Committee (5th Day)
Relevant documents: Pre-legislative scrutiny by the Joint Committee on the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill, Session 2015–16; 1st Report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights; 2nd Report from the Delegated Powers Committee; 3rd Report from the Constitution Committee
194H: After Clause 220, insert the following new Clause—
“Technology Advisory Panel
(1) Within six months of the passing of this Act a Technology Advisory Panel shall be established.(2) The Panel shall be appointed by and report directly to the Investigatory Powers Commissioner.(3) The purpose of the Panel shall be to advise the Secretary of State and the Investigatory Powers Commissioner on—(a) the impact of changing technology on the exercise of investigatory powers; and(b) the availability and development of techniques to use investigatory powers while minimising interference with privacy.”
My Lords, first, I express our thanks to David Anderson QC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, for his independent review of the operational case for the bulk investigatory powers contained in Parts 6 and 7 of the Bill, including the Operational Case for Bulk Powers document published with the Bill. The review came about as a result of pressure from the shadow Home Office team during the passage of the Bill in the Commons and is intended to assist in our consideration of the need for the bulk powers in the Bill.
While there had been three preparatory studies, pre-legislative and legislative scrutiny by a number of parliamentary committees, and the Government’s presentation in March of the operational case, consideration of the Bill had not included an authoritative, independent analysis of the operational case for the bulk investigatory powers in Parts 6 and 7. This is now the first opportunity we have had to discuss Mr Anderson’s report as it was not available either at Second Reading or the days spent in Committee prior to the Summer Recess.
The review by David Anderson, which became available last month, considered the operational case—whether there was one, and the strength or otherwise of any such case—for four of the powers in the Bill, namely: bulk interception, bulk equipment interference, bulk acquisition of communications data and bulk personal datasets. These powers can be used only by MI5, MI6 and GCHQ. It seems that the UK is one of five EU member states, the others being Germany, France, the Netherlands and Sweden, which have detailed laws that authorise the conduct of activities similar to at least some of the powers that Mr Anderson was asked to review.
In chapter 4 of his report Mr Anderson sets out the methodology by which he sought to evaluate the operational case for the powers under review. In paragraph 4.5 on page 72 he states that:
“A frame of reference is needed for the purposes of evaluating the utility or otherwise of the powers under review”.
Mr Anderson says that such a framework is not provided by the Government’s operational case, to which I have already referred, since it,
“categorises the purposes served by the powers under review in ways which lack coherence and consistency”.
He says that he had to ask the security and intelligence agencies to agree a classification against which their claims of utility could be evaluated. Perhaps the Minister can give us the Government’s response to Mr Anderson’s views on the operational case for the bulk powers he was asked to review.
Each member of the review team was in agreement with the conclusions of Mr Anderson’s report and with the single recommendation that he made. The report’s conclusion is that there is,
“a proven operational case for three of the bulk powers, and that there is a distinct (though not yet proven) operational case for bulk equipment interference”.
Equipment interference in bulk as opposed to a targeted equipment interference warrant is a new power. The report also found that:
“The bulk powers play an important part in identifying, understanding and averting threats in Great Britain, Northern Ireland and further afield. Where alternative methods exist, they are often less effective, more dangerous, more resource-intensive, more intrusive or slower”.
Mr Anderson was not asked to reach conclusions as to the proportionality or desirability of the bulk powers, as opposed to the operational case for them, on the grounds that these are matters for Parliament.
David Anderson’s report makes a single recommendation, which is covered by this amendment. That recommendation is that a technology advisory panel of independent academics and industry experts should be appointed by the Investigatory Powers Commission to advise on the impact of changing technology and on how MI5, MI6 and GCHQ can reduce the privacy footprint of their activities.
While the report finds that the bulk powers in question have a clear operational purpose, it accepts that technological changes will lead to new questions being raised and that adoption of the recommendation for a technology advisory panel will enable such questions to be asked and answered on a properly informed basis. I hope that, when he responds, the Minister will indicate where the Government stand in relation to the single recommendation in the report. We fully support the recommendation and the case that Anderson has made for the panel, which we believe should be established as soon as practicably possible.
While there is only a single recommendation in the report—and this is our first opportunity to discuss it—other points and issues are addressed. I should like to take the opportunity to raise some of them with the Government and to seek a response on the record prior to making any decisions about what and what not to raise on Report.
Paragraph 2.84 on page 45 of the Anderson report states:
“It has come to my attention that some”,
bulk personal datasets,
“may contain material that is comparable to the content of communications, and in rare cases even material subject to”,
legal professional privilege.
“In the light of these facts I have already recommended to the Home Office that consideration be given to the introduction of additional safeguards to the Bill and Code of Practice”.
Can the Minister say what action the Government have taken or intend to take in the light of what David Anderson has said in the paragraph to which I have just referred?
In paragraph 2.53 on page 36 of his report, Mr Anderson states:
“The Government has expressly acknowledged that targeted thematic EI”—
“operations, like their bulk counterparts, can take place ‘at scale’, and that they may cover a large geographic area or involve the collection of a large volume of data”.
He goes on to say that nevertheless the thematic equipment interference power is subject to fewer limitations. He says that, in particular, targeted thematic equipment interference operations,
“can be conducted by a wider range of authorities (including the police) … need not be connected with national security, and … need not be overseas-focused”.
In paragraphs 2.56 and 2.57 on page 37 of his report, David Anderson says that he has previously commented that the widely drawn provision for targeted thematic equipment interference in practice introduces an alternative means of performing bulk equipment interference but with fewer safeguards, and that it should be possible to reduce the scope of targeted thematic warrants,
“so as to permit only such warrants as could safely be issued without the extra safeguards associated with bulk”.
He goes on to say that that comment relates to the desirable scope of targeted warrants under Part 5 of the Bill and not to the powers that he was tasked to review. Consequently, he says that he has not pursued the matter in his report, apart from noting that it would be particularly important for those authorising and approving warrants to ensure that the thematic powers are kept within strict bounds and not used as a means of avoiding or circumventing the restrictions that are quite properly being placed on the authorisation of bulk warrants.
David Anderson concludes his report by saying:
“I hope and expect that the IPC will keep a particularly close eye on this”.
I do not think it is unrealistic to suggest that if this issue had come within Part 6 or Part 7 of the Investigatory Powers Bill, which he was asked to review, rather than in Part 5, and in the light of the comments he has made in his report, David Anderson might have made some sort of recommendation on the point about the use of targeted thematic equipment interference, rather than simply expressing the hope that the Investigatory Powers Commissioner will keep a particularly close eye on this. Since this is also a matter that Mr Anderson has raised previously with the Government, and in the light of his rejoinder in paragraph 2.56 which shows that he does not appear to have been convinced by the Government’s response, what action do the Government intend to take on Mr Anderson’s view that excessive weight is being placed by the Government on the discretion of decision-makers and that it should be possible to reduce the scope of targeted thematic warrants so as to permit only such warrants as could safely be issued without the extra safeguards associated with bulk?
The Bill and the terms of reference of the Anderson review are based on a narrow definition of “bulk powers” and are limited to those powers that provide for data in bulk to be acquired by the Government themselves. Powers to require providers of telephone and internet services to collect and retain their customers’ data in bulk do not qualify as bulk powers, even when intelligence or law enforcement agencies have the power to acquire those data. Referring to bulk personal datasets in paragraph 2.74 on page 43 of his report, David Anderson says that the power to retain and use bulk personal datasets,
“differs from the other powers under review”,
for though, like them, the power in the Bill is exercisable only by the security and intelligence agencies, the reality is that the National Crime Agency, police forces and other bodies also obtain, retain and use bulk personal datasets outside the scope of the Bill, and will continue to do so.
David Anderson goes on to say that,
“it is well known that the analysis of bulk data is already conducted at a high degree of sophistication both within Government and, especially, in the private sector”.
Continuing, he says that the searching of bulk personal datasets by the security and intelligence agencies is performed in a way that is analogous to commercial techniques. However, far from claiming to employ searching techniques any more advanced than those available commercially, Anderson says that the security and intelligence agencies see themselves as “catching up” with the commercial sector. It seems that the examples Mr Anderson and his team were shown appeared relatively straightforward and were not indicative of the use of bulk personal datasets to predict in the highly sophisticated manner attributed to some private sector operatives.
The 2015 Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament report criticised the absence of,
“restrictions on the acquisition, storage, retention, sharing and destruction of bulk personal datasets”.
This Bill sets out to address those concerns. But how and when are those concerns about the obtaining, retaining and use of bulk personal datasets by all those outside the security and intelligence agencies, including the private sector, going to be addressed? I would be obliged if the Minister could respond to that question in his reply.
David Anderson refers in paragraph 1.20 on page 8 of his report to the principal safeguards applicable to the powers under review. He goes on to say that it remains to be seen whether further safeguards will be needed in relation to certain capabilities, such as accessing communications data as a consequence of EU law. A footnote at the bottom of page 8 refers to the opinion of the Advocate-General in the case of the Home Secretary v Tom Watson MP, involving a legal challenge to the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 and the principal safeguards pressed by the Advocate-General, including prior independent approval and a ban on use for the investigation of ordinary or non-serious crime. Although the opinion of the Advocate-General does not represent a decision by the court, do the Government take the view that the safeguards pressed by the Advocate-General are already incorporated in all relevant sections of the Bill? I raise this point also in light of the fact that Mr Anderson’s terms of reference did not provide for his review to cover the whole range of powers that could be described as bulk powers.
The powers in this Bill which are liable to result in the collection or retention of large quantities of data not relating to current targets but which fall outside the scope of his review include, of course, the proposed new power to require the retention of internet connection records and the power to target equipment interference on equipment in a particular location, for example, which will be covered by the thematic emergency interference power.
In paragraph 2.41(b) on page 33 of his report, David Anderson states that it is not currently envisaged that the bulk acquisition power in the Bill will be used to obtain internet connection records. In a footnote at the bottom of that page, though, Mr Anderson states that he has been told that this is no more than a statement of present practice and intention and that neither the Bill nor the draft code of practice rules out the future use of the bulk acquisition power in relation to internet connection records. Can the Minister say in what circumstances the Government might wish in future to see the bulk acquisition power used in relation to internet connection records, and whether going down this road would necessitate further legislation or a change in the code of practice to which the agreement of Parliament would have to be obtained?
Finally, I come back to the single recommendation in the report for the setting up of a technology advisory panel, appointed by and reporting to the independent Investigatory Powers Commission, to support both the IPC and the Secretary of State by advising them on the impact of changing technology on the exercise of investigatory powers, and on the availability and development of techniques to use those powers while minimising interference with privacy.
Mr Anderson says in paragraph 9.30 of his report on page 128 that he was strengthened in his resolve to make this recommendation by learning of the existence, not publicly disclosed until now, of the scientific advisory committees, or SACs, that give external advice to, respectively, MI5, MI6 and GCHQ. This is not the only matter that has emerged into the public domain in recent months relating to our security and intelligence services and the way in which they function. One only hopes that in future there will be rather harder challenges made about the need to keep information secret which if made public would not constitute a threat to national security or the effectiveness of our security and intelligence services, but which might, if made public, enhance trust over the necessity for the powers that they have, the way in which they are exercised and the safeguards and checks that apply. I move Amendment 194H.
