intention of furthering a criminal purpose, would be items subject to legal privilege, and(b) set out the reasons for believing that the targeted communications are likely to be communications made with the intention of furthering a criminal purpose.(7C) The person to whom the application is made may issue the warrant only if the person considers that the targeted communications are likely to be communications made with the intention of furthering a criminal purpose.”
Amendments 28 and 29 agreed.
30: After Clause 27, insert the following new Clause—
“Confidential journalistic material
(1) This section applies if—(a) an application is made by or on behalf of an intercepting authority for a warrant under this Chapter, and(b) the purpose, or one of the purposes, of the warrant is—(i) in the case of a targeted interception warrant or mutual assistance warrant, to authorise or require the interception of communications which the intercepting authority believes will be communications containing confidential journalistic material, or(ii) in the case of a targeted examination warrant, to authorise the selection for examination of journalistic material which the intercepting authority believes is confidential journalistic material.(2) The application must contain a statement that the purpose, or one of the purposes, of the warrant is—(a) in the case of a targeted interception warrant or mutual assistance warrant, to authorise or require the interception of communications which the intercepting authority believes will be communications containing confidential journalistic material, or(b) in the case of a targeted examination warrant, to authorise the selection for examination of journalistic material which the intercepting authority believes is confidential journalistic material.(3) The person to whom the application is made may issue the warrant only if the person considers that the arrangements made for the purposes of section 51 or (as the case may be) section 141 (safeguards relating to retention and disclosure of material) include specific arrangements for the handling, retention, use and destruction of communications containing confidential journalistic material.(4) For the meanings of “journalistic material” and “confidential journalistic material”, see section (General definitions: “journalistic material” etc.).”
My Lords, in moving Amendment 30, I shall speak also to the other government amendments grouped with it. We come to the safeguards associated with confidential journalistic material and sources of journalistic information, which have been the subject of significant debate during the passage of the Bill. This package of amendments protects the fundamental role that journalism plays in a healthy democracy. While it is right that the Bill provides for the investigation of individuals where they are suspected of serious illegality or wrongdoing, whatever their chosen profession, it is also right that particularly sensitive professions are afforded specific additional protections.
In limited circumstances, it may be necessary to use the powers provided in this Bill for the necessary and proportionate investigation of a journalist—for example, where they are suspected of serious illegality or wrongdoing or where there is an immediate threat to life. In such circumstances, the Bill and the associated codes of practice already contain significant protections for journalists and their sources, recognising the strong public interest in protecting a free press and freedom of expression in a democratic society, including the willingness of sources to provide information to journalists anonymously. So it already places into primary legislation for the first time the requirement for all public authorities to obtain judicial approval for an authorisation to acquire communications data to identify or confirm a journalistic source. We responded to concerns raised in the Commons by clearly setting out in the Bill that the judicial commissioner, a current or former High Court judge, must first consider the public interest in protecting a source of journalistic information and then be satisfied that there is another, overriding public interest before approving such an application.
On top of that, we went further and introduced Clause 2, the overarching privacy clause, which makes it explicit that public authorities using any power in the Bill must have regard to a number of matters, including whether what is sought to be achieved by an authorisation may reasonably be achieved by other, less intrusive means and the public interest in the protection of privacy. Public authorities would, of course, also be subject to the requirements of the Human Rights Act and all the relevant rights and freedoms that it provides for. Of course, all applications to acquire material must be authorised by a relevant authority and approved by a judicial commissioner. The accompanying draft codes of practice require the Secretary of State, or law enforcement chief for law enforcement use of equipment interference, to apply particular consideration in cases where the subject of the warrant might reasonably assume a high degree of privacy, or where confidential information is involved.
Finally, statutory oversight of the use of investigatory powers, whether in relation to journalists or not, is provided through the creation of the Investigatory Powers Commissioner. Further to this comprehensive oversight regime, the Bill creates a number of offences that apply to the public authorities using the powers to sit alongside existing relevant offences in other legislation. This includes a specific offence of unlawfully obtaining communications data, which will sit alongside the offence of misconduct in a public office in common law, to ensure that, where a public authority knowingly or recklessly acquires communications data without lawful authority, appropriate penalties are available.
My noble and learned friend Lord Keen has already spoken about the government amendment requiring the Investigatory Powers Commissioner to include in his annual report information relating to the operation of particular safeguards, such as those for legally privileged material. I want to make it clear that this requirement also applies to those safeguards protecting confidential journalistic material and sources of journalistic information. It is also important to remember that the Investigatory Powers Commissioner will be able to call on whatever expertise he or she sees fit, and will be provided with sufficient resources to do so. This may be technical or communications expertise or, indeed, professional expertise, such as that of media advisers or lawyers.
We have been clear that the commissioner will lead an outward-facing organisation, and we consider that engagement with professional bodies, such as media representative groups, on how the use of a particular power affects their members is exactly the sort of thing the commissioner and their team should be doing. While we do not think that it would be appropriate to mandate this through legislation, it will form part of the role for the commissioner. These further new amendments will strengthen the safeguards in the Bill even further to ensure that the vital public interest of freedom of expression is protected, while still allowing those who are charged with keeping us safe to continue their vital work.
Amendments 30 and 75 protect the key principle that individuals who provide information to journalists should have an expectation of privacy. The Government accept that it is important that confidential journalistic material is handled with the sensitivity that it deserves. So where a relevant authority applies for a warrant where the purpose, or one of the purposes, is to authorise or require the obtaining of confidential journalistic material, the amendment would require the application to contain a statement confirming that this is the purpose, or one of the purposes.
The same requirement would apply in relation to a targeted examination warrant that seeks to authorise the selection for examination of such confidential journalistic material acquired in bulk. This means that the Secretary of State or law enforcement chief and judicial commissioner will have to be fully aware that they are authorising the obtaining of confidential journalistic material when they come to consider a warrant. The Government are seeking to protect legitimate journalism, while ensuring that those who wish to do us harm cannot hide behind spurious claims of journalism. For this reason, Amendment 268 makes it clear that material acquired or created to further a criminal purpose is not considered journalistic material in the context of the Bill. That seeks to avoid those such as the media wing of Daesh attracting a safeguard intended for legitimate journalists.
In addition to the requirement to clearly state in the application whether the purpose, or one of the purposes, is to obtain confidential journalistic material, the person to whom the warrant application is addressed must also be satisfied that there are specific arrangements in place for the handling, retention, use and destruction of communications containing such confidential journalistic material.
I turn to the amendments which protect sources of journalistic information. A free press cannot operate without journalists, and journalists cannot operate without sources. That is why the Government have focused protections on journalists’ sources and the important public interest in protecting the confidentiality of sources of journalistic information. Amendments 31 and 76 provide further protection by making clear that when a relevant authority seeks a warrant to identify or confirm a source of journalistic information, the application must contain a statement to that effect. This will mean that the Secretary of State or law enforcement chief and judicial commissioner will be fully aware of the intention to identify or confirm a source when they are considering the necessity and proportionality of the warrant. Again, the person to whom the warrant application is addressed must also be satisfied that there are specific arrangements in place for the handling, retention, use and destruction of communications that identify sources of journalistic information.
There are a number of consequential amendments which relate to modification of a warrant. These amendments make it clear that, when modifying a warrant when the purpose is to obtain confidential journalistic material, the same factors must be considered as would be the case in an application to obtain confidential journalistic material.
Amendments 53, 90, 194 and 217 will ensure that, where confidential journalistic material is obtained by a public authority which intends to retain it, the Investigatory Powers Commissioner must be notified as soon as is reasonably practicable. This applies when the material is obtained through interception or equipment interference through a targeted warrant and when it is selected for examination having been collected in bulk. This is an important safeguard. It ensures that the commissioner is fully aware of the confidential material held by the agencies. It assists in his oversight of the particular handling arrangements that must be in place when this type of material is retained by the agencies.
I turn to the amendments in relation to bulk provisions. Amendments 194 and 217 make it clear that, where confidential journalistic material is obtained by a public authority which intends to retain it, the Investigatory Powers Commissioner must be notified as soon as is reasonably practicable. This applies when the material is obtained through interception or equipment interference through a targeted warrant and when it is selected for examination having been collected in bulk. It ensures that the commissioner is fully aware of the confidential material held by the agencies and it assists in his oversight of the particular handling arrangements that must be in place when this type of material is retained by the agencies. There are also a number of consequential amendments on this which provide for the definition of a journalistic source to apply to the Bill as a whole rather than solely to Part 3, as previously drafted.
I hope that what I have said by way of explanation of these amendments demonstrates to the House that the Government have listened to the concerns raised in Committee by a number of your Lordships and to representations from journalists’ organisations and that we have responded in a constructive and helpful way. I beg to move.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for bringing forward this group of amendments, which will go a very long way to protecting the important relationship between the best journalists and their sources. As a journalist, I know how increasingly difficult it is to nurture a relationship with a whistleblower or an anonymous source who is prepared to reveal confidential information in the public interest. The Bill had been in danger of damaging that bond of trust, as I said in my speech at Second Reading. However, Amendment 30 will now place this relationship at the forefront of the judicial commissioners’ minds. During the passage of the Bill there have been questions about the definition of journalism, but these new amendments will give commissioners the powers to decide whether it is in the public interest to protect a particular source of journalism information.