I hope I am right in thinking that the Government did not table an amendment to this effect at this stage because of time constraints and that they will bring forward their own version. In case I am wrong about that, I will ask the Minister a question which I asked him privately a couple of days ago: what do we have to do to persuade the Government to accept Mr Anderson’s recommendation? I can hear the response to a different hypothetical amendment, but David Anderson did not recommend that. So we have the converse being the situation we have now. There is so much confidence in him. We are all aware of the care that he has taken with this report and to stay within the terms of reference, which we, too, would have liked to have been rather wider. His recommendation should be accepted. None of us will be surprised to be told, “Yes, in principle, but not quite this drafting”. Nor is it surprising that the answer to the question about the operational case is, “Yes, there is a utility in these powers”, even though, as I say, the question is narrower than we would have liked to have seen.
Mr Anderson identified the difficulties of buying in expertise to perform the functions that he has talked about. He said that the experts involved should be “capable of probing” the agencies,
“explaining difficult concepts to lay decision-makers, and generally contributing to the culture of robust challenge that will be essential to the effective operation of the IPC”.
“a mixture of independent academics and individuals with substantial, current experience of industry”.
He does not discount moral philosophers. I am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady O’Neill, just left, because there are Members of this House who could make the case for moral philosophers in this arrangement and who, by their own contributions over a range of issues, continually make the case.
Mr Anderson also quoted a point about the importance of the IPC proactively seeking out and bringing to public attention,
“material legal interpretations on the basis of which powers are exercised or asserted”.
I have struggled—as will have been clear enough to other noble Lords—to understand the subject matter of the Bill to get beyond the answer to Polonius’s question:
“What do you read, my lord?”,
which for me is also, “Words, words, words”. Graham Smith, the lawyer who made this point and who is quoted by David Anderson, in evidence to the Joint Committee wrote about the importance of bringing,
“a legal interpretation … to the attention of the oversight body which would have to bring it to public attention”.
He said that such mechanisms—bringing legal interpretations into the arena—would enable them to be,
“publicly debated and if appropriate challenged”.
He talked about providing,
“not only oversight but insight”.
I like that phrase.
These issues of the legal interpretation are inseparable from what is conventionally thought of as technical. I mention them now as it seems useful to try to cover the ground a little. I will try not to repeat the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, with which, by and large, these Benches completely agree.
David Anderson gave us one example of the technological issues affecting the future use of bulk powers: the continuing trend towards anonymisation. I thought I would share with the Committee an experience I had recently that brought home to me of what general and overwhelming public importance these issues are. I was very startled to find that a play I went to at the Edinburgh Fringe a couple of weeks ago was about RIPA—not perhaps what you want at nine o’clock in the morning of a holiday. It was also primarily about how easily information about each of us is accessed, used or misused. I hope that Tim Price, the writer, will forgive my quoting him alongside Shakespeare, but I was taken by this. I will not read the whole script. He said that,
“if you believe in freedom of association, if you believe in freedom to protest, if you believe in privacy, then the only way to exercise those freedoms is to be anonymous … If a Government cannot identify you, it cannot surveil you”.
From these Benches, we support the amendment.
My Lords, I support my noble friend’s amendment, which he very ably moved. As he said, it is the only amendment recommended by David Anderson QC with regard to his latest report.
The issue of bulk powers is enormously important and this is the first time that the Committee has had an opportunity to discuss the report on the whole question. It was discussed at some length by the Joint Committee, which I was privileged to chair. The committee took both oral and written evidence and finally came to and made 23 conclusions and recommendations on bulk powers in its report to both Houses of Parliament. We asked the Government to give a fuller justification for bulk powers, which they did. We were worried about the need to ensure that Article 8 of the European convention would be complied with. We said that the Investigatory Powers Commissioner should report within two years on proper safeguards around these powers, that a proper code of practice on equipment interference and indeed on bulk personal databases should be established, and that the ISC should look at the issue of bulk personal databases.
I think that the other place took a wise decision in asking the distinguished Mr Anderson to look in enormous detail at bulk powers, and it seems that he has made an overwhelming case for bulk interception, bulk acquisition and bulk personal databases. The case for bulk equipment interference was less strong, but nevertheless still there. As I say, the operational case for bulk powers was impressive and the report sets out the need for these powers to deal with terrorists, child abuse, cyberattacks on companies, rescuing hostages in Afghanistan and organised crime. What particularly impressed me is the importance of speed in these operations and of the powers to deal with all these problems being used quickly to ensure that proper information can be given to the appropriate agencies.
Mr Anderson inevitably looked at the alternatives to bulk powers, but said that they,
“would often be less effective, more dangerous, more resource-intensive, more intrusive or slower”.
Having said all that, there still needs to be a proper regime of safeguards if Parliament finally agrees with the Government about the bulk powers provided for in the Bill. We should look at those proper safeguards. Clearly the use of both a judge and the Secretary of State is important. I believe too that the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament should look very carefully indeed at the use of bulk powers in the months and years ahead.
Finally, my noble friend referred specifically to the single recommendation for the setting up of a technical advisory panel. It is worth reflecting on the fact that in his report, David Anderson said that the panel would deal not only with technological changes but with how MI5, MI6 and GCHQ could reduce the privacy footprint of their activities. That is why I support the recommendations and the conclusions of the Anderson report and I urge the Government to ensure that in implementing it there are proper safeguards as we go forward in these hugely changeable technological times.
My Lords, other noble Lords have taken the opportunity in addressing this amendment to make some general comments about David Anderson’s excellent report on bulk powers, so I shall do the same in what I hope will be just a few words. In my view, Mr Anderson has made a powerful case for the need for the bulk powers that he describes. They are very much a part of the fight against terrorism. Similar powers have been used well by the security services and authorities in this country and—touching wood and crossing fingers—that is the reason why we have not experienced, for example, what happened in Nice. I agree entirely with what has just been said by the noble Lord, Lord Murphy, who as we know has considerable experience in dealing with and judging these matters, and I share his view that the safeguards should be as strong in every way as has been recommended by Mr Anderson.
Turning to the question of the technology advisory panel, I have complete sympathy with Mr Anderson’s menu but not necessarily with the recipe. With respect to him, I think that we might do rather better than his suggestion of the way in which a technology advisory panel is established. I suspect that he would be the first to agree that what he is concerned with is not the form of the panel, nor to whom it is accountable, but the substance: what it does and what it sets out to achieve.
My suggestion to the Government is that we could broaden the technology advisory panel’s scope and make it more acceptably accountable. The suggestion by Mr Anderson is an unusual one, in that the panel should be appointed by, and be accountable and report directly to, the Investigatory Powers Commissioner. That suggests that it has a pretty narrow scope. In my view—obviously, I use my now rather historical experience as the previous Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation—a technology advisory panel would indeed be valuable, but not just to the Investigatory Powers Commissioner. My suggestion is therefore that this panel should exist but that it should be appointed by the Secretary of State and, through them, should be accountable to Parliament, at least in a general sense.
The advice given by the technology advisory panel would of course be available to the Investigatory Powers Commissioner, but he is not the only commissioner. It would also be available, if appointed by the Secretary of State and accountable in that normal way, to parliamentary committees and other commissioners, to which it could give advice. Indeed, my hope is that a technology advisory panel, or something with a similar name and that intent, should, like the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, publish not only annual reports but tasked reports on specific issues raised —of which the Anderson report we are discussing is a very good example.
The technology advisory panel, if appointed on a broader basis with that greater accountability, would help considerably without placing undue burdens on the security services, the police or GCHQ. Indeed, they, too, would be able to turn to it if they wished to; it would be a matter for their chiefs. We have some experience present in this House as we speak.
I hope that we can adopt the spirit of this part of Mr Anderson’s remarkable report, but perhaps look at ways of making it even more useful than he had in mind, and with forms of accountability that we in this House and the other place understand more readily.
This is a very limited amendment in one sense, but this has become something of a Second Reading debate on the Anderson report, and I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, on the way he introduced it. He made it clear that there is a considerable degree of common ground on the importance of these powers, which have been so carefully scrutinised by Mr Anderson. The whole House will recognise the great debt that we owe him. People not just in this country but in many others will read this report with great interest. As we have said before, there is no doubt that the threat is severe and very real, and we need to ensure that we have all reasonable methods of combating it. We will go further into this issue. I listened with great interest to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile. I will also be interested to hear what my noble friend the Minister has to say about the panel and the noble Lord’s recommendation. Even if it is not identical to what he recommends, something along these lines may well have considerable merit.
My Lords, if this was another forum, I might well say that I concur with the opinion of my noble friend Lord Carlile and say nothing more, but I, too, would like to add a few comments about this remarkable report. It has attracted some controversy. There was a sense at one stage, I think, that Mr Anderson was going up to the mountain and was expected to come down with tablets of stone, and to some extent he has done that.
The point I will direct my brief remarks to is where Mr Anderson says that the review does not,
“reach conclusions as to the proportionality or desirability of the bulk powers … As the terms of reference for the Review made clear, these are matters for Parliament”.
My judgment—I do not suggest that my judgment is any better or worse than any other noble Lord’s—is that from the point of view of proportionality and desirability, these powers meet those two criteria. I offer in support of that the fact that the continuing threat level in this country is severe, as well as the experience in France and other parts of Europe. In that sense, if we are to reach a judgment about proportionality and desirability, I most certainly am on the side of those who say that those two elements are more than satisfied by the requirements now placed on us all in relation to the security of this country.
My Lords, I would like to put three questions to the Government, which arise from Mr Anderson’s latest report. There are not many surprises in the report but one of them—certainly to me and most other people who follow these matters—was the revelation that bulk personal datasets are used by agencies beyond the intelligence agencies. Perhaps the Minister could give us some information about which other bodies use bulk personal datasets.
I also ask the Minister to put on the record the difference between bulk equipment interference and thematic targeted equipment interference. I got the impression from Mr Anderson’s report that he was struggling to spot the dividing line, apart from that bulk equipment interference is likely to be required where,
“the Secretary of State and the Judicial Commissioner is not ... able to assess the necessity and proportionality to a sufficient degree at the time of issuing the warrant”.
Necessity and proportionality are the golden rules throughout the Bill and their apparent demise in respect of bulk equipment interference seems to alter the relationship between the citizen and the state. My third question is to ask the Minister to comment on this apparent relinquishing of the golden rules of proportionality and necessity in the case of bulk equipment interference.
My Lords, although I acknowledge that this power may be necessary to try to track down and deal with certain terrorist threats at certain points, the huge danger is that although we may regard the people currently in control of the state as being benign, we do not know that they will always be so. The real problem is privacy and that is why this amendment is particularly important. The moment no threat is urgent, we must get back to a state where privacy is the most important issue, because this power can also be used by organs of the state to protect themselves when they may have done something wrong or there may be someone not so benign within them.