I have also been concerned that targeted interception clauses would have made journalists covering demonstrations greater targets for those wanting to cause harm. The Bill would have opened the journalists to the threat of being seen as agents of the forces of law and order. This would have compromised their independence and ability to report the incident, not to mention putting them in harm’s way. However, Amendment 75 assuages my fear. The noble Earl and the Bill team have gone far to strengthen these safeguards for journalistic material in the various powers considered, but the new codes of practice will strengthen them even further. My only reservation is that the Bill does nothing to allow notifying the lawyers of reputable news organisations to alert them that a warrant to carry out surveillance on their journalists has been issued. This would have given them a chance to explain the importance of maintaining the confidentiality of a source when a warrant was asked for. However, I trust that the changes brought forward in this group of amendments will allow the commissioner to protect those sources of journalism. I know that the noble Earl and the Bill team have worked long and hard to come up with these amendments and I thank them.
My Lords, I declare my interest as executive director of the Telegraph Media Group and draw attention to my other media interests in the register. Like the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, I am most grateful to the Government, and in particular to my noble friend the Minister—who has, as always, been the soul of patience and emollience—for listening so sympathetically to the arguments put forward in Committee and for engaging in what seemed like countless constructive discussions with media interests on issues which are of acute importance to a free press.
I welcome the amendments that the noble Earl has brought forward today. They mesh together with Amendments 10 and 11, which form the umbrella for the safeguards being introduced. They go a considerable way to meeting the concerns raised by the media. They do not, of course, go as far as some in the media would have liked in an ideal world. In Committee we looked at prior notification, which the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, has just mentioned. However, we do not live in an ideal world, and it is very welcome that these amendments recognise in the Bill the significance and special importance of journalistic material. Given the particular difficulties of prior notification, which I fully understand, and the fact that we are at a late stage in the legislative process, this package is a practical way forward to keep the structure of the Bill intact, while providing important safeguards, although perhaps limited in some respects for confidential sources.
Finally, I hope that the Government will be assiduous—particularly when it comes to the operation of the codes of practice, but also in keeping the impact of this legislation under review—in seeking to ensure that the police, the intelligence services and the judicial commissioners really will be scrupulous and sparing in their applications, that the use of these very significant powers in relation to journalism will be extremely rare, and that there will be rigorous oversight by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner to ensure that these amendments, as well as Amendments 10 and 11, will not just work in theory but have real bite in protecting the confidential sources of information which are the wellspring of press freedom and, as my noble friend said, fundamental to our democracy.
My Lords, I am not a journalism specialist like the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, and the noble Lord, Lord Black. Having listened to the debate, I have a couple of points which I hope the Minister will find supportive. The overall package of the Bill that has now been presented on Report is far more liberal than would ever have come forward from the Labour Government of which I was a member for 12 years. We would have been far less willing to give in the way this Government have. What they have brought forward is remarkable. I can almost prove that. I attended the Labour Party conference in Liverpool, where there were hundreds of fringe meetings every day. I scanned the book, dozens of pages of it, because I was there the previous year when the situation with this Bill was slightly different. Not one fringe meeting was advertised in relation to any part of this Bill. There was nothing about journalism, lawyers or investigatory powers; absolutely nothing compared to the previous two years. I find that quite practical and I hope the Government will find it reassuring.
My Lords, to add to that, I too am most impressed with the package the Government have come up with. It is really impressive. It shows a great willingness to compromise but does not compromise our security at all. I also pass my good wishes to the noble Earl on the 219th anniversary of his ancestor raising the siege of Gibraltar.
I also thank the Minister for this impressive package of amendments. It clearly has to be necessary and proportionate in some circumstances to investigate a journalist. However, I am a little concerned about a law enforcement chief being able to authorise such acquisition through equipment interference, although there is now the reassurance of a judicial commissioner, which did not exist before. I accept what the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, and the noble Lord, Lord Black of Brentwood, said about the concern of the National Union of Journalists that there should be prior notification and the ability to make representations. However, I think it is reasonably clear how difficult it would be to differentiate between the cases to which the measure would and would not apply. In all the circumstances, I think that this is more than the best that we could have hoped for. We are very grateful.
My Lords, I hope that my noble friend Lord Rooker has not ended the Minister’s political career. However, I think we all can say that when we come here our political careers are behind us. I join the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, the noble Lord, Lord Black, and others in thanking the Ministers and their team for the significant changes that have been made. I will not go through all of them, but the Government’s adding in Amendment 11 a reference to,
“information identifying or confirming a source of journalistic information”,
needing extra protection is very welcome, in addition to the other overriding requirement of there being no other way of getting the information.
As has been mentioned, government Amendments 30 and 31 insert special procedures for journalistic material and, perhaps of even more concern to journalists, journalists’ sources. As has just been said, the NUJ in particular wants other changes to be introduced but the idea of prior notice for covert investigation is in itself a contradiction too far. We are, however, sympathetic to the essence of the journalists’ approach—that is, their desire to protect not simply their members but whistleblowing members of the public through whom misdeeds often come to light. However, there will be occasions when terrorists or others who wish us harm will have been in touch with a journalist and the sole indication of that person’s whereabouts might exist on a journalist’s phone. Unless we are absolutely sure that we would never in any circumstances want those who protect us to be able to access that information, we need the warrants and the powers in the Bill. We hope very much that the safeguards provided will keep those exceptions to a minimum—I think that the word used was “rare”—and we hope that the IPC, in reviewing what happens, will always bear in mind the cost to all of us if fears of retribution deter good whistleblowers from getting misdeeds into the public domain. However, those are in a way fairly small instances. I commend to the House the changes that have been made.
My Lords, I very much appreciate the noble Lord, Lord West, alerting the House to the achievement of my distinguished ancestor, Admiral Earl Howe, in relieving the siege of Gibraltar, to which he referred for the rest of his life as one of his greatest accomplishments. Glad as I am that this package of amendments has received the approval of so many of your Lordships, I cannot claim that it falls into quite the same bracket as the relief of Gibraltar. I am obviously gratified that it has met with the House’s approval.
For the sake of completeness, I should add that we have also undertaken an extensive update of the section relating to journalists and their sources in the existing draft communications data code of practice, providing additional statutory guidance to police forces about handling requests for communications data relating to journalists. This revised version of the code has been published in time for Report, so I refer noble Lords to it.
Amendment 30 agreed.
31: After Clause 27, insert the following new Clause—
“Sources of journalistic information
(1) This section applies if—(a) an application is made by or on behalf of an intercepting authority for a warrant under this Chapter, and(b) the purpose, or one of the purposes, of the warrant is to identify or confirm a source of journalistic information.(For the meaning of “source of journalistic information”, see section 239(1).)(2) The application must contain a statement that the purpose, or one of the purposes, of the warrant is to identify or confirm a source of journalistic information.(3) The person to whom the application is made may issue the warrant only if the person considers that the arrangements made for the purposes of section 51 or (as the case may be) section 141 (safeguards relating to retention and disclosure of material) include specific arrangements for the handling, retention, use and destruction of communications that identify sources of journalistic information.”
Amendment 31 agreed.
Clause 29: Requirements that must be met by warrants
Amendments 32 to 36
32: Clause 29, page 23, line 14, after “warrant,” insert “—
33: Clause 29, page 23, line 16, at end insert—
“(ii) secondary data will or may be obtained under the warrant from communications from, or intended for, the person;”
34: Clause 29, page 23, line 23, after “warrant,” insert “or the obtaining of secondary data from such communications,”
35: Clause 29, page 23, line 32, after “person” insert “or organisation”
36: Clause 29, page 23, line 35, at end insert—
“( ) In this section any reference to communications from, or intended for, a person or organisation includes communications from, or intended for, anything owned, controlled or operated by that person or organisation.”
Amendments 32 to 36 agreed.
Clause 31: Renewal of warrants
37: Clause 31, page 25, line 3, leave out from “26” to first “apply” in line 4 and insert “to (Sources of journalistic information) (additional safeguards)”
Amendment 37 agreed.
Clause 33: Persons who may make modifications
Amendments 38 and 39
38: Clause 33, page 26, line 19, leave out “section 26 or 27” and insert “any of sections 26 to (Sources of journalistic information)”
39: Clause 33, page 26, line 19, at end insert—
“( ) Subsections (2)(d) and (e) and (3) do not apply in the case of a mutual assistance warrant addressed to a person falling within section 18(1)(h) (competent authorities of overseas countries or territories).”
Amendments 38 and 39 agreed.
Clause 34: Further provision about modifications
Amendments 40 and 41 not moved.
Amendments 42 to 46
42: Clause 34, page 27, line 21, leave out from “26” to “apply” in line 22 and insert “to (Sources of journalistic information) (additional safeguards)”
43: Clause 34, page 27, line 28, after “27” insert “, (Confidential journalistic material) or (Sources of journalistic information)”
44: Clause 34, page 27, line 39, leave out “section 26 or 27” and insert “any of sections 26 to (Sources of journalistic information)”
45: Clause 34, page 27, line 47, leave out paragraph (c) and insert—
“( ) subsection (3) of this section applied for the purposes of subsection (1) of that section as it applies for the purposes of subsection (1) of this section.”