This is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, the data collected may be very useful and may prevent some incidents, although some people challenge that; on the other, this could also mean a great weakness in the system whereby someone could get inside the system and then protect themselves. I would be very careful about assuming that it is always good and the state will always behave in a benign way. Just because I am paranoid, that does not mean they are not out to get me—that is the great saying. I do not think I am being paranoid but at some point in the future we will need to get back to a position where the state does not have the same ability to acquire data about its citizens as totalitarian states did in the recent past.
My Lords, I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have commented on David Anderson QC’s review. I take this opportunity to thank Mr Anderson for undertaking that review and I welcome his comprehensive report. The history of events leading up to the commissioning of that report was well rehearsed by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser. Mr Anderson was supported by an expert, security-cleared team of his own choosing. The Government, and in particular the security and intelligence agencies, provided Mr Anderson and his team with all necessary information, access and assistance for them to undertake the review effectively. As the report itself makes plain, almost 250 members of the security and intelligence agencies have been involved in the review, dedicating over 2,000 man-hours to support it. This has ensured that Mr Anderson has had the necessary resources to undertake a detailed assessment of the operational case for bulk powers in sufficient time to inform today’s debate.
As has been said today, the report sets out in extensive detail the review’s working methods and the sources of evidence that have been used to determine whether the operational case for bulk powers has been made. As noble Lords will have observed, these sources of evidence include: 60 detailed and highly classified case studies; internal security and intelligence agency documents considering the utility of bulk powers, which address shortcomings and failures as well as successes; statistical information on the extent of the use of bulk powers; allegations made by Edward Snowden; and a number of previous reviews, including in the UK and overseas. In fact, David Anderson found that previous reviews were either supportive of the need for the bulk powers or that they were in some cases not relevant to the UK context.
In their consideration of all this evidence, the review team critically appraised the need for bulk capabilities, including considering whether the same result could have been achieved through alternative investigative methods. This question has not just been taken on trust. The expertise of the review team has meant that, in the words of Mr Anderson, the security and intelligence agencies have been put,
“to strict proof of what they assert”.
In relation to the scope of the review, David Anderson was specifically asked to consider the operational case for bulk powers. The sensitive nature of those powers means that this task rightly had to be conducted by a security-cleared review team. But the safeguards that apply to those powers are, rightly, a matter for Parliament to consider as part of our ongoing scrutiny of the Bill’s provisions. The Government are clear that the Bill ensures that robust safeguards and world-leading oversight will apply to the exercise of bulk powers. For example, every bulk warrant will be subject to the double lock; any subsequent examination of material collected must be considered necessary and proportionate for an operational purpose approved by the Secretary of State and a judicial commissioner; and before issuing a bulk warrant, the Secretary of State must consider whether the same result could be achieved through less intrusive means.
The noble Lord, Lord Campbell, pointed out that the review did not specifically consider whether the use of bulk powers is proportionate. That is true; but it is also true that the question of whether alternative methods could achieve the same result was examined in detail. This question is equally important to the consideration of whether these powers are proportionate and necessary. The review has concluded that in the great majority of cases, there will be no effective alternative to the use of bulk powers and that where alternatives exist,
“they were likely to produce less comprehensive intelligence and were often more dangerous … more resource-intensive, more intrusive or—crucially—slower”.
I turn now to the conclusions of the review in a bit more detail. Taken together, they show that bulk powers are crucial. The report concludes that these powers,
“have a clear operational purpose”,
“play an important part in identifying, understanding and averting threats in Great Britain, Northern Ireland and further afield”,
and that the contributions made by bulk powers could not be replicated by other means. The review also concludes that bulk powers are vital across the full range of security and intelligence agency activity, including counterterrorism, cyberdefence, child sexual exploitation, organised crime and the support of military operations, and that they have been used to disrupt terrorist activity, prevent bomb attacks, facilitate the rescue of hostages, thwart cyberattacks and save lives.
This is a vital point. Mr Anderson is clear that questions of necessity cannot be entirely divorced from questions of proportionality. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, rather neatly brought us into the domain of moral philosophy. The review concludes beyond all doubt that, were it not for the bulk powers, there would be more successful terrorist attacks, more successful cyberattacks, more dead hostages and military personnel, and more abused and exploited children. It is now for Parliament to decide whether the powers that have prevented such atrocities are proportionate, given the threats faced by the UK and our European and other allies around the world, given the extensive safeguards and oversight provided in this Bill, and given the review’s conclusions that there are no effective alternatives. The Government firmly believe that they are.
Turning briefly to the individual powers under review, the report concludes that there is a,
“proven operational case for three of the bulk powers”,
with reference to bulk interception, bulk acquisition of communications data and bulk personal datasets.
In relation to bulk interception, the report concludes that it is of “vital utility” to the security and intelligence agencies and that alternative methods, alone or in combination, fall short of providing the same results.
The review finds that the bulk acquisition of communications data is,
“crucial in a variety of fields, including counter-terrorism, counter-espionage and counter proliferation”.
In addition, the review states that case studies provided to the review team demonstrated that,
“bulk acquisition has contributed significantly to the disruption of terrorist operations and, through that disruption, almost certainly the saving of lives”.
On bulk personal datasets, Mr Anderson states:
“I have no hesitation in concluding that BPDs are of great utility to the SIAs. The case studies that I examined provided unequivocal evidence of their value”.
He goes on to conclude that in “vital” areas of work, such as pattern analysis and anomaly detection, there is “no practicable alternative”.
Mr Anderson’s conclusion in relation to bulk equipment interference, which I will come to in more detail in a second, is differentiated from the other powers under review in that he finds that there is a,
“distinct (though not yet proven) operational case”,
for its use. The reason for this difference is that bulk equipment interference has not yet been exercised. That is not to say that bulk equipment interference is a new power. While it has not yet been deployed, activity that would be classed as bulk equipment interference under the Bill could be authorised under existing legislation but, to date, GCHQ has carried out only equipment interference operations which would have been authorised under a targeted equipment interference warrant under the Bill. While acknowledging that bulk equipment interference has not yet been used, the review still concludes that,
“an operational case for bulk EI has been made out in principle”,
and that there are likely to be cases where,
“no effective alternative is available”.
In summary, the conclusions of this detailed and thorough independent review mean that there can now be absolutely no question that the operational case for the bulk powers in the Bill has been comprehensively made out. It now falls to us to decide whether to continue to provide our security and intelligence agencies with these vital powers to counter the threats we face.
Let me turn to some of the specific questions and points that noble Lords have raised. First, I turn to the issue of bulk personal datasets, which a number of noble Lords referred to. A bulk personal dataset is a dataset containing information about a range of people, most of whom are not of interest to the security and intelligence agencies, for example a telephone directory. A list of people who have a passport is another good example of such a dataset. It includes personal information about a large number of individuals, the majority of which will relate to people who are not of security or intelligence interest. Analysis of bulk personal datasets is an essential way for the security and intelligence agencies to focus their efforts on individuals who threaten our national security. The use of bulk personal datasets is not new, and the Bill does not provide new powers for acquiring them; rather, it provides robust transparent safeguards around bulk personal datasets, including a requirement for warrants to authorise the retention and use of them. The safeguards are comparable to those provided in relation to other powers in the Bill, including the double lock, for example.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, pursued these issues, and in particular raised the point in the review where Mr Anderson says that some bulk personal datasets may contain,
“material that is comparable to the content of communications”,
and, in rare cases, even material subject to legal professional privilege. He went on to say it is imperative that,
“consideration be given to the introduction of additional safeguards to the Bill and Code of Practice”.
We are carefully considering whether changes should be made to the Bill and code of practice to address the rare occasions when a bulk personal dataset may contain material comparable to the content of communications or subject to legal professional privilege, and discussions on that are going on at the moment. As David Anderson’s report also makes clear, in considering the sources of evidence, the review team specifically questioned whether similar results could have been achieved by other, less intrusive methods, I do not believe that anyone who has read this detailed and comprehensive report in full could come away with the impression that it did not consider hard evidence on that point.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, also flagged David Anderson’s comment that the Government’s operational case for bulk powers,
“categorises the purposes served by the powers under review in ways which lack coherence and consistency”.
The Government’s operational case for bulk powers was published in response to the recommendation of the Joint Committee that scrutinised the draft Bill, but we acknowledged that there was a need for the operational case to be subjected to independent scrutiny. That is why we commissioned David Anderson’s review, and the conclusions of the review are clear that,
“bulk powers have a clear operational purpose”.
The question was raised about bulk powers as distinct from targeted thematic powers. As noble Lords will remember, this issue was looked at by the Intelligence and Security Committee, and I will just quote a short passage from the speech of my right honourable friend Dominic Grieve MP, who is chair of the ISC, because it helps to inform this question. He said:
“The second issue concerns the agencies’ use of equipment interference. Our concerns focused on the way in which the use of this capability is authorised, rather than on the need for it, which is clear to us. In particular, we were not initially provided with evidence that explained the need for a bulk power, as opposed to a targeted thematic one. That is why we reported in the way we did. Following publication of our report, we received additional evidence from the agencies as to why they need bulk equipment interference warrants to remain in the Bill and they actually made a persuasive case. More importantly, the Committee was reassured that information obtained by such means will be treated in exactly the same way, with exactly the same controls, as data acquired under a bulk interception warrant. The Committee is therefore broadly content that there is a valid case for the power to remain in the Bill, but, just as with bulk interception warrants, we want to see the safeguards and controls in detail and hope to do so in the near future”.—[Official Report, Commons, 15/3/16; col. 838.]
I hope noble Lords will appreciate that we have been around this course before. There is a need for both powers, as I hope will now be accepted.
However, I was asked about the difference between big data used by the security and intelligence agencies and data that other parts of government hold, or indeed data collected by business. Data sets compiled or used by different parts of government are used in a huge variety of ways, but they are primarily designed to help to deliver services as effectively and efficiently as possible. In an intelligence context, bulk personal data sets are held expressly for the purpose of helping the intelligence agencies in protecting national security and counterterrorism, combating proliferation and serious organised crime and safeguarding the UK’s economic well-being.
As outlined in David Anderson’s report, A Question of Trust, commercial companies hold a vast amount of data about individuals, including many that can be bought and sold by data brokers. He states:
“It may be legitimately be asked, if activity of a particular kind is widespread in the private sector, why it should not also be permitted (subject to proper supervision) to public authorities”.
I think that is the right way of looking at it. We should remember that the Information Commissioner provides oversight of how other parts of government and business hold and use data under the authority of the Data Protection Act and other legislation but, to state the obvious, the use of data by the private sector is outside the scope of the Bill. Of course it is an important issue but it is not one for us to deal with today.
The noble Lord, Lord Strasburger, asked about bulk equipment interference. It is unique among the powers reviewed by David Anderson in that, while permissible under the existing statutory framework, as I have explained, it has not yet been deployed; however, it is not a new power. Equipment interference operations have always been designed and delivered in line with the legal framework in force at the time. The existing legal framework does not have bulk equipment interference as a bespoke concept. However, all agency operations have been conducted in ways, and with safeguards, that have ensured that they are necessary and proportionate and that they comply with the current legislative framework. The new Bill creates a new bespoke statutory framework for bulk equipment interference that ensures the same strong safeguards across the piece.