46: Clause 34, page 28, line 3, leave out “section 26 or 27” and insert “any of sections 26 to (Sources of journalistic information)”
Amendments 42 to 46 agreed.
Clause 35: Notification of major modifications
47: Clause 35, page 28, line 28, leave out “section 26 or 27” and insert “any of sections 26 to (Sources of journalistic information)”
Amendment 47 agreed.
Clause 36: Approval of major modifications made in urgent cases
Amendments 48 to 50
48: Clause 36, page 28, line 38, after “27” insert “, (Confidential journalistic material) or (Sources of journalistic information)”
49: Clause 36, page 29, line 16, leave out “fifth” and insert “third”
50: Clause 36, page 29, line 34, at end insert—
“and, in a case falling within subsection (2) above, section 23(5) does not apply in relation to the refusal to approve the decision.”
Amendments 48 to 50 agreed.
Clause 38: Special rules for certain mutual assistance warrants
51: Clause 38, page 31, line 44, leave out from “organisation” to “to” in line 45
Amendment 51 agreed.
Clause 39: Implementation of warrants
52: Clause 39, page 32, line 18, at end insert—
“( ) If a copy of a warrant served on a person outside the United Kingdom is within the scope of an international mutual assistance agreement, then—(a) the copy of the warrant must be endorsed with a statement that it is served pursuant to the agreement;(b) the intercepting authority must act in accordance with the agreement;(c) without prejudice to section 41(4), a telecommunications operator who takes reasonable steps to cooperate with the intercepting authority, pursuant to the agreement, shall be deemed to have fulfilled the duty imposed by section 41(1).”
This amendment is designed to ensure that where a warrant falls within the scope of an international agreement between the United Kingdom and a foreign Government, the requesting agency is bound to notify the receiving provider and follow the terms of the agreement, along with the authorisation, transparency and oversight requirements of the Bill, and thus establish such agreements as the primary route by which UK agencies request data from overseas operators where such agreements exist.
In its present form the Bill appears to provide UK agencies with several options to seek data from overseas providers. These include mutual legal assistance treaties, mutual legal assistance conventions, international agreements of the kind recommended by Sir Nigel Sheinwald in his report, and straightforward service of a UK warrant extraterritorially. The Bill does not direct agencies as to which power to use and under what circumstances.
What is being sought is a direction to agencies on the face of the Bill to prioritise international agreements where they exist so that they become the primary route by which UK agencies request data from overseas providers, and that this will make it more likely that these agreements will become models for other Governments. Achieving this should provide a more predictable approach for both agencies and providers and reduce the likelihood of a situation where a number of Governments claim jurisdiction over data. I beg to move.
My Lords, I have added my name to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, because we on these Benches entirely agree with it. There is a difficulty in the UK asserting unilateral power over other territories in terms of enforceability if nothing else. Clearly, if there is an international agreement, it is far better that that is used as the primary route to achieve the government agencies’ objectives than relying on a slightly dubious assertion of the UK’s power overseas. On that basis, we support the amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to both the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for the way they introduced this amendment. Of course, its context, as the House will be aware, is the position of this country vis-à-vis the United States. I welcome the opportunity to respond to the amendment because it provides me with a chance to update the House on the progress of the proposed bilateral agreement between the United Kingdom and the United States on the issue of access to data across jurisdictions.
The UK and United States Governments have been considering a framework under which communications service providers based in one country could disclose data directly to the other for serious criminal and counterterrorism investigations when required to by a valid warrant or order, without facing a conflict of law. We need to address the situation—highlighted by Sir Nigel Sheinwald, David Anderson, and indeed some US-based companies themselves—where the content of communications between UK nationals, in the UK or in third countries, who are planning or committing crime in the UK, or others who pose a direct threat to the UK both here and abroad, can be beyond the reach of UK law enforcement simply because the data that relate to their communications happens to be stored in the United States.
I am pleased to say that in July 2016 the US Government sent a legislative proposal to Congress that, if passed, would pave the way for a bilateral agreement between the UK and US Governments. The legislation and agreement would help ensure that US-based communications service providers were able to respond to lawful orders from the UK by removing any perceived conflict of law that may previously have prevented co-operation. It would include strong safeguards and so maintain rigorous privacy protections while providing a means for UK agencies to make targeted requests for data relating to serious criminality. This type of agreement would be good for business, which requires greater certainty in the face of any conflict of laws; good for the public, because it would increase levels of transparency and oversight, while also ensuring that they are protected from key threats; and good for the internet, because it would avoid the challenges posed by data localisation and the balkanisation of the web.
We hope that such an agreement can be in place as soon as possible. However, any timetable will of course depend on the changes required to the relevant US legislation. We hope that these can be agreed quickly. Clearly, it would not be right to specify something that does not yet exist as a primary route in the Bill. However, I can reassure the House that, in practice, of course the intention is that such an agreement between the United Kingdom and the United States would be the primary route through which UK agencies access data from US-based communications service providers where it is within the scope of the agreement.
We have always sought to work with companies so that they are able to meet their obligations under UK law. This agreement will help to facilitate exactly that co-operation—so the amendment is not necessary. It is worth repeating what the Prime Minister said in March when she was Home Secretary: any company co-operating with its obligations through an international agreement will of course not be subject to enforcement action through the courts. I hope that these remarks are helpful, and for the reasons given I invite the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.
I thank the Minister for his reply and for the update on the discussions that are taking place towards an agreement that I hope will resolve some of the current difficulties. I am quite sure that the Minister’s words and the information he has given will be read with interest, not only within this House but outside it. I thank him for his reply and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 52 withdrawn.
Clause 51: Safeguards relating to retention and disclosure of material
Amendments 53 and 54
53: Clause 51, page 40, line 9, at end insert—
“( ) Where—(a) a communication which has been intercepted in accordance with a targeted interception warrant or mutual assistance warrant is retained, following its examination, for purposes other than the destruction of the communication, and(b) it is a communication that contains confidential journalistic material or identifies a source of journalistic information,the person to whom the warrant is addressed must inform the Investigatory Powers Commissioner as soon as is reasonably practicable.”
54: Clause 51, page 40, line 10, leave out subsection (7)
Amendments 53 and 54 agreed.
55: After Clause 52, insert the following new Clause—
“Additional safeguards for items subject to legal privilege
(1) This section applies where an item subject to legal privilege which has been intercepted in accordance with a targeted interception warrant or mutual assistance warrant is retained, following its examination, for purposes other than the destruction of the item.(2) The person to whom the warrant is addressed must inform the Investigatory Powers Commissioner of the retention of the item as soon as is reasonably practicable.(3) The Investigatory Powers Commissioner may—(a) direct that the item is destroyed, or(b) impose conditions as to the disclosure or otherwise making available of that item.(4) The Investigatory Powers Commissioner—(a) may require an affected party to make representations about how the Commissioner should exercise any function under subsection (3), and (b) must have regard to any such representations made by an affected party (whether or not as a result of a requirement imposed under paragraph (a)).(5) Each of the following is an “affected party” for the purposes of subsection (4)—(a) the person who decided to issue the warrant;(b) the person to whom the warrant is or was addressed.”
My Lords, I beg to move.
Amendment 55A (to Amendment 55) not moved.
Amendment 56 (to Amendment 55) not moved.
Amendment 57 (to Amendment 55) not moved.
Amendment 55 agreed.
Schedule 3: Exceptions to section 53
58: Schedule 3, page 212, line 4, leave out “or 56” and insert “, 56 or (Offence of breaching safeguards relating to examination of material under bulk interception warrants)”
My Lords, Amendment 58 and others in this group are also in the names of my noble friend Lord Janvrin and the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian. Amendments 58 and 59 are in fact consequential amendments. The substance is in Amendments 195, 203, 217 and 241, the purpose of which is to introduce specific penalties for misuse of powers concerned with bulk collection of data. Amendment 195 introduces penalties for the wrongful examination of material collected under bulk interception; Amendment 203 for the wrongful examination of bulk collection of communications data; Amendment 217 for the wrongful examination of data obtained from bulk equipment interference; and Amendment 241 for the wrongful examination of datasets collected in bulk. I make it clear that I do not believe that these powers are needed to deal with current abuse of powers by the intelligence agencies, nor because I expect the agencies to abuse the powers in the Bill in the future. I know enough of the agencies to know that their standards in these matters are high.
The reason for introducing these clauses is that the Bill gives exceptional powers, and the powers in respect of bulk collection have given rise to the greatest public concern. There are already specific offences for the misuse of other powers in the Bill; for example, targeted interception and access to communications data. Penalties for the misuse of equipment interference are covered by other legislation; for example, the Computer Misuse Act. However, at present there is no specific offence on powers which cause most concern to the public—the powers for bulk collection. For misuse of these powers, reliance would have to be placed on the general purposes in the Data Protection Act, on internal discipline or on the very general offence of misconduct in public office. There is clearly an unevenness here. The misuse of information collected under bulk powers should be subject to specific penalties like the misuse of other powers in the Bill. This matter was raised in Committee and I am glad to say that the Government have listened; we are very grateful for the discussions that have taken place.