The value of bulk interception to find threats overseas, while still enormously important, is of declining value as there is a greater use of encryption. Bulk equipment interference will help the security and intelligence agencies to maintain their ability to understand what is happening in, for example, Syria. A bulk equipment interference warrant will be required when the material that is expected to be acquired needs careful sorting after acquisition to filter out and destroy excess information, whereas thematic equipment interference will be used when the subjects can be more clearly targeted.
I was asked about internet connection records and legislating to acquire ICRs in bulk now. There are no plans to acquire ICRs in bulk at present. To be clear, the safeguards that apply when acquiring communications data in bulk would apply equally to all types of communications data. It would not be right to differentiate between different types of communications data, given the strong safeguards in place for the bulk powers. The point here is that we are seeking to legislate not just for the technologies of today. We have quite purposefully sought to make the Bill technology-neutral.
To seek to legislate for the power to acquire ICRs in bulk in future would highlight a change in the intelligence agencies’ requirements. Obviously, highlighting gaps in capabilities and indicating when the powers in the Bill may be used in certain ways can give criminals and terrorists an advantage. It goes without saying that that could endanger national security. It would not be sensible to broadcast to terrorists and serious criminals that we intend to implement a new capability from a certain date, which is exactly what we would be doing if we required the agencies to come back to Parliament every time they needed to update the technologies.
Speaking of technologies, I want to address the contents of the amendment. The Government absolutely agree with Mr Anderson’s assessment that those authorising, approving and overseeing the exercise of bulk powers must be alert to the impact of technological change on their utility and impact. I am sympathetic to the amendment, and we are giving very careful consideration to Mr Anderson’s recommendation. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked what more the Government need. My answer is that what we need and hoped for are the views expressed by the Committee. I listened with particular care to the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, who gave us his views on Mr Anderson’s recommendations. I am grateful to him and we will consider very carefully what he said. It is precisely because we did not want to pre-empt today’s discussion that we have remained silent on the issue. The review was specifically commissioned to inform our debates. We will listen carefully and respond shortly, when we are in a position to consider in the round both the findings of the review and the subsequent debate in the Committee.
The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, made the case for going a bit wider than the narrow wording of the recommendation. Will the Government have a look at recommendation 6 of the RUSI report? We recommended an advisory council for digital technology and engineering to cover some of these exact points. The recommendation goes somewhat wider—it is probably too wide for the purposes of the Bill—but it met the point about providing research on engineering technology and being answerable to the Secretary of State, so the process is open and we keep abreast of technical measures. Advancing public education is what we get from David Anderson’s reports from time to time; that is what they are about. I ask for recommendation 6 of the RUSI report to be considered in conjunction with David Anderson’s recommendation to see whether consensus can emerge.
I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rooker. We will certainly do that. That is precisely the kind of suggestion that I hoped would emerge from this debate.
The noble Earl spoke at some length about the utility of bulk personal datasets to the intelligence agencies, but he did not answer my question, which was generated by the revelation in Mr Anderson’s report that bodies other than the intelligence agencies have access to bulk personal datasets. Which other bodies have access to bulk personal datasets?
Almost anyone has access to bulk personal datasets. Many of us have a telephone directory. A very wide range of public bodies and commercial organisations have access to bulk personal datasets, because that expression describes a wide range. I cannot be specific to the noble Lord, but if I am able, on advice, I will write to him to elucidate further.
Before I wind up—and I shall, of course, withdraw the amendment—does the noble Earl anticipate that the Government will come forward with an amendment on Report on the recommendation in the report on the technology panel, or not?
I anticipate that between now and Report the Government will have reached a conclusion on Mr Anderson’s recommendation. We have not done so as yet, as I have explained but, if we come forward with an amendment, that would be on Report.
I thank the Minister for his detailed response and thank all noble Lords who have participated in this debate, as well as thanking the Committee for its indulgence in allowing us to have a general debate on the Anderson report, even though my amendment related only to one specific part of it. It is very useful to have had the debate that we have had. I am sure that other noble Lords will do so, but I shall certainly want to read again in Hansard the full details of the Minister’s response and the replies that he has given to the questions that have been raised. Once again, I thank him for his detailed response and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 194H withdrawn.
Clauses 127 and 128 agreed.
Clause 129: Power to issue bulk interception warrants
194J: Clause 129, page 103, line 2, leave out from “security” to end of line 4
My Lords, in moving Amendment 194J in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Hamwee, I shall speak to a cornucopia of amendments—Amendments 194K and 194L, Amendments 201B and 201C, Amendments 210B and 210C and Amendment 223B. These amendments deal with the power to issue bulk interception warrants. The draconian nature of these powers is acknowledged by the fact that the Bill proposes that only the intelligence services can apply for such a warrant and that the warrant gives power only to intercept overseas-related communication and secondary data from such communications.
Clause 129(1)(b) states that the Secretary of State must be satisfied that,
“the warrant is necessary … in the interests of national security, or … on that ground and on any other grounds falling within subsection (2)”.
The essence of the first amendment is to probe why subsection (2) is also required, as it states that the,
“warrant is necessary … if it is necessary … for the purpose of preventing or detecting serious crime, or … in the interests of the economic well-being of the United Kingdom so far as those interests are also relevant to the interests of national security”.
Amendment 194J deletes subsection (1)(b)(ii) so as to restrict the issuing of bulk interception warrants to cases of national security only. It is relatively easy to envisage a scenario where terrorists are plotting attacks in the UK from a hostile foreign country where the co-operation of the telecommunications operators in that country to target individuals is not possible, and the communications of all individuals in a certain geographic area may be the only option. Can the Minister explain what would happen in a scenario where the prevention or detection of serious crime which is not a national security issue would require bulk interception of overseas data?
Amendment 201B makes similar arguments applying to Clause 146 and the power to issue bulk data acquisition warrants—for example, in Clause 146(1)(a)(i), the power to retain and store telecommunications data about every telephone call made in the UK. It is the same point applied to the other power. Amendment 210B applies the same arguments to Clause 164 and the power to issue bulk equipment interference warrants, and specifically to Clause 164(1)(b)(i), the power to hack into every mobile phone within a geographic area.
Can the Minister also explain what the difference is between the “interests of national security” and,
“the interests of the economic well-being of the United Kingdom so far as those interests are also relevant to the interests of national security”?
If a warrant is necessary in the interests of national security, why is it necessary to state separately that those national interests have their origins in the economic well-being of the UK? The Intelligence and Security Committee found that the distinction was unnecessarily confusing and complicated. The committee had, as far as it was concerned, failed to get a satisfactory response to its question from the intelligence agencies or the Home Office. Perhaps the Minister can have a go.
As far as Amendment 194K is concerned, bulk interception involves the acquisition of potentially vast amounts of data—mainly innocent communications. Clause 129(1)(d)(i) refers to the “specified operational purposes” that form the basis for the examination of the bulk content or secondary data, basically to concentrate the examination solely on the bad guys. The Secretary of State must be satisfied that each of the operational purposes is—or as the Bill states, “may be”—necessary. We believe that this phrase “may be” is too loose and that “is likely to be” should replace the wider “may be” necessary.
Amendment 201C makes exactly the same argument and applies it to Clause 146, on the power to issue bulk acquisition warrants, specifically subsection (1)(c)(i). Amendment 210C makes similar arguments in relation to Clause 164, on the power to issue bulk equipment interference warrants, specifically subsection (1)(d)(i).
Amendment 194L relates to Clause 129(4), which states:
“A warrant may not be considered necessary … if it is considered necessary only for the purpose of gathering evidence for use in any legal proceedings”.
We suggest that the warrant cannot be considered necessary if the purpose is “primarily” rather than “only” for the purpose of gathering evidence. It can otherwise easily be maintained that there is some minor, collateral intelligence gain that means that the warrant is necessary as it is not only for the purpose of evidence gathering. Can the Minister explain why this sub-paragraph is necessary at all? If intercept evidence is not admissible as evidence in UK courts, whether it be from targeted or bulk interception, why would a warrant solely for the purpose of gathering evidence for use in legal proceedings be applied for in the first place?
Amendment 223B relates to Clause 187, on additional safeguards for health records as a subset of bulk personal datasets. Subsection (3) states that:
“The Secretary of State may only issue a warrant if the Secretary of States considers that there are exceptional and compelling circumstances that make it necessary to authorise … retention”.
Our Amendment 223B suggests that health records are so sensitive that the exceptional and compelling circumstances should relate only to national security and not, for example, serious crime. I beg to move.
My Lords, my noble friend has very helpfully referred to the qualification of economic well-being as a justification by reference to national security and he rightly probed why it appears in that form. It gave me some satisfaction, in a sense, that it was qualified in this way because, in my years on the Intelligence and Security Committee, I occasionally thought that the concept of economic well-being was capable of extraordinarily wide interpretation. If it was being interpreted very widely in order to support actions which might in some way touch upon economic well-being, it is appropriate that it should be qualified if the powers engaged are sufficiently wide as potentially to affect the rights and liberties of other people. In this legislation we are talking about powers which can impinge upon the lives and liberties of other people unintentionally or not as part of the purpose but as a necessary consequence of being able to use things such as bulk datasets or equipment interference. Therefore, I hope that the reason that economic well-being is qualified by reference to national security is a recognition that some of the powers given in this Bill require particularly stringent qualification to be permissive and used. If that is so, I welcome it.
My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for making it clear that these are essentially probing amendments and I respond to them in that light. These amendments relate to the issuing, approval and modification of warrants under Parts 6 and 7 of the Bill.
Amendments 194J, 201B and 210B would remove from the Bill an important safeguard which requires that a bulk interception, acquisition or equipment interference warrant may be issued only if doing so is in the interest of national security. The Bill provides for a warrant under Part 6 to be issued where it is necessary on three statutory grounds: in the interests of national security; for the prevention and detection of serious crime; or in the interests of the economic well-being of the United Kingdom where those interests are also relevant to national security.
Clause 129(1)(b)(ii), Clause 146(1)(a)(ii) and Clause 164(1)(b)(ii), which these amendments seek to remove, ensure that one of those statutory grounds must always be national security. This is clearly an important safeguard which recognises the particular sensitivity of bulk powers and therefore limits their use to the most tightly drawn circumstances. In other words, the Bill says that a bulk warrant provided for in Part 6 of the Bill must have,
“in the interests of national security”,
as one of the statutory purposes to authorise collection. However, collection can also be authorised to prevent serious crime and to protect the economic well-being of the United Kingdom in addition to being authorised to protect national security.
The inclusion of the additional statutory grounds relating to serious crime and economic well-being remains vital. There will be circumstances where it is necessary and proportionate to select for examination data collected under a bulk warrant in order to, for example, prevent and detect serious crime, such as to detect and disrupt child sexual exploitation. However, the Bill ensures that the initial collection of data could be authorised only if doing so is necessary to protect national security, albeit that it may be necessary for one of the other two purposes that I have already described. In other words, there is a relationship between the statutory requirements for the bulk warrant and the operational purposes which will be specified in the same warrant application, some of which may relate to the prevention of serious crime or economic interest.