I also make clear that it is no part of my intention that members of the intelligence agencies should be inhibited in their legitimate searches by fear that they may accidentally incur these penalties. Amendments 195, 203, 217 and 241 restrict the offence to cases where persons deliberately choose to examine material which they know or believe is not authorised under the Bill, so only deliberate misuse would be caught by these provisions.
I believe that these amendments are justified and that they introduce a proper balance into the Bill. I also believe that they satisfy the intentions of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, which drew attention to this unevenness. I am very grateful to the staff of the ISC and to the government Bill team for their help in formulating the amendments. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support the amendments for the very reasons that the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, has just set out. Bulk powers are exceptional powers and they raise concerns among the public. There are specific offences in other parts of the Bill and in other legislation, and now we are focusing on deliberate abuse. I echo what the noble Lord, Lord Butler, said about the integrity of the security services, but we believe that these specific offences are necessary for public reassurance, if nothing else.
My Lords, I was about to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Butler, on his excellent drafting of the amendments but he has slightly given away that it was not all done by his own fair hand. However, if the look on the Minister’s face is indicating that the Government might accept the amendments, we are delighted that the noble Lord’s influence from this House seems to be keeping pace with the influence that he had in his previous occupation. We are very content to support the amendments.
My Lords, we welcome the chance to revisit this important issue, which was debated in Committee.
In putting beyond doubt that deliberate wrongdoing in relation to the bulk powers will be subject to clear, criminal sanction, we accept that these amendments will provide clarity on a crucial issue. We also believe that they have been drafted in such a way that, rightly, they would not criminalise honest, well-intentioned mistakes by the staff of our security and intelligence agencies, who do so much to keep us all safe. As such, we believe they strike the right balance and are to be welcomed. Therefore, we are happy to accept the amendments.
Amendment 58 agreed.
59: Schedule 3, page 216, line 1, leave out “or 56” and insert “, 56 or (Offence of breaching safeguards relating to examination of material under bulk interception warrants)”
Amendment 59 agreed.
60: Schedule 3, page 218, line 25, leave out from “if” to end of line 27 and insert “restrictions imposed under section 19 of that Act are in force prohibiting attendance at the proceedings by any person who is not—
(a) a member of the panel of the inquiry,(b) a person appointed as legal adviser to the inquiry,(c) a person who is a relevant party to the proceedings,(d) a person representing such a person for the purposes of the proceedings, or(e) a person performing functions necessary for the proper functioning of the proceedings.”
My Lords, I shall now introduce a number of government amendments concerning the disclosure of information in relation to warrants.
Amendments 60 and 61 clarify those persons who may be present during restricted proceedings of an inquiry, as provided for under the Inquiries Act 2005, when intercept material is disclosed or examined. The proposed changes make it clear that intercept material can be disclosed in restricted proceedings only if restrictions are in place to prohibit attendance by anyone other than those individuals listed in Amendment 61.
I move on to Amendment 62. Clause 54 imposes a duty not to make unauthorised disclosures in relation to warrants issued under Part 2 of the Bill or Chapter 1 of Part 1 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. Clause 55 sets out the circumstances in which such a disclosure is permitted. This amendment corrects a minor error in relation to Clause 55, which would allow a person to whom a mutual assistance warrant is or was addressed to authorise a disclosure of material in relation to the warrant if it was in accordance with a statutory purpose. The person referred to here would be a competent authority outside the United Kingdom, such as a foreign law enforcement agency. We do not wish to allow for such a disclosure and the amendment simply removes the ability of a person to whom a mutual assistance warrant is or was addressed to authorise a disclosure in relation to that warrant.
Amendments 63 and 93 do not change the meaning of Clauses 55 and 125 but simply clarify the excepted disclosure provisions in the Bill. This minor change makes it clear that a disclosure of information made by a legal adviser in relation to a warrant is not an “excepted disclosure” where the intention is to further a criminal purpose.
Amendments 64 and 94 relate to Clauses 55 and 125, which provide for certain disclosures to be made in relation to warrants. These amendments propose changes to the regulation-making power by which the Secretary of State may provide for permitted disclosures of statistics in relation to warrants.
These changes will permit communications service providers to publish greater statistical detail about the warrants to which they have given effect. The regulations may, for example, permit companies to publish not only data regarding the number of warrants to which they have given effect but details relating to the number of customer accounts that are subject to warrants issued under the Bill. This demonstrates the Government’s commitment to ensuring that, in addition to improving the safeguards around the use of investigatory powers, we are also increasing transparency by providing for more information to be made available to the public on the number of times these powers have been used. Accordingly, I invite noble Lords to support these government amendments, technical as they are.
Amendment 60 agreed.
61: Schedule 3, page 218, line 29, at end insert—
“( ) In this paragraph “relevant party”, in relation to any proceedings of an inquiry, means—(a) any person making a disclosure to the panel of the inquiry, or to a person appointed as legal adviser to the inquiry, in accordance with paragraph 22(1);(b) any person giving evidence to the inquiry in circumstances where, in the absence of sub-paragraph (1), the prohibition imposed by section 53(1) would be breached;(c) any person whose conduct is the interception-related conduct (within the meaning of section 53) to which the disclosure or evidence relates (whether or not that conduct has in fact occurred);(d) any other person to whom the subject-matter of the disclosure or evidence has been lawfully disclosed in accordance with section 55.( ) Any reference in this paragraph to a person appointed as legal adviser to an inquiry is to be read in accordance with paragraph 22(3).”
Amendment 61 agreed.
Clause 55: Section 54: meaning of “excepted disclosure”
Amendments 62 to 64
62: Clause 55, page 43, line 37, at end insert—
“( ) But subsection (2)(b) does not apply in the case of a mutual assistance warrant that is or was addressed to a person falling within section 18(1)(h) (competent authorities of overseas countries or territories).”
63: Clause 55, page 44, line 16, leave out “a view to furthering any” and insert “the intention of furthering a”
64: Clause 55, page 44, line 27, leave out sub-paragraph (ii) and insert—
“(ii) consists of statistical information of a description specified in the regulations;”
Amendments 62 to 64 agreed.
Clause 57: Part 2: interpretation
65: Clause 57, page 46, line 4, at end insert—
“section (General definitions: “journalistic material” etc.) (general definitions: “journalistic material” etc.),”
Amendment 65 agreed.
Clause 96: Subject-matter of warrants
Amendment 66 not moved.
Clause 97: Power to issue warrants to intelligence services: the Secretary of State
Amendment 67 not moved.
Clause 104: Approval of warrants issued in urgent cases
68: Clause 104, page 81, line 28, at end insert—
“and section 103(5) does not apply in relation to the refusal to approve the decision.”
Amendment 68 agreed.
Clause 107: Items subject to legal privilege
Amendments 69 to 74
69: Clause 107, page 83, line 28, leave out “and (3)” and insert “to (3A)”
70: Clause 107, page 83, line 40, at end insert—
“( ) In deciding whether to issue the warrant, the person to whom the application is made must have regard to the public interest in the confidentiality of items subject to legal privilege.”
71: Clause 107, page 84, line 6, at end insert—
“(3A) But the warrant may not be issued if it is considered necessary only as mentioned in section 97(5)(c).”
72: Clause 107, page 84, line 6, at end insert—
“( ) For the purposes of subsection (3)(a), there cannot be exceptional and compelling circumstances that make it necessary to authorise or require interference with equipment for the purpose of obtaining, or the selection for examination of, items subject to legal privilege unless—(a) the public interest in obtaining the information that would be obtained by the warrant outweighs the public interest in the confidentiality of items subject to legal privilege,(b) there are no other means by which the information may reasonably be obtained, and(c) in the case of a warrant considered necessary for the purposes of preventing or detecting serious crime or as mentioned in section 101(3)(a), obtaining the information is necessary for the purpose of preventing death or significant injury.”
73: Clause 107, page 84, line 11, leave out “and (3)” and insert “to (3A)”
74: Clause 107, page 84, line 25, at end insert—
“(7A) Subsections (7B) and (7C) apply if—(a) an application is made for a warrant under this Part,(b) the purpose, or one of the purposes, of the warrant is—(i) in the case of a targeted equipment interference warrant, to authorise or require interference with equipment for the purpose of obtaining communications or other items of information that, if they were not communications made or (as the case may be) other items of information created or held with the intention of furthering a criminal purpose, would be items subject to legal privilege, or(ii) in the case of a targeted examination warrant, to authorise the selection of such communications or other items of information for examination, and (c) the applicant considers that the communications or the other items of information (“the targeted communications or other items of information”) are likely to be communications made or (as the case may be) other items of information created or held with the intention of furthering a criminal purpose.(7B) The application must—(a) contain a statement that the purpose, or one of the purposes, of the warrant is—(i) to authorise or require interference with equipment for the purpose of obtaining communications or other items of information that, if they were not communications made or (as the case may be) other items of information created or held with the intention of furthering a criminal purpose, would be items subject to legal privilege, or(ii) (in the case of a targeted examination warrant) to authorise the selection of such communications or other items of information for examination, and(b) set out the reasons for believing that the targeted communications or other items of information are likely to be communications made or (as the case may be) other items of information created or held with the intention of furthering a criminal purpose.(7C) The person to whom the application is made may issue the warrant only if the person considers that the targeted communications or other items of information are likely to be communications made or (as the case may be) other items of information created or held with the intention of furthering a criminal purpose.”