On that last point of economic interest, it has been asked how that can be distinguished from national security. In a sense, it is a matter of emphasis at the end of the day. The ISC looked at this in detail, and at the need to retain it as a statutory purpose in its own right. It took extensive evidence from the agencies and, indeed, from the Foreign Secretary. I believe that Dominic Grieve was the chair at that time. He made it clear during Report in the Commons that the ISC had been persuaded that there remained a need for safeguarding the UK’s economic well-being to continue to exist as a statutory purpose for the use of the investigatory powers in the Bill in their own right. Therefore, I accept that it is linked to national security but it is a matter of underlining the need to have in mind the cases in which economic well-being will be the prevailing factor.
I recall that with the noble Lord, Lord Beith, we went round this course a number of times in the ISC trying to work out where the economic well-being issue could be distinguished from national security. Will my noble and learned friend give a few illustrations now or at a later stage of the Bill to show exactly why this is the case? I think we were persuaded on this. My noble and learned friend said that the current ISC and the current chairman are persuaded. However, will he illustrate why they were persuaded?
If I had those illustrations to hand, I would, of course, deliver them this very moment. I regret that I do not have them to hand. However, I will undertake to consider the illustrations that were given previously and write to the noble Lord. If it is necessary, I will elaborate on the examples already given by giving further examples. However, I regret that I am not in a position to cite those earlier examples.
I underline that the reference to national security in the context of the clauses to which I referred—that is, Clauses 129, 146 and 164—operates as an important safeguard. That is what has to be emphasised. In these circumstances I invite the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, not to press these amendments.
I turn to bulk personal datasets and health records and Amendment 223B. This amendment would limit the circumstances in which the intelligence agencies can retain and examine a bulk personal dataset which contains health records under a specific BPD warrant. The Bill already requires the Secretary of State and a judicial commissioner to consider whether the retention and examination of a bulk personal dataset is necessary and proportionate for certain defined operational purposes. Following consideration in the other place, the Bill was amended, limiting the test for granting a warrant for the retention and examination of a bulk personal dataset containing health records to cases where there are “exceptional and compelling” circumstances. These are already extremely high tests.
Amendment 223B would limit the Bill even further so that retention and examination is permitted only in exceptional and compelling circumstances related to national security. By their very nature, exceptional and compelling circumstances are very rare. Restricting the use of such datasets to circumstances where national security concerns are engaged would rule out their use for any other statutory purpose, including the prevention and detection of serious and organised crime. If we were to agree to this amendment, we would be signalling, in effect, that in no circumstances do we believe that it could ever be appropriate that such data should be used for serious and organised crime investigations even when the Secretary of State and a judicial commissioner consider this is necessary and proportionate and that there are exceptional and compelling circumstances. We do not consider that this is appropriate. It is long-standing government policy not to comment on intelligence matters. However, as the then Security Minister explained in the other place, in that specific instance only he was willing to confirm that the security and intelligence agencies did not hold a bulk personal dataset of medical records, which illustrates that there would need to be exceptional circumstances for an agency to do so.
However, the Minister and the Solicitor-General rightly emphasised that we would not want to rule out the possibility of there ever being such a scenario. They gave a hypothetical example in which a group of terrorists are involved in an explosion and sustain burns. Medical evidence about where they attended—the fact that they had attended a local A&E, for example—could be relevant to that particular operation and provide the only lead to find the individuals concerned. The same circumstances could arise if criminals were similarly injured in an explosion at, for example, an illegal drugs laboratory. This would not be a matter of national security but would relate to the prevention and detection of serious crime. I therefore emphasise that no Secretary of State or judicial commissioner, who would both have to approve a specific BPD warrant to retain medical records, would underestimate the seriousness of their duty in this regard. “Exceptional and compelling” is a high test to be met; restricting this further is not regarded as necessary. Therefore, again I invite the noble Lord to withdraw this amendment.
On operational purposes, Amendments 194K, 201C and 210C seek to limit the circumstances in which the Secretary of State may approve the addition of operational purposes to bulk interception, acquisition or equipment interference warrants. Currently, the Bill requires that an operational purpose may be included on a bulk interception, acquisition or equipment interference warrant only if the Secretary of State considers that it is a purpose for which the examination of material is or may be necessary. These amendments would change this test to a consideration that the purpose is or is likely to be necessary.
We submit that these amendments would have a detrimental operational impact. A bulk interception warrant will normally provide for the interception of communications from the physical cables that carry internet traffic. This will result in the collection of large volumes of communications. This reflects the fact that bulk interception is an intelligence-gathering capability and is essential to enable communications relating to subjects of interest to be identified and subsequently pieced together in the course of an investigation. The nature of these capabilities and the global nature of internet communications means that there will be circumstances where it will not be possible for the Secretary of State to foresee, and therefore to assess, the degree of likelihood that a particular operational purpose will be needed.
For example, if a new terrorist threat was developing overseas with implications for the United Kingdom’s national security, it may be necessary to select for examination material collected under a bulk interception, acquisition or equipment interference warrant relating to that threat. However, it could not necessarily be foreseen whether material collected under an individual warrant would be relevant to the threat. This would depend on prior knowledge of, for example, the identities and location of targets or even what cables their communications would pass over. Therefore it is vital that the Secretary of State is able to approve the inclusion of a particular operational purpose on a warrant if they consider that the examination of material may be necessary for that purpose. If this was not possible, bulk warrants would have to omit potentially vital operational purposes.
The Bill already ensures that the use of operational purposes is stringently controlled. As well as considering that each purpose is or may be necessary, the Secretary of State must also be satisfied that every operational purpose on the warrant is necessary on one of the grounds for which the warrant is issued, such as in the interests of national security. In addition, we have now proposed government amendments that will strengthen further the Bill’s provisions in relation to operational purposes. These amendments would provide that: the heads of the intelligences services must maintain a central list of all operational purposes; the inclusion of any purpose to that list must be agreed by the Secretary of State; no operational purpose can be added to a warrant unless it is included on the central list; the list must be shared on a quarterly basis with the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament; and the list must be reviewed on an annual basis by the Prime Minister. Therefore these amendments would result in a degradation of operational capabilities and, in any case, we submit that they are unnecessary. Again, therefore, I invite the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, not to press these amendments.
Amendment 194L is concerned with bulk interception in the context of legal proceedings and would change the test the Secretary of State must apply when considering whether a warrant for the purpose of gathering evidence for use in any legal proceedings may be necessary. Currently, the Bill makes clear that the Secretary of State may not consider a bulk interception warrant necessary on any statutory ground—including in the interests of national security—where the warrant’s only purpose is to gather evidence. This reflects the prohibition in Clause 53 on using intercepted material in legal proceedings. This amendment would alter this test and preclude a warrant from being issued with the primary purpose of gathering evidence.
The Bill maintains the general rule that neither the possibility of interception nor intercepted material itself play any part in legal proceedings. This preserves the requirement for “equality of arms” under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. That is why Clause 53 makes clear that a warrant could not be obtained simply to circumvent this principle. However, to answer the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, the Bill sets out in Schedule 3 a number of important and tightly drawn exceptions to the prohibition on using intercepted material in legal proceedings. These exceptions include closed material proceedings, terrorist prevention and investigation measures proceedings and terrorist asset-freezing proceedings. There will clearly be circumstances in which it is vital that an interception warrant can be issued for the purpose of gathering evidence in such proceedings on a statutory ground, including in the interests of national security. In many circumstances, this amendment would prevent such warrants being issued and could therefore have a direct impact on the security and intelligence agencies’ ability to protect the public. Therefore, it is because of the existence of the exceptions in Schedule 3 that the clause is framed in the manner it is and the prohibition is expressed in these terms. Again, I invite the noble Lord not to press this last amendment.
I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his explanations. On Amendments 194J, 201B and 210B, I accept what he said. I am grateful for the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, and I look forward to the illustrations. While the Minister has his artistic streak going, perhaps he could also provide an example with regard to some of the other amendments, where, again, an illustration would be helpful.
That plea to my artistic streak would require a somewhat abstract response, so perhaps the noble Lord could be a little more specific.
Yes, for example, with regard to the health records in Amendment 223B, I did not find the example of criminals engaged in manufacturing drugs an exceptional and compelling circumstance. Perhaps there is a better example than that. The absolutely intrusive nature of health records and the acknowledgement of that by way of the exceptional notification that the intelligence services do not hold any bulk personal datasets of health records tend to reinforce the argument that access to them should be restricted to national security grounds. I would be grateful if a more compelling example could be thought of, although obviously not at the moment.
I will be quite content to formulate and intimate a more compelling example.
I am grateful. On Amendment 194L and a warrant issued only for the purpose of gathering evidence for use in legal proceedings, I will have to read carefully what the Minister said, as I came to completely the opposite conclusion to the one he gave. However, at this time I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 194J withdrawn.
Amendments 194K and 194L not moved.
Clause 129 agreed.
Clause 130: Additional requirements in respect of warrants affecting overseas operators
194M: Clause 130, page 104, line 11, after “requirement,” insert—
“( ) the domestic law of the operator’s place of business,”
My Lords, Amendment 194M stands in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Hamwee. I shall also speak to our Amendment 194N in this group.
Clause 130 relates to the additional requirements in respect of warrants affecting overseas operators giving assistance to UK intelligence agencies to enable bulk interception. Subsection (3) lists matters that the Secretary of State must take into account before issuing a warrant that requires an overseas operator to give assistance. We believe that an important omission to this list is,
“the domestic law of the operator’s place of business”—
that is, that the Secretary of State should not require overseas operators to break the law in the country where the request for assistance is being made.
As far as Amendment 194N is concerned, Clause 131 refers to the approval of bulk interception warrants by judicial commissioners. Subsection (1) states that a judicial commissioner must review the Secretary of State’s conclusions as to the granting of the warrant. Our amendment suggests that this should go further and that both the Secretary of State’s reasoning and their conclusions should be considered.
In previous sessions of this Committee, we heard the view that the judiciary should not make decisions on the issuing of warrants—that is for politicians to decide—but simply review the decisions. But if the judicial commissioner has to decide whether to “approve a decision” and indeed decides not to approve a decision of the Secretary of State, surely the judicial commissioner has made a decision on the issuing of a warrant. Surely a judicial commissioner should review the reasoning behind the Secretary of State’s decision and not simply the conclusion. Without knowing the reasons why the Secretary of State came to their conclusion, how can a judicial commissioner decide whether the conclusion is valid? I beg to move.
My Lords, these amendments relate to a judicial commissioner’s consideration of a bulk warrant that is to be served on an overseas provider and what the commissioner is required to take into account when considering the Secretary of State’s decision to issue a bulk warrant. There is also a government amendment in this group which is technical in nature, and I shall address that in a moment.
Amendment 194M seeks to insert a requirement that, where an overseas telecommunications operator is likely to be required to provide assistance in giving effect to a bulk interception warrant, the Secretary of State must—before the warrant is issued—take into account the domestic law of the operator’s place of business.