Amendments 69 to 74 agreed.
Amendments 75 and 76
75: After Clause 107, insert the following new Clause—
“Confidential journalistic material
(1) This section applies if an application is made for a warrant under this Part and the purpose, or one of the purposes, of the warrant—(a) in the case of a targeted equipment interference warrant, to authorise or require interference with equipment for the purpose of obtaining communications or other items of information which the applicant for the warrant believes will be communications or other items of information containing confidential journalistic material, or(b) in the case of a targeted examination warrant, to authorise the selection for examination of journalistic material which the applicant for the warrant believes is confidential journalistic material.(2) The application must contain a statement that the purpose, or one of the purposes, of the warrant is—(a) in the case of a targeted equipment interference warrant, to authorise or require interference with equipment for the purpose of obtaining communications or other items of information which the applicant for the warrant believes will be communications or other items of information containing confidential journalistic material, or(b) in the case of a targeted examination warrant, to authorise the selection for examination of journalistic material which the applicant for the warrant believes is confidential journalistic material.(3) The person to whom the application is made may issue the warrant only if the person considers that the arrangements made for the purposes of section 122 or (as the case may be) section 177 (safeguards relating to retention and disclosure of material) include specific arrangements for the handling, retention, use and destruction of communications or other items of information containing confidential journalistic material.(4) For the meanings of “journalistic material” and “confidential journalistic material”, see section (General definitions: “journalistic material” etc.).”
76: After Clause 107, insert the following new Clause—
“Sources of journalistic information
(1) This section applies if an application is made for a warrant under this Part and the purpose, or one of the purposes, of the warrant is to identify or confirm a source of journalistic information.(For the meaning of “source of journalistic information”, see section 239(1).)(2) The application must contain a statement that the purpose, or one of the purposes, of the warrant is to identify or confirm a source of journalistic information.(3) The person to whom the application is made may issue the warrant only if the person considers that the arrangements made for the purposes of section 122 or (as the case may be) section 177 (safeguards relating to retention and disclosure of material) include specific arrangements for the handling, retention, use and destruction of communications or other items of information that identify sources of journalistic information.”
Amendments 75 and 76 agreed.
Clause 110: Renewal of warrants
77: Clause 110, page 88, line 23, leave out from “106” to “apply” in line 24 and insert “to (Sources of journalistic information) (additional safeguards)”
Amendment 77 agreed.
Clause 112: Persons who may make modifications under section 111
78: Clause 112, page 89, line 39, leave out “sections 106 and 107” and insert “any of sections 106 to (Sources of journalistic information)”
Amendment 78 agreed.
Clause 113: Further provision about modifications under section 111
Amendments 79 to 82
79: Clause 113, page 90, line 25, leave out from “106” to “apply” in line 26 and insert “to (Sources of journalistic information) (additional safeguards)”
80: Clause 113, page 90, line 33, after “107” insert “, (Confidential journalistic material) or (Sources of journalistic information)”
81: Clause 113, page 90, line 44, leave out “section 106 or 107” and insert “any of sections 106 to (Sources of journalistic information)”
82: Clause 113, page 91, line 7, leave out “section 106 or 107” and insert “any of sections 106 to (Sources of journalistic information)”
Amendments 79 to 82 agreed.
Clause 114: Notification of modifications
83: Clause 114, page 91, line 28, leave out “section 106 or 107” and insert “any of sections 106 to (Sources of journalistic information)”
Amendment 83 agreed.
Clause 115: Approval of modifications under section 111 made in urgent cases
Amendments 84 to 86
84: Clause 115, page 91, line 37, after “107” insert “, (Confidential journalistic material) or (Sources of journalistic information)”
85: Clause 115, page 92, line 13, leave out “fifth” and insert “third”
86: Clause 115, page 92, line 31, at end insert—
“and, in a case falling within subsection (2) above, section 103(5) does not apply in relation to the refusal to approve the decision.”
Amendments 84 to 86 agreed.
Clause 116: Modification of warrants issued by law enforcement chiefs
87: Clause 116, page 94, line 3, leave out from “106” to “apply” in line 4 and insert “to (Sources of journalistic information) (additional safeguards)”
Amendment 87 agreed.
Clause 117: Approval of modifications under section 116 in urgent cases
Amendments 88 and 89
88: Clause 117, page 94, line 32, leave out “fifth” and insert “third”
89: Clause 117, page 94, line 42, at end insert—
“and section 103(5) does not apply in relation to the refusal to approve the decision.”
Amendments 88 and 89 agreed.
Clause 122: Safeguards relating to retention and disclosure of material
Amendments 90 and 91
90: Clause 122, page 99, line 21, at end insert—
“( ) Where—(a) material obtained under a targeted equipment interference warrant is retained, following its examination, for purposes other than the destruction of the material, and (b) it is material that contains confidential journalistic material or identifies a source of journalistic material,the person to whom the warrant is addressed must inform the Investigatory Powers Commissioner as soon as is reasonably practicable.”
91: Clause 122, page 99, line 22, leave out subsection (8)
Amendments 90 and 91 agreed.
92: After Clause 123, insert the following new Clause—
“Additional safeguards for items subject to legal privilege
(1) This section applies where an item subject to legal privilege is retained for purposes other than the destruction of the item following its examination under a warrant issued under this Part.(2) The person to whom the warrant is addressed must inform the Investigatory Powers Commissioner of the retention of the item as soon as is reasonably practicable.(3) The Investigatory Powers Commissioner may—(a) direct that the item is destroyed, or(b) impose conditions as to the disclosure or otherwise making available of that item.(4) The Investigatory Powers Commissioner—(a) may require an affected party to make representations about how the Commissioner should exercise any function under subsection (3), and(b) must have regard to any such representations made by an affected party (whether or not as a result of a requirement imposed under paragraph (a)).(5) Each of the following is an “affected party” for the purposes of subsection (4)—(a) the issuing authority (within the meaning given by section 122(11));(b) the person to whom the warrant is or was addressed.”
Amendment 92 agreed.
Clause 125: Section 124: meaning of “excepted disclosure”
Amendments 93 and 94
93: Clause 125, page 101, line 38, leave out “a view to furthering any” and insert “the intention of furthering a”
94: Clause 125, page 101, line 44, leave out sub-paragraph (ii) and insert—
“(ii) consists of statistical information of a description specified in the regulations;”
Amendments 93 and 94 agreed.
Clause 127: Part 5: interpretation
95: Clause 127, page 103, line 14, at end insert—
“section (General definitions: “journalistic material” etc.) (general definitions: “journalistic material” etc.),”
Amendment 95 agreed.
Consideration on Report adjourned.
Because everything has gone so quickly, I beg to move that the House do adjourn during pleasure until 7.30 pm.
Arrangement of Business
My Lords, as the Question for Short Debate is now last business, it will be 90 minutes in length and the Back-Bench speaking time is extended to five minutes.
Question for Short Debate
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they plan to improve the quality and affordability of housing in the United Kingdom.
My Lords, I begin by drawing your Lordships’ attention to my entry in the register of interests. I thank all those who are speaking in this short debate and am pleased that so many share my concerns. I look forward to hearing their speeches.
The provision of decent, affordable housing is at crisis point in the country. I share the Government’s ambition to build 1 million new homes. However, current building levels are well below that needed for an efficient and fully functioning housing market. Around 139,000 new homes were built in the year to June, but estimates of the housing need of people across the country indicate that up to 250,000 homes a year are required. Strong leadership and action are essential to solve this crisis, and putting local councils at the heart of it is vital.
Government legislation does not always assist. For example, in Colchester nine units of social housing are due in the next six months, after the ALMO’s housebuilding programme had to be cancelled due to the impact of the cuts in rent and the borrowing cap. The previous year, it built 32 homes and sold 34 homes under the right to buy.
A full range of options for the housing market should be on offer, not just home ownership. We have had many debates in this Chamber where one of the key points made, across the political spectrum, is how essential good-quality, affordable housing is to residents’ ability to make the most of their lives. Even if the country is able to achieve full employment by upskilling 3.5 million people to take higher-level, higher-paid jobs, which the economy is projected to create, analysis suggests that a minimum of 3.98 million people of working age will need access to affordable housing options by 2024.
Central to helping solve the problem is the replacement of homes sold under the right to buy and reinvestment in more genuinely affordable homes, which our cities, towns, villages and communities desperately need. This means the right homes in the right areas, creating healthy and inclusive communities. Would the Minister agree that it is not just younger people who require decent homes? The older population want homes that meet their particular needs, also in the areas of their choice.
Local authorities wish to explore all the options, including discounting the value of existing stock and housing revenue account borrowing from national public debt. This gives them flexibility to borrow to invest in the range of new homes as a key component of local infrastructure. This would allow them to meet a wide range of local needs while generating significant medium and long-term returns for public services.
Homelessness figures are rising sharply. The Government’s announcement in December of £5 million to help the 25 councils with the highest rate of homelessness is to be welcomed, but this has not halted the rise. Nineteen councils have reported a rise, including Birmingham, with a 50% rise in households in temporary accommodation, and Bromley, with a 24% rise. The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, will know that Southwark has also seen a rise.
Nationally, the biggest single reported reason for homelessness is loss of private rented sector accommodation. This sector has now overtaken the social sector as a tenure. Landlords are able to terminate assured shorthold tenancies for a number of reasons, including being influenced by tenant behaviour, a wish to realise capital value, or a need to accommodate their own family members. Also, the cost of housing benefit has increased as a result of the private rented sector overtaking the social sector as the main source of renting.
Affordability is essential. A recent briefing from the Resolution Foundation entitled Hanging On gives stark statistics of the stresses and strains of families who are only just managing. Annexe A of its report gives figures for the concentration of low to middle-income households for local authority areas with the highest concentration of children living in working families in receipt of tax credits. Given the speeches of my noble friend Lord Greaves over the years, noble Lords will not be surprised to hear that Pendle is at the top of the list with 55%. However, West Somerset, virtually on my doorstep, was second with 53.7%. West Somerset is a deeply rural community, covering part of Exmoor National Park. Here, children from both the market towns and rural areas have little access to leisure activities and services. Jobs are in short supply and often at the lower end of the pay scales. There is much deprivation, which sits uncomfortably with the beautiful surroundings.
Again, the Resolution Foundation gives figures for the average housing cost to income ratio among working age households by tenure type: for private rented it is 29%; for owning with a mortgage, 24%; for social rented, 18%; and for owning outright 4.9%. With a significant move towards the private rented sector, the ratio for low to middle-income families has increased from just over 18% in 1995 to over 24% in 2014-15. This rise in costs since the late 1990s is equivalent to an extra 14p on the basic rate of income tax for a dual-earning low to middle-income couple with children. Higher-income households have also seen a rise in their housing cost to income ratio, but one that is a proportionally smaller share of net income.
The quality of housing for those on low incomes is paramount. Many council and housing association homes have been brought up to the decent homes standards, but not all, and there still remain issues in the private sector. An extract from the housing section of Somerset’s joint strategic needs assessment summary of 2013-14 indicated that,
“District Councils have a responsibility to identify health and safety hazards in both private rented and owned properties, particularly where these impact vulnerable people. The emphasis is on acting to remedy these ‘Category One hazards’ before they result in a life changing event for the occupants … studies have shown that for every £1 spent remedying these hazards, it saves the NHS £3.36”.
As we all know, there is a clear link between poor energy efficiency, fuel poverty and poor health. A relationship exists between low thermal efficiency of housing and excess winter deaths. As winter approaches, I ask the Minister to say what measures the Government propose to implement to remedy this situation.
The Homes and Communities Agency has dropped imposing any standards over and above building regulations, which have now largely caught up with the Code for Sustainable Homes level 3 and now include many of the features of lifetime homes. Using building regulations provides a level playing field across tenures, and incremental adjustments have slowly raised the standard in the private sector, but have effectively lowered standards in the social sector. Government has issued a single set of national space standards but has left it to local planning authorities to adopt them only where they have evidence for doing so. However, British housing is among the smallest in the western world.
All types of local authority are involved with housing provision, including county councils which provide for adults and young people with learning and physical disabilities and elderly residents needing specialist housing. County councils work closely with their partners to maximise housing delivery and face challenges in achieving a strategic approach to provision, as infrastructure functions are split—as we all know—between district and county councils. The County Councils Network supports more strategic planning, which still allows for local input but means that a joined-up approach can be taken to housing, infrastructure and other services across county areas. Metropolitan and unitary authorities also have many of these problems.
Given that all sections of local government have considerable concerns about accommodating aspiring home owners and those wishing to rent, as well as the vulnerable and homeless in their communities, I press the Minister to say exactly what the Government will do to rectify this problem. It needs much more than a sticking plaster to effect a long-term solution.
I would add “acceptability” to the key words “quality” and “affordability” in the title of the noble Baroness’s important Question—I listened with particular care because I live not so far away from her in Somerset and understand exactly the issues to which she referred, strongly supporting as I do the Government’s housing policies—because, at a time of unparalleled demand for both homes to rent, whether in the public or private sector, and to buy, an equally key inhibitor to the pace of new building is local resistance to plans for new build, much less generally on brownfield sites than on greenfield land, from those who live nearby.
I do not believe that such feelings can be dismissed as mere nimbyism—that is to be arrogant towards those people who care about their local neighbourhoods and landscapes, even though I strongly believe that we must build more—for, too often, the design of many new homes in privately built areas is poor, if not sometimes downright crummy and ugly. The homes are tiny—the smallest in Europe. Try putting a broom in a cupboard in some newly constructed homes in both the public and private sector and you will find you need the skills of a contortionist to make this possible.
The landscaping at the edges of so much new housing is equally sketchy if not non-existent—the kind of hard edges to a building development which do not help the landscape at all. The pollution of the night sky by over-lighting is often damaging in the extreme, both to the people who live around and those who move into those housing estates. These are not just the despairing cries of architectural or landscape aesthetes. If local authorities and mass housebuilders deal with these issues, they will not necessarily make such new building, particularly on greenfield or edge-of-village sites, welcomed with open arms, but they will make it much more easily accepted in the long term, mitigating in the interim years of protest and probably delay in construction, which neither the Government nor those who want new homes wish.
Local authorities have fewer resources, so they have fewer architects, whether for the built environment or for landscapes. Some big housebuilders seem to have no architects at all. They are staffed mostly by people who turn over the concepts for the houses or flats they wish to build to simple so-called designers, whose job is to cram as much as possible on as little as possible, rather than using architects to raise the quality of the built environment and design and thus to improve not only the acceptability of those new homes I wish to see, but their speed of construction and, in the end, their profitability for companies and shareholders alike. Good design is not expensive; it is just thoughtful design and it is vital in our housing drive. I hope that that is a totally bipartisan or tripartisan—or indeed involving the Bishops—point of view, or whatever other link we have in the Chamber this evening. There is nothing party political about this.
The laying of roads and building of homes is an irreversible step. There is no turning back—land built on is never returned to the plough or woodland—so it is the bounden duty of housebuilders in the public and private sectors to do all they can to improve the sometimes shoddy and gimcrack designs of what they run up, and of the architectural profession to help break down the sometimes iron curtain between them and the mass housebuilders and fulfil the Government’s excellent plans. However, if these issues are not dealt with—I do not wish to see some government gauleiter or design overlord coming in to say that something has to be designed this way or that way—I am fearful that, in the hundreds of thousands of new houses and flats we need to see built in the next five years or so, we may be presiding over the kind of poor and destructive blots on the landscape that none of us wishes to see. I hope that the Government will take these concerns seriously.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, for introducing this debate. I want to draw detailed attention to the impact on people of living in small spaces.
Five years ago, the Royal Institute of British Architects said that family homes being sold by the UK’s eight biggest private housebuilders were on average eight square metres smaller than the minimum housing standard for the UK. Eight square metres is the size of a small bedroom. RIBA said that homes across the UK got smaller and smaller as prices rose higher and higher and waiting lists grew longer and longer.
I want to make three points, based on a recent study of micro-housing tenants. First, small living spaces put extra tasks into a busy working day. If a person cannot go to bed until they have folded away their dining table and unfolded their bed, after a while they may never unfold the dining table. Their living space becomes little more than a bed. This is not uncommon; it happens frequently in the big cities, including London.
Secondly, people who work in busy urban places cope with routine pressures in the form of space and noise. Tiny urban homes mean that this continues after work. People might live with the soundtrack of their neighbour’s favourite TV shows. They might constantly feel that they need to keep their own noise down. Home is not a peaceful place, nor is it a private place—and that is unacceptable.
Thirdly, there are impacts for families living in very small spaces. If children cannot move around and make a noise, their health and concentration suffer. Their family’s well-being suffers, too. We know that all these things cause stress, are detrimental to health and lead to families having a sense of unease, and feeling unsettled and unhappy.
I recognise that our housing crisis has caused small spaces to look like attractive options to some people, particularly if they are affordable and close to work. Some people may use them as a temporary solution; others may need them as long-term homes. Some small homes are thoughtfully designed, with good windows and access to outside spaces, but many of them do not provide these things. In those cases, homes can be hard and restrictive places.
Despite the many other dimensions of our housing crisis that we have heard about before in this Chamber and will no doubt hear about tonight, living spaces across different income brackets have become particularly difficult, especially for people at the bottom of the scale.
I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Patten, about design. This is partly the same problem: it is about rushing up something quickly that does not meet the needs of the medium-term and long-term future, and families suffer because of it. We must come to grips with this. There is a tendency to think, because the housing crisis is so severe, “Oh my goodness, it’s better to have a box than nothing”. I read in the Evening Standard that people are looking at putting up Portakabins, which is better than being homeless. But we cannot afford to let that be the standard. We must lift our eyes and imaginations and try to create the same kind of homes for this generation as we were lucky enough to enjoy when we were younger.