I suggest that this amendment is not necessary. The Bill already provides, at Clause 139(5), that Clause 41, which deals with the duty of operators to assist with implementation, applies in relation to a bulk interception warrant in the same way as it applies to a targeted warrant. Clause 41 makes it absolutely clear that a telecommunications operator may be required only to take “reasonably practicable” steps to give effect to a warrant. It also makes clear, at subsection (5), that for an overseas operator consideration must be given to the law of the relevant country and the extent to which it is reasonably practicable to give effect to the warrant without breaching it. So I suggest that this amendment is not necessary and, in these circumstances, I invite the noble Lord to withdraw it.
Amendment 194N seeks to alter the test that a judicial commissioner applies when considering whether to approve a decision to issue a bulk interception warrant. This topic has been the subject of intense scrutiny by three committees, the other House and, in the context of the targeted powers within the Bill, this House. As a result of that debate, the Government have already made considerable amendments to the Bill.
This amendment would require the judicial commissioner to consider the reasons given for the decision to issue a bulk interception warrant. The amendment is, I think, based on a misunderstanding of how warrants operate. The Secretary of State will receive a detailed application setting out the necessity and proportionality considerations. If he or she agrees, the Secretary of State will issue the warrant. He or she does not have to give reasons for that decision beyond confirming that he or she personally considers that the warrant is necessary and proportionate.
The judicial commissioner will then review the Secretary of State’s decision based on the evidence that was provided to the Secretary of State in the application. If the commissioner thinks that the evidence in the application is not a sufficient basis for the decision that has been made, he or she will refuse to approve the decision. In these circumstances, there are no reasons per se to be reviewed by the judicial commissioner. Given that, and given the progress that has already been made on this issue, I invite the noble Lord not to press this amendment.
Government Amendment 201 is a minor and technical amendment. It simply clarifies the considerations that must be made by a judicial commissioner when deciding whether to approve a decision by the Secretary of State to renew a bulk interception warrant. Currently, the Bill provides that the judicial commissioner must consider the same factors in relation to a renewal as are considered when deciding whether to approve a decision to issue a bulk interception warrant.
While the amendment does not change the position, it introduces one minor exception—that is, the judicial commissioner is not required to consider, in relation to a renewal, any matters taken into account by the Secretary of State in relation to additional requirements for warrants affecting overseas operators. Such matters include the technical feasibility of the relevant operator providing assistance in giving effect to the warrant, and the likely cost.
These matters will have been taken into account by the Secretary of State at the point when the decision was taken to issue the warrant in the first instance. They are not matters that are relevant in the case of a renewal, where the operator concerned will already have been providing assistance in giving effect to the relevant warrant. They are therefore not matters that the Bill requires the Secretary of State to take into account when deciding whether to renew a bulk interception warrant. The amendment simply makes it clear that a judicial commissioner is therefore also not required to consider them when deciding whether to approve the decision about renewal.
Again, I am very grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his explanation and for joining the dots, if I may describe it like that, of the relevant parts of the legislation regarding targeted interception warrants. I accept the explanation and indeed the safeguards regarding overseas operators and their need to comply with domestic law, in addition to the assistance being practicable.
I am genuinely grateful for the explanation regarding Amendment 194N. I now understand that reasons would not be given by the Secretary of State; it is more a re-examination of the case made by the security services, for example, and the judgment by the judicial commissioner as to whether the issuing of a warrant is necessary and proportionate. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 194M withdrawn.
Clause 130 agreed.
Clause 131: Approval of warrants by Judicial Commissioners
Amendment 194N not moved.
Amendment 194P had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.
Amendments 195 and 196
195: Clause 131, page 104, line 30, after “must” insert “—
196: Clause 131, page 104, line 31, at end insert “, and
( ) consider the matters referred to in subsection (1) with a sufficient degree of care as to ensure that the Judicial Commissioner complies with the duties imposed by section 2 (general duties in relation to privacy).”
Amendments 195 and 196 agreed.
Clause 131, as amended, agreed.
Clause 132 agreed.
Clause 133: Requirements that must be met by warrants
197: Clause 133, page 105, line 10, leave out subsection (4) and insert—
“(4) The operational purposes specified in the warrant must be ones specified, in a list maintained by the heads of the intelligence services (“the list of operational purposes”), as purposes which they consider are operational purposes for which intercepted content or secondary data obtained under bulk interception warrants may be selected for examination.”
My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments 198, 207, 208, 213, 214, 227, 228 and 223, all of which relate to operational purposes on bulk warrants.
The amendments tabled by the Government add significant detail to the provisions in the Bill on operational purposes—that is, the purposes for which data collected under a bulk warrant may be selected for examination. Operational purposes are an important new safeguard and we are committed to ensuring that the Bill includes as much detail as possible about how they will operate in practice. These amendments respond to amendments tabled in the House of Commons by the Intelligence and Security Committee, and they address concerns raised during the Committee stage in the Commons that operational purposes could be “general”.
The amendments would do a number of key things. They would create a requirement that the heads of the intelligence services must maintain a list of all operational purposes. The maintenance of this list would ensure that the security and intelligence agencies are able to assess and review all the operational purposes that are, or could be, specified across the full range of their bulk warrants at a particular time. This would ensure that these purposes remain up to date and relevant to the current threat picture, better enabling the agencies to identify warrants that need to be modified, adding or removing operational purposes. The maintenance of the central list would also make sure that the Investigatory Powers Commissioner is able to oversee, in one place, the full range of purposes for which a bulk warrant could authorise the examination of material.
The amendments would apply robust controls to the addition of an operational purpose to the central list, requiring that any such addition must be approved by the Secretary of State. They make clear that the Secretary of State may approve the addition of an operational purpose to that list only if satisfied that it contains more detail than the statutory grounds on which the warrant was issued, such as in the interests of national security.
The amendments would also enhance the oversight and transparency of the use of operational purposes. As well as the rigorous independent oversight that the Investigatory Powers Commissioner will apply to the exercise of bulk powers, these amendments would also require the following: that the list of operational purposes must be reviewed annually by the Prime Minister; that the list must be provided to the Intelligence and Security Committee every three months; and that the Investigatory Powers Commissioner must publish a summary of the use of operational purposes in each of his or her annual reports.
The amendments would also take out references in the Bill to operational purposes being able to be “general purposes”. This provision was inserted in the Bill to ensure that operational purposes do not have to be drawn so tightly that they are operationally unworkable. While it has never been the case that this language meant operational purposes could be vague or lacking in detail, the Government have listened to concerns that this language could be misinterpreted and that is why these amendments would remove it.
These amendments would significantly enhance the Bill’s provisions on operational purposes, adding absolute clarity as to how this important safeguard will operate in practice. I hope that the Committee will approve them. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister for those amendments. They bring a significant improvement to the Bill and are extremely welcome. We were faced previously with the situation in which operational purposes were to be part of the Bill but we would never know what those operational purposes were. I appreciate that they are not going to become public knowledge, but at least we will now have a review by the Intelligence and Security Committee every three months and the annual review by the Prime Minister as well. Removal of the term “general” is greatly reassuring and we wholeheartedly support these amendments.
My Lords, we hold a similar view to that which has just been expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. These amendments seek to pursue a matter that has been raised by the ISC and accordingly raised during the Commons stages of this Bill. I think that these amendments address the concerns raised by the ISC—I certainly have not heard anything to the contrary—and we share the view that, in doing so, they enhance the Bill.
Amendment 197 agreed.
Amendments 197A and 197B had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.
198: Clause 133, page 105, line 14, leave out from “issued,” to end of line 16 and insert “are specified in the list of operational purposes.
(5A) An operational purpose may be specified in the list of operational purposes only with the approval of the Secretary of State.(5B) The Secretary of State may give such approval only if satisfied that the operational purpose is specified in a greater level of detail than the descriptions contained in section 129(1)(b) or (2).(5C) At the end of each relevant three-month period the Secretary of State must give a copy of the list of operational purposes to the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament.(5D) In subsection (5C) “relevant three-month period” means—(a) the period of three months beginning with the day on which this section comes into force, and(b) each successive period of three months.(5E) The Prime Minister must review the list of operational purposes at least once a year.”
Amendment 198 agreed.
Clause 133, as amended, agreed.
Clause 134 agreed.
Clause 135: Renewal of warrants
Amendments 199 to 201
199: Clause 135, page 105, line 31, leave out “before it would otherwise cease to have effect” and insert “during the renewal period”
200: Clause 135, page 106, line 10, at end insert—
“( ) “The renewal period” means the period of 30 days ending with the day at the end of which the warrant would otherwise cease to have effect.”
201: Clause 135, page 106, line 16, at end insert “, but with the omission of paragraph (d) of subsection (1)”
Amendments 199 to 201 agreed.
Clause 135, as amended, agreed.
Clause 136: Modification of warrants
201ZA: Clause 136, page 107, line 21, at end insert—
“( ) The persons mentioned in subsection (7) must keep under review whether any operational purpose specified in a warrant remains a purpose for which the examination of intercepted or secondary data obtained under the warrant is or may be necessary.”
My Lords, I beg to move Amendment 201ZA and to speak, I am afraid, to another cornucopia of amendments in this group: Amendments 201ZB, 201ZC, 201ZJ, 210ZB, 210ZC, 217A, 217B, 217C, 231ZA and 231ZB.
Clause 136(9) requires the Secretary of State, or the senior official acting on the Secretary of State’s behalf, to modify the warrant if an operational purpose,
“is no longer a purpose for which the examination of intercepted content or secondary data obtained under the warrant is or may be necessary”.
The question is: how will the Secretary of State or the official know that there has been such a change requiring the warrant to be modified unless the situation is kept under review? Our Amendment 201ZA requires the Secretary of State, or a senior official acting on behalf of the Secretary of State, to,
“keep under review whether any operational purpose specified in a warrant remains a purpose for which the examination of intercepted or secondary data obtained under the warrant is or may be necessary”.
Amendment 217A makes the same point in relation to bulk equipment interference warrants, as dealt with in Clause 172. Amendment 210ZB makes the same point in relation to bulk acquisition warrants, as dealt with in Clause 152. Amendment 231ZA makes the same point in relation to bulk personal dataset warrants, as dealt with in Clause 192.
I turn now to Amendment 201ZB. Clause 138(3) allows the Secretary of State, or a senior official acting on behalf of the Secretary of State, to cancel a warrant if, for example, the examination of the content or secondary data obtained under the warrant is no longer necessary for any of the specified operational purposes. Clause 136(9) requires the modification of a warrant by the Secretary of State, or a senior official, if they consider that,
“any operational purpose … is no longer a purpose for which the examination of intercepted content or secondary data obtained under the warrant is or may be necessary”.
But how will the Secretary of State know that, and, therefore, how will the Secretary of State know that the warrant should be cancelled?
Amendment 201ZB seeks to add the removal of an operational purpose to the list of modifications that should be considered major modifications in order to probe this issue. Amendment 210ZC makes a similar point in relation to bulk acquisition warrants under Clause 149. Amendment 217B makes the same point in relation to bulk equipment interference warrants under Clause 172. Amendment 231ZB makes a similar point in relation to bulk personal dataset warrants, as covered by Clause 195.