As an urgent step, would the Minister write to me and others in the House with an update on the progress of the nationally described space standard introduced in 2015? What difference has it made so far and what difference can it make? How can it be put into action more effectively in the places where it is most needed? I do not expect that answer tonight but I would very much like to see it in writing at the appropriate time.
My Lords, I must declare my registered interests, including that of chair of the housing association Housing & Care 21. I will make only two points, a general one and one in relation to retirement housing.
The Government are possibly at a turning point in their approach to housing because of their concerns about the national economy and that they will not achieve the objectives they set themselves. I hope that as the Government develop their plans to boost the amount of housebuilding they will recognise that to get more new homes built they must encourage all sectors of housebuilding, not just the promotion of private ownership. We will never get more than 160,000 or 170,000 homes per year—an absolute maximum—unless we have a much more general approach to housing policy. Private developers will build only houses they think will sell. Frankly, in the current uncertainty of the Brexit climate they will hold back on houses they are building. We must encourage larger developments that are more likely to be pushed out quicker and where there is commitment to mixed development—with private sale housing built alongside private rented and social rented accommodation—as well as encouraging provision for self-build and shared ownership. The plans to regenerate public-sector housing estates in our cities—a vital priority—will be achieved only if we have the same approach of partnership between the private and public sectors.
Secondly, on retirement housing, I think we all accept in this House—it is probably more immediate to our own outlooks on life—that the release of much-needed family housing plus the need to contain costs within the National Health Service mean we must promote much more independent living for retired people through accommodation that is well designed and supported for them and that takes them through into extra-care housing as well. To ensure that happens, I ask the Minister to look again at the Government’s current proposals to limit housing benefit to the local housing living allowance. Currently, that will take no account of the extra property costs for this type of retirement housing. That means that they are proposing, from 2019, to impose on existing retirement residents the need to pay—it will be deducted from housing benefit—the difference between the local housing living allowance and the actual rent. In almost all cases, the cost for these retirement properties will be higher because of the extra facilities they need. If the Government are not careful, they will have a reinvention of the bedroom tax regarding the retired population in this type of accommodation. It will also undermine plans by housing associations to fulfil commitments to their funders to develop more of this type of housing which is urgently needed. The result will be simply less development.
The Government need to look at this again. I know they have been looking at supported housing in general but they need to look at retirement housing quickly. People are already moving into this type of accommodation and will need to be warned of the extra charges that the Government are to impose on them. If they do not do this quickly they will hold up development of this type of housing, just at the time that the economy needs it.
My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Baroness for creating this opportunity to air these important matters. I had thought that the time was short so was going to confine myself to a very few points and I will resist the temptation to change my plan.
I just received a first draft of research that I commissioned into population trends and housing growth for the next 30 years in my diocese of west Kent, Medway and parts of south-east London. On the basis of known local authority plans, developer plans and projections, a population of 1.3 million is projected to increase by some 25% in that period. That is a lot of new homes—almost certainly 100,000 or more in a relatively small geographical area.
On affordability, if we are to maintain a healthy and mixed economy with jobs at different stages and levels in the employment world, as well as diverse and cohesive communities, it is crucial for a good proportion of those homes to be seriously affordable. I encourage us not to walk away from the debate about what is “affordable”, particularly in areas of high housing cost. As we already heard, ratios of average house price to average income in many parts of the country, not least the south-east, are extremely alarming.
On quality, my point is not so much about the quality of individual homes—some of that was mentioned by other noble Lords—but rather the question of good-quality living space in the broadest sense; that is, neighbourhood and social infrastructure as well as what might be called physical infrastructure. It is fairly easy to say that this is not the strongest suit of the volume housebuilders. Indeed, it is not their reason for existence. Even local authorities, which have an important continuing interest in these matters, are by and large no longer the direct providers of those things that build community and social infrastructure. Those with long experience in doing this are the community and voluntary sectors, including housing associations, residents’ groups, church and other faith bodies. We have been doing it for a long time.
Personally, I am delighted that in relation to the largest housing development in my area—a pretty big one: Ebbsfleet Garden City—we are already well engaged in conversations with the development corporation, developers and others about these matters of what the voluntary and other sectors can add in terms of community infrastructure. I urge that the capacity of these sectors be recognised, enhanced and ensured, and that, whether in policy documents or other ways, the Government see to it that representatives of these sectors have a place at the various tables where the quality of future housing developments is considered.
My Lords, I first declare my interests as an active property developer with an interest as a director and shareholder in several developments, notably in a development of houses in Bicester and future developments in Sussex and Scotland. All these are noted in the register.
We are asked how to improve affordability in housing, to which the trite answer must be to build more houses. However, the Government could take several actions now to make a difference. I have mentioned before the difficulty of getting planning permission and the slow processing of large applications. One quick win might be to look at the protection of great crested newts as the rules on this awful amphibian are said to be entirely from the EU. This benighted creature is, I am told, endangered on a European scale but not on a British scale. I ask my noble friend the Minister to look at this problem with a post-Brexit eye. The danger is that newts can be, and are, transported to controversial sites by objectors in order to delay property developments that they dislike.
A simple change that can be made is to reduce the taxation level on developers, with a view to encouraging them to build, rather than overburdening them. In addition to normal corporation tax, a developer will provide social housing at a rate of between 30% and 40% of all houses built. Add to that new schools, new roads, new bus services, new playing fields, new community centres, new community art and new books in the local library—all necessary, of course, but all expensive. The simple rule is that if you add more taxes, you get fewer new entrants to a market. I hope I can be understood to be arguing not for less tax on my interests but for more development of the houses we desperately need.
Some time ago, the Government introduced the new homes bonus into the financing structure of local authorities, and many people thought that this would go some way to solving the problem of the shortage of housing. Authorities which could predict a problem, such as the funding of a library or the possible closure of a day centre, could say, “If we grant permission for 100 houses now, the bonus will pay to solve that problem”. But the bonus is structured, subtly, to stop that thinking by paying it over four years, not instantly. That neatly removes the connection between granting permission and getting receipt of the bonus. Bonuses are normally a reward and incentive for desirable behaviour, as we all know, and the Treasury mandarins would presumably be against their own bonuses being paid slowly. Could my noble friend the Minister comment on this?
My Lords, I am a member of your Lordships’ Economic Affairs Select Committee. In July we produced our report on the housing market, Building More Homes. We concluded that the only practical way of increasing the affordability of housing is to increase supply, and that the only practical way of producing decent, secure homes for those who will never be able to buy is to increase the supply of social housing.
The Government have promised 1 million new homes by 2020. Even if this target is met, it will not be nearly enough to make houses more affordable. The Treasury estimates that even if these 1 million houses were built by 2020, house prices would still rise by 5% or 6% every year—way above the rate of wage increases. But even this target of 1 million by 2020 may not be met. The Government have claimed that starter homes will make the largest contribution to new build, with 200,000 starts. But in July, when we published our report, work on starter homes had yet to begin. I ask the Minister: three months on, have any starter homes in fact been started? Is 1 million new homes by 2020 still the Government’s target?
Whether or not that is still the Government’s target, it is unrealistic to rely on the private sector to build significantly more homes when its business model is, entirely understandably, maximisation of margin, not volume. The Treasury says that we need between 250,000 and 300,000 new homes every year simply to keep the house price to earnings ratio constant—constant, that is, at its currently very high level. If we are to do this and if we are not to neglect those who will never be able to afford to buy, we must involve local authorities and housing associations.
However, housing associations are constrained by George Osborne’s cuts to social rent. Local authorities are constrained by their legal inability to borrow to build houses. It is absurd that local authorities are free to borrow to build swimming pools but not to build new homes. Within normal prudential restraints, local authorities must be allowed to borrow to build homes; otherwise, house prices will rise even further out of reach and the supply of good, affordable and secure rented accommodation will not increase. That would be a social and economic disaster.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, for introducing this important debate. I find myself echoing some of the points that were well made by the noble Lords, Lord Stoneham and Lord Starkey, in particular.
I welcome very much the Government’s renewed commitment to build 1 million more homes by 2020. But who is going to build these homes and address issues of quality and affordability? We know that the housebuilders will not deliver more than 50% or 60% of the new homes that are so badly needed. This is because they will not accelerate their output, even where they have the land and the planning consents, any faster than they can sell at a good profit. Some councils, as we have heard, are willing to become major housebuilders again, but few are ready and able to do more because of unnecessary public spending rules and the acute financial pressures on all their services. Private landlords have not actually built new homes for decades. I greatly welcome the emerging new sector of build-to-rent developers, funded by institutional investors and offering more security and good management, but I doubt they will produce more than 2% or 3% of the Government’s 1 million home target, and they are bound to concentrate on the more affluent tenant.
This all leads me to conclude that the best bet today to get enough decent homes built is to harness the resources and commitment of the housing associations. These can produce at least a third of all the new homes we so desperately need. Yet many of these bodies are looking less ambitious and less optimistic about increasing their output. First, this is because their income from rents has taken a battering from the welfare cuts that have directly and indirectly reduced their income, while making life harder for tenants. The Department for Work and Pensions must ensure that its measures to reduce housing benefit do not simply reduce supply.
Secondly, the Department for Communities and Local Government needs to adopt a more flexible approach to the tenures and types of new homes it supports. It is not helpful to insist that housebuilders cut out the quota of affordable rented homes that currently they are obliged to build and pass over to housing associations, instead requiring them just to build starter homes for sale. Direct funding for housing associations should not be tied slavishly to shared-ownership accommodation, when there is a desperate need in so many places for affordable rented and, indeed, retirement housing.
There have been encouraging comments on a change of emphasis from the new Housing Minister, Gavin Barwell. Can the Minister confirm that flexibility is indeed the new watchword in housing policy? Only then can there be a significant increase in the number of affordable, decent-quality homes, which the housing associations are ready and willing to provide.
My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, on securing a debate on this urgent issue and attracting so many contributing speakers.
Chartered Institute of Housing figures show new housing supply continuing to fall behind new household growth. In England, annual supply remains 60,000 short of the break-even point with household growth. Will the Minister explain what the Government have done and are doing to ensure that the housing market delivers for everyone?
Problems of affordability—higher prices—are linked to greater demand. It is the basic law of supply and demand; if demand is greater than supply, prices will go up. The long-term trend towards smaller household size—lower headship rates—and thus larger household numbers is mainly due to older households, greater prosperity and increased divorce and separation. By 2037, the decline in headship rates will account for a third of the total growth in household numbers. We do not want less of the first two factors but reducing our high rates of divorce and separation would significantly dampen demand.
There were 115,696 divorces and civil partnership dissolutions in England and Wales in 2013, and a far less precise number of separating cohabitees, whose relationships are twice as unstable as marriages. Divorces were highest among couples aged 40 to 44, very many of whom have dependent children who will want overnight stays with both their parents. Accommodating this understandable desire requires two family-sized homes. Yes, some separating parents can afford only a single room in a shared house, while re-partnering leads to household rationalisation, but fractured families still place significant pressure on housing stock.
Much of the increasing homelessness among young people and adults is due to family and relationship breakdown. In 2012, Croydon Council reported a 53% rise in homelessness caused by family breakdown. The public understand this link: in a Eurobarometer study, a fifth of British adults stated that break-ups or the loss of a close relative cause homelessness. Housing problems also drive family breakdown. Squalid and unstable housing severely strains relationships—the noble Lord, Lord Sawyer, referred to this earlier—but, as already stated, prosperity has also driven smaller household size.
Policy to support family relationships has been consistently neglected by Governments; it requires as much attention as our housing stock. Can my noble friend the Minister inform the House when the promised family stability indicator will be delivered and precisely how it will drive this Government’s support for communities experiencing the highest levels of family instability, and thereby reduce the housing demand that family breakdown brings about?
My Lords, this timely debate focuses on the issues of housing quality and affordability —matters scarcely addressed in the Housing and Planning Act over which this House laboured for four months. Even now, five months after Royal Assent, we await the outcome of consultations on a range of provisions included in what a Conservative Peer described as “this terrible, terrible Bill”—let alone the secondary legislation that will translate its aspirations into practice. As to the latter, it is high time that the Government reported on progress in relation to consultation and the likely timetable for the incoming tide of regulations that will implement the policies embodied in the Act. Perhaps the Minister could enlighten us as to that timetable.
Quality was not featured in the Bill, which was essentially designed to run down council and, in effect, social housing to finance and promote owner occupation. Let me be clear: the aspiration of home ownership is absolutely legitimate and should be encouraged, but not at the expense of those whose housing needs cannot be met by that sector. The quality of new-build housing in terms of space standards and energy efficiency, to which some of your Lordships have referred, lags behind that of our continental neighbours—thanks in no small part to the coalition Government’s deliberate weakening of requirements, especially in relation to the latter. When I was first elected a councillor in Newcastle in 1967, houses were built to Parker Morris standards, long since abandoned. As I have mentioned before in this Chamber, in that year Newcastle City Council built 3,000 council houses.
In some ways, the most disturbing feature of government policy has been the weight given to affordability. For social housing tenants this is defined not in relation to their income but as 80% of what private landlords can charge as market rents in a time of acute housing shortage. All too often, this imposes real hardship. Characteristically, the Government seek to buy votes via the right to buy both council and housing association homes, funded in part by the sale of so-called high-value properties. If there are insufficient sales, the Government will impose a levy on councils.
The starter homes programmes will confer large, untaxed capital gains on purchasers, especially at the top end of the new house price range, wholly irrespective of means. First-time buyers from comfortably-off families in London, for example, will enjoy a discount of up to some £90,000 and the no-doubt inevitable rise in value on resale. Meanwhile, social housing provision faces the prospect of not only the loss of accommodation through right to buy but the pernicious effects of the Government’s enforced reduction of rents in the sector—nothing, of course, is being done in that respect in the private sector. This even includes supported housing. Money which would have been invested in maintaining and improving the existing stock of council and housing association properties, and perhaps contributed to the provision of desperately needed new, genuinely affordable homes, will now be used by the Government to reduce the cost of housing benefit—though not, of course, in the private rented sector.
In Newcastle alone, the enforced 1% rent reduction policy will lead to a 12% reduction in rental income by 2020—or £40 million, rising over time to £590 million. On a national scale, we are looking at a loss of investment in council housing running into billions. In addition, the council will in the meantime suffer a levy on high-value properties, as I have said, whether or not they are sold. Again, we will be looking at millions of pounds lost, though in the absence of any clarity from the Government it is impossible at this stage to be precise about the impact. I do not know whether the Minister will be able to give us any estimate of what that is expected to realise.
Finally, there is the impact on housebuilding. The Conservative-led Local Government Association has estimated that 88,000 council homes will be sold by 2020 and predicts that 80,000 of these homes will not be replaced. These figures will no doubt be echoed in relation to housing association homes. The warm words of the Prime Minister, Mrs May, on the steps of 10 Downing Street sounded like a return to relatively benign Conservatism of the kind that Harold Macmillan embodied as Housing Minister in the early 1950s when, among other things, he encouraged the building of council homes. He must be spinning in his grave.
My Lords, I rise to raise the important issue of supported homes and to ask the Minister what plans the Government have to provide more supported housing for disadvantaged groups of people.
For example, there are very many young people, care leavers in particular, who live in temporary accommodation, stay with friends, stay with relatives or sofa-surf and often end up rough sleeping and open to criminal influences. There are specialist housing associations which provide accommodation for such people, but there are not enough of them. I understand that one of the reasons given for high levels of reoffending by ex-offenders is a lack of suitable supported accommodation to enable them to take responsibility for their own lives. I would like the Government to look into more housing for women suffering from domestic violence. There is some accommodation, but not enough. Very often these people end up rough sleeping on our streets. Problems with getting people off drugs are exacerbated by the fact that often these people have nowhere to go and no support. Very often they end up in areas which are effectively drug supermarkets. We have to look at how better and more appropriate accommodation can be provided for these people.
There is a need for much more social housing. As we have heard, the Government are very keen on home ownership. As everyone says, nobody is against home ownership, but I know very many families in my city who will never be able to afford to own their own home. The number of social housing properties is going down as they are being sold off, and as we are selling off housing association accommodation too, that hits supported housing projects for people who really need it. Will the Minister say what plans the Government have for this kind of specialised accommodation and how more of it might be provided?
I do not believe that we cannot have lots more housing and good design. When I was leader of Bristol City Council, Bristol was the green capital. We visited lots of places in Europe with high-quality, high-density design, not high-rise flats but properly designed communities with infrastructure and schools using sustainable material. If we are looking at a high-quality environment, perhaps we should be looking at that in Europe.
There are three questions there. What is going to happen about more specialised supported housing? How are we going to increase social housing and provide accommodation for all those people who need it in cities with rising waiting lists? What will the Government do to encourage a high-quality environment? Perhaps this is again something on which we should learn from our neighbours in Europe.
My Lords, I welcome this timely debate regarding future housing growth. We have the largest affordable housing programme since the 1970s, with a £20 billion investment responding to the 86% of people who want to have the opportunity to get on the ladder and buy their own homes. I declare my interest, as set out in the register, as leader of a local authority.
Good local government needs to play a key role in establishing an ambitious vision not only for individual areas but for combined areas, such as Greater Lincolnshire. I shall quickly focus on Greater Lincolnshire Combined Authority’s devolution deal, which recognises the demand. In response, it is committed to support the development of 25,000 new homes by 2021 and 100,000 new homes over the next 20 years. With direct intervention, our combined authorities, working together with the HCA, are committed to invest £100 million of their own resources in the local housing market.
In North Lincolnshire, we propose to go for garden city status. We recognise our part in stimulating our housing areas. One ambitious project—the Lincolnshire Lakes concept—will transform the image and economy of North Lincolnshire. The lakes development is a £1.2 billion project which is dependent on front-loading major new infrastructure. As we know, access and connectivity are important, as is social infrastructure. The project will create a new marina, a business park, leisure attractions, a new Scunthorpe United football stadium and 7,000 new homes in six new villages built around five newly created la