On Amendment 201ZC, Clause 136(13) states that despite the main purpose of a bulk interception warrant being the interception of overseas-related content and secondary data, the modification of a bulk interception warrant so that the warrant no longer authorises or requires the interception of communications in the course of their transmission or obtaining secondary data from such interception, does not prevent the bulk interception warrant being a bulk interception warrant. If I understand this correctly—which would be amazing —a bulk interception warrant that no longer allows bulk interception is still a bulk interception warrant. I would be grateful if the Minister could help me with that. Is it that the analysis of the content and secondary data may continue, even if the pool of content and data is not being added to? Can the Minister explain? The amendment seeks to delete subsection (13) to probe these issues. Amendment 217C makes the same points in relation to bulk equipment interference warrants that no longer authorise or require the securing of interference with any equipment under Clause 172(14).
On Amendment 201ZJ, bulk interception warrants are aimed at overseas-focused communications and subsections (3) and (4) of Clause 142 together prohibit the selection of intercepted content for examination that is referable to an individual known to be in the British Isles at the time. Amendment 201ZJ envisages a situation where a known terrorist based overseas, for example, whose communications have been selected for examination, as allowed by the Bill as drafted because he is overseas, then travels to the UK to lead a terrorist attack. Our interpretation of the prohibitions in Clause 142(3) and (4) is that his communications could then no longer be selected for examination once he arrives in the UK, at least not under the powers of this provision. Perhaps a separate warrant would then need to be applied for.
There should be an exemption from the prohibition from selecting intercepted content for someone known to be in the UK in such circumstances. Our amendment therefore seeks to add,
“unless the individual is believed to have arrived in the British Islands within the previous 28 days”,
to cover the situation where overseas terrorists arrive in the UK.
I am somewhat disappointed that more noble Lords are not in the Chamber to hear this but, if any noble Lord is puzzled, this amendment seeks to increase the surveillance powers in the Bill and to assist the security services in their work. However, perhaps our interpretation of the Bill as it stands is wrong and the Minister will explain. I beg to move Amendment 201ZA.
My Lords, Amendments 201ZA, 210ZB, 217A and 231ZA seek to insert a provision into the clauses that enable the modification of bulk interception, acquisition, equipment interference or bulk personal dataset warrants. The amendments would require that persons who can make a minor modification to remove an operational purpose from a warrant must keep under review the operational purposes on each bulk warrant. The intended effect of these amendments, as I understand it, is that such persons will be aware when one of those purposes is no longer necessary and can remove it from the warrant.
These amendments are not necessary because the relevant draft codes of practice, which were published when the Bill was introduced to Parliament, already make clear that the security and intelligence agencies must keep bulk warrants under ongoing review. In addition, the draft codes set out specific requirements in relation to operational purposes. This includes a requirement that the security and intelligence agencies will need to ensure that bulk warrants are relevant to the current threat picture and will therefore need to identify operational purposes that need to be added to or removed from bulk warrants.
Further to the requirements in the draft codes, the government amendments, as I explained earlier, would create a requirement in the Bill that the heads of the intelligence services must maintain a list of all operational purposes. I set out the rationale and utility of that list in the preceding group of amendments. The provisions in the Bill and the detailed requirements set out in the draft codes of practice already make clear that the operational purposes on any bulk warrant will be kept under review. This will ensure that where an operational purpose is no longer necessary on a particular warrant it can be identified and removed. I hope the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw these amendments.
Amendments 201ZB, 210ZC, 217B and 231ZB make a modification to remove an operational purpose from a bulk warrant a major modification. Currently, a modification removing an operational purpose is a minor modification, meaning that it may be made by a Secretary of State or a senior official acting on their behalf. This amendment intends that such a modification would instead be subject to the double lock and must therefore be made by a Secretary of State and approved by a judicial commissioner before taking effect. That would be entirely unnecessary. A modification removing an operational purpose from a bulk warrant reduces the scope of the conduct that the warrant authorises, conduct that will already have been approved by the Secretary of State and a judicial commissioner. Subjecting such a modification to the double lock is superfluous. Accordingly, I invite the noble Lord to withdraw these amendments.
Amendments 201ZC and 217C relate to the modification of bulk warrants for the purpose of allowing examination of material after acquisition has ceased. These amendments would remove important technical provisions from the Bill. The Bill enables a bulk interception or bulk equipment interference warrant to be modified such that it no longer authorises the acquisition of any material but continues to authorise the selection of material for examination. This provision caters for limited circumstances where it may no longer be necessary or possible to continue the collection of data, such as where a communications service provider who is providing assistance in giving effect to the warrant goes out of business but where the data collected up to that point remain pertinent. In such circumstances, it may continue to be necessary and proportionate to examine data that have already been collected under the warrant.
The subsections that these amendments would remove simply clarify that a warrant that has been modified in this way remains a valid bulk warrant in spite of the provisions in Clauses 127(2) and 162(1). This is necessary because these clauses state that one of the conditions of the warrant is that its main purpose is to acquire data, but, of course, a warrant that has been modified in the manner I have described will no longer meet this condition, given that it will no longer authorise the collection of data. I hope the noble Lord will agree that these provisions are necessary and recognise that they serve only to reduce the activity that would have been authorised by the original unmodified warrant.
On Amendment 201ZJ, Clause 142 prohibits the selection for examination of intercepted content using criteria referable to an individual known to be in the British Islands, except where a targeted examination warrant—subject to the double lock—has been issued. I hope it is helpful if I draw the noble Lord’s attention to Clause 142(5), because there is one additional exception to this prohibition. That subsection addresses cases where there is a change of circumstances such that a person whose content is being selected for examination enters, or is discovered to be in, the British Islands. The subsection provides that selection for examination may continue in these circumstances for five working days with the approval of a senior official. This is vital to cater for circumstances such as where a member of an organised crime group travels into the British Islands. Any selection for examination after the five-day period will require the issuing of a targeted examination warrant.
I hope and believe that that explanation addresses the query the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, put to me. I understand his amendment as intended to capture the set of circumstances I just outlined, but it would also lead to a diminution in safeguards, given that it would enable selection for examination to continue for what I would judge to be an unnecessarily long period—in the absence of a targeted examination warrant—where there is a change of circumstances and someone has entered or is discovered to be in the UK. I hope that explanation will allow the noble Lord to feel comfortable in not pressing this amendment.
I am very grateful to the noble Earl for those explanations. Regarding Amendments 201ZA and that group, I am still concerned that the Minister or senior official is reliant on the security services flagging up to them that they need to withdraw operational purpose or even cancel a warrant. It is trusting the head of the intelligence services to flag that up. I will read very carefully what the noble Earl said about that.
I am grateful for his confirmation of when a bulk interception warrant is not a bulk interception warrant but still is. The only difference between us was that I asked whether it was right that analysis needs to continue after content is not being added to, whereas the correct term was “examination” continues. I think we are on all fours as far as that is concerned.
On Amendment 201ZJ, I accept that if there is a change in circumstances, whether a foreign terrorist or a foreign criminal arrives in the UK, the switch is not immediately flipped in that a five-day grace period is provided by Clause 142(5) for that content to continue to be allowed to be selected, even though the person is in the British Islands. However, it seems an unnecessary hurdle for the security services to have to apply for a targeted examination warrant in those circumstances, if it is a known terrorist coming into the UK. Presumably the five days are simply to allow enough time for a targeted examination warrant to be applied for, but I illiberally suggest that that is unnecessary bureaucracy for the security and intelligence services to go through. However, if the Government, the Home Office and others are content for the intelligence and security services to jump through that particular hoop, who am I to argue? On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 201ZA withdrawn.
Amendments 201ZB and 201ZC not moved.
Clause 136 agreed.
Clause 137: Approval of major modifications made in urgent cases
201ZD: Clause 137, page 108, line 12, leave out “fifth” and insert “third”
My Lords, I apologise; it is me again. In moving Amendment 201ZD in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Hamwee I shall speak to our Amendments 210ZD, 217D and 231ZC.
Clause 137 is about the approval of major modifications made in urgent cases to bulk interception warrants. These urgent requests for modification will be made by the Secretary of State alone. The judicial commissioner must approve any urgent change within a period ending with the fifth working day after the day on which the modification is made. Elsewhere in the Bill, the relevant period within which an urgent request for a warrant that has, for example, been granted by the Secretary of State alone and has then to be approved by a judicial commissioner—for example, in the case of the approval of interception warrants in urgent cases under Clause 24(3)—is the period ending with the third working day after the day on which the warrant was issued.
Our Amendment 201ZD would restore consistency to post-event approval of decisions by the Secretary of State in urgent cases by changing the relevant period within which judicial commissioner approval is needed in urgent cases of modification from five days to three days. Our Amendment 210ZD makes the same point relating to the urgent modification of bulk acquisition warrants in Clause 153; Amendment 217D to the urgent modification of bulk equipment interference warrants in Clause 173; and Amendment 231ZC to the urgent modification of bulk personal dataset warrants in Clause 196.
Will the Minister explain why, in the case of urgent major modifications of bulk interception warrants, the relevant period for judicial commissioner approval is five days and everywhere else in the Bill approval of urgent decisions is three days? I beg to move.
My Lords, while we must ensure that judicial commissioners have sufficient time to scrutinise effectively the decisions of the Secretary of State, I am sympathetic to these amendments. Indeed, the Government have already amended the Bill such that when an urgent targeted warrant is issued the judicial commissioner must approve the decision to issue it within three working days, as opposed to five. On this basis, I am happy to commit to take away the amendment for further consideration and accordingly I invite the noble Lord to withdraw it.
I am very grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his encouraging words and on that basis I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 201ZD withdrawn.
Amendments 201ZE to 201ZH had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.
Clause 137 agreed.
Clauses 138 to 141 agreed.
Clause 142: Safeguards relating to examination of material
Amendment 201ZJ not moved.
Clause 142 agreed.
201A: After Clause 142, insert the following new Clause—
“Offence of unauthorised examination of material
(1) A relevant person who, without lawful authority, knowingly or recklessly fails to comply with the safeguards referred to in section 142 is guilty of an offence.(2) In this section “relevant person” means a member of the intelligence services.(3) Subsection (1) does not apply to a relevant person who shows that he or she acted in the reasonable belief that he or she had lawful authority to engage in the activity to which subsection (1) relates.(4) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable—(a) on summary conviction in England and Wales—(i) to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months (or 6 months, if the offence was committed before the commencement of section 154(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003),(ii) to a fine, or(iii) to both;(b) on summary conviction in Scotland—(i) to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months,(ii) to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or(iii) to both;(c) on summary conviction in Northern Ireland—(i) to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months,(ii) to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or(iii) to both;(d) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or to a fine, or to both.”
My Lords, in moving Amendment 201A I shall speak at the same time to the other proposed new clauses tabled in my name in the group, which have a similar purpose. These proposed new clauses would implement a recommendation of the Intelligence and Security Committee that misuse of the intrusive powers in the Bill should be subject to an adequate penalty. I think that that is a concern that is generally agreed with in the House.
I am aware that before the Summer Recess my noble friend Lord Janvrin moved Amendment 15, which sought to achieve this purpose. It would have done that by creating a single, overarching criminal offence for the misuse of any of the powers in the Bill. In response the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, speaking for the Government, argued against that proposed new clause on the grounds that a single overarching offence for the misuse of any of the powers covered by the Bill would not be appropriate since it would be a case of one size fits all.
Of course certain of the activities covered by the Bill have an appropriate offence for their misuse, such as the misuse of the powers of interception and access to communications data. Other activities such as equipment interference are already covered by offences in other legislation such as the Computer Misuse Act 1990. But it is a curious fact that there is a gap in relation to bulk powers, which is the subject we are debating today. Given that these bulk powers have been the cause of such concern in themselves, it is anomalous that the misuse of those powers should not constitute a serious offence and carry a suitably robust penalty. As the Bill stands, the misuse of these bulk powers merely constitutes a relatively minor offence under the Data Protection Act or in some cases it is only an internal disciplinary matter. Neither of those penalties would appear to be appropriate in the case of the misuse of these bulk powers.
It may be argued against these three proposed new clauses that they would have a chilling effect on members of the intelligence agencies, but I draw attention to the drafting, which states that the offence would apply only if:
“A relevant person … without lawful authority, knowingly or recklessly failed to comply with the safeguards”,
set out in the Bill, so this is not something that a member of the intelligence services would stumble into accidentally. In those circumstances, this is not something which need deter or prevent the satisfactory operation of the activities of members of the intelligence services. This would apply where there has been serious, knowing and deliberate misuse of the bulk powers in the Bill. It seems appropriate that in those cases a serious penalty should be applied. With that intention, I beg to move.
My Lords, I rise briefly to support the noble Lord, Lord Butler, in these proposed new clauses. As a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee I can confirm that we felt very strongly that there was a gap here which needed to be filled. I am conscious of the fact that the major consideration behind this Bill was to create a balance between privacy on the one side and security on the other. The way we did that was by ensuring that the security aspects were well and properly covered, as indeed they are in terms of the bulk powers in this Bill, but equally that confidence on the privacy side was sufficient for people to accept that where they were misused there would be an adequate penalty against that. But looking at the Bill and the other offences that can be committed and the penalties available for them, in the case of bulk powers, which is what most of the public in the evidence we took in the ISC were concerned about, there seems to be a gap that is covered only by minor results of a criminal offence.
I suggest to the Government and to my noble and learned friend that whether or not he agrees completely with the precise criminal penalties suggested in the amendments, the principle of having a stronger set of criminal provisions relating to these powers should be considered very seriously.
Perhaps I may put a strictly non-lawyer’s question to the noble Lord, Lord Butler. Who decides where the court action takes place? Bearing in mind that these are slightly different circumstances and given that, as I understand it, a conviction takes place in a court, who decides where the person who has been charged should stand trial? I am not clear on that point. They might say, “I would rather go to Northern Ireland, please, because I would get only six months there”.
My Lords, I always believe that these debates should not be carried out only between those who spend their lives discussing whatever the subject is, and this is one of them; it is extremely dangerous to leave it to those for whom security is their bread and butter. I mean that in the most polite way. However, this particular Bill has been the subject of very considerable concern among members of the general public. I was pleased to hear earlier how the Government’s amendments, tabled by my noble friend, showed just how carefully the Government have considered people’s concerns about the sorts of decisions that we have to make in the circumstances of today.
Also of concern are the remarks of the noble Lord who talked about the desire he always has to make sure that when times are not as they are now, the draconian decisions we have to make today do not automatically continue but are seen always as decisions made in circumstances that we have never faced before.
The amendments put down by the noble Lord, Lord Butler, are also worthy of careful consideration. The reason I suggest that is that they are immediately comprehensible to the public at large. The public want to know that, having struck the sort of balance which they understand has to be reached, we are also concerned that that balance shall be maintained and will not be an excuse for a constant erosion of what people feel to be very precious things. Freedom and privacy are too precious to allow what one might call mission creep. The only way to stop it is by having a clear definition of a crime—of something that has been done which is punishable. I am concerned about this gap in the legislation which I suspect the Government did not intend to be there.
All I want to say to my noble and learned friend is that, for the public as a whole, what the noble Lord, Lord Butler, has proposed will be very attractive. If the Government do not like the wording or if we cannot answer questions such as where a court case might be heard, no doubt it can be rewritten—but I hope that it will not be ignored.
My Lords, I should like to add just a few words in support of the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, drawing attention to the phrase “knowingly or recklessly”, which he emphasised in his short speech.
One should perhaps bear in mind that the prosecutor has to prove the case to the criminal standard—that is, to the standard of “beyond reasonable doubt”. At one time in my career, I was a prosecutor and I am aware of the significance of the burden of proof on the prosecutor in proving the offence to that standard. So the words “knowingly and recklessly” set a very significant standard that requires looking into the mind of the alleged offender. It would surely be unthinkable for a prosecutor to bring a case before a single judge or a jury without convincing evidence that the standard could be met.
As for the very interesting question of who decides, I believe—the Minister will correct me if I am wrong—that the decision is made by the prosecutor, having regard to the anticipated length of sentence and the gravity of the offence. I would have thought that the structure of the proposed amendment is right: that there ought to be a choice between the two, because some offences could justify only a minor penalty, in which case the summary process would be appropriate, but there could be other, very serious ones where prosecution on indictment would be appropriate. However, the judgment would be that of the prosecutor, having regard to what the sentence would be likely to be at the end of the day.
I, too, rise to support the three amendments tabled by my noble friend Lord Butler. The point here is that he has drawn attention to this gap in offences for the misuse of bulk powers. I moved Amendment 15 earlier in Committee to take account of the fact that there was a gap, suggesting that there was a case for tidying up the misuse of these powers and the offences relating to them in one bundle. However, a better approach may well be to look at my noble friend Lord Butler’s suggestion regarding the specific area of bulk powers.
I echo the points made about the nature of these amendments. They are not about an inadvertent mistake in the heat of a fast-moving situation; they refer to someone who, without lawful authority,
“knowingly or recklessly fails to comply with the safeguards”.
The argument has been used that we should beware the chilling effect, but I am not sure that I can understand that in the context of the words “knowingly or recklessly”.
Secondly, on bulk powers, throughout the Bill we have considered the balance of trust—between the need to reassure the public about the work of our intelligence agencies, and the need to enable the agencies to use investigatory powers with confidence and at pace. It is part of that delicate balance to reassure the public that there is effective deterrence against a rogue operator, a cowboy—someone who misuses these powers “knowingly or recklessly”. That is why the Intelligence and Security Committee has been keen to debate this issue and the nature of the criminal offences, and why I welcome these three amendments as perhaps a compromise between the catch-all offence and doing nothing. Far from inducing a chilling effect, in my view, the public reassurance given by these amendments would strengthen the hand of the intelligence agencies, which are entitled to the public support they so richly deserve.
We are rather assuming that the Government will oppose the amendments, just as we— wrongly—assumed they would oppose the previous group. If they oppose them, we will certainly want to listen to the strength, or otherwise, of their argument, unless they are going to indicate that, in view of the pressure from around the Committee, they will take this issue away and reflect further on it.
A fairly strong argument has been made for being able to take the kind of action envisaged in the amendments. I do not know whether the Government want to argue that getting a conviction might well have to involve the disclosure of, or some information about, sensitive material that is not in the public domain. However, we certainly wish to hear the strength or otherwise of the Government’s objection to these amendments.
I want briefly to add our support for the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, and for his compelling arguments. I have never previously had contact with the security services but, in preparation for this Bill, I visited various places where they operate, and I am convinced that it is not simply a question of the high esteem in which James Bond is held: the perceived integrity of the people who work in the security services is a function of reality. These offences are of far more benefit to the public in reassuring them that, in the extraordinary circumstance that they were committed, such offences do indeed exist, rather than their being demonstrably necessary based on experience because the security services operate in this criminal way.
However, as the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, has said, it is something of an anomaly that there is no serious criminal sanction for an abuse of the bulk powers provided by the Bill, yet there are significant criminal sanctions in relation to all the other powers. On that basis, I very much support these amendments.
My Lords, I am conscious of the strength of feeling that has been expressed about this matter, but let me make it clear that we do not accept that there is what was termed “a gap” in the criminal sanctions with respect to bulk powers. This matter was discussed during earlier Committee sittings, as the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, observed, under reference to Amendment 15, which proposed a new offence of unlawful use of investigatory powers. I understand the development that has taken place and the context of the amendments that have now been spoken to. On that earlier occasion, I referred to the civil penalties and criminal offences that apply in respect of the misuse of the powers in the Bill. In particular, I pointed out that a whole series of statutory offences is listed under Clause 1. But over and above that, it is important to bear in mind the availability of the offence of misconduct in public office, which is also referred to. I underline that because that offence would apply to instances of misuse of bulk powers in appropriate circumstances, and would certainly embrace circumstances in which there was a knowing or reckless misuse of such powers.
I also note in passing that, only two days ago, the Law Commission issued a consultation document entitled Reforming Misconduct in Public Office so that the matter could go out for further consideration. The Law Commission highlighted that the problem is that, often, there are overlapping offences which obscure the use of the offence of misconduct in public office. I rather fear that the introduction of a further statutory offence would simply create a further overlap with regard to such offences. We are at an early stage. The Law Commission has only just introduced that consultation document, but we will take account of it in this context. Although I quite understand the point that was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Butler, and indeed the ISC, in this context, we consider that misconduct in public office is available to deal with the instances that have been referred to.
Before the summer, in response to Amendment 15, we referred to the “inadvertent operational impact” that the creation of further statutory offences could have. The officers working within our intelligence agencies are entirely committed to the mission of keeping the country safe. They are professional and ethical in the way they conduct their work. We recognise the concerns raised about the potential misuse of investigatory powers but, as I say, the creation of new offences may unnecessarily inhibit agency staff and limit their ability to operate with confidence. We do not disagree that intelligence officers who are exercising these most sensitive and, indeed, intrusive powers should consider their actions carefully before using them, but we have seen no evidence that the dedicated men and women of our security and intelligence agencies give such matters anything less than the most careful consideration.
While deliberate misuse of these data can already incur criminal liability—indeed, we suggest that reckless misuse would be sufficient—the creation of a new offence would send a powerful and potentially damaging message to the men and women of our intelligence services. It may be taken to imply that more is required of them than is already the case and that innocent mistakes will in future result in criminal prosecution; for example, if they are construed as the product of reckless behaviour. I appreciate that it is not the noble Lord’s intention that this should occur but we must consider not just the letter of the law but what it will be taken to mean by those on the front line. There is a real risk that this amendment, if accepted, would suggest that they are not trusted to do their jobs, and that it could foster a culture of risk aversion in the agencies at a time when they are dealing with complex and evolving threats. That is certainly the concern expressed by the heads of the intelligence agencies, which I know they have communicated directly to members of the Intelligence and Security Committee.
The Government are clear that if anyone in a public authority were to act contrary to their obligations under the Bill, the matter would be taken extremely seriously. The current commissioners already ensure that they investigate and report publicly on the very infrequent cases of errors that involve serious misuse. These matters are brought into the public domain. In appropriate cases disciplinary action may be taken, up to and including dismissal, or civil or criminal liability incurred. The extent of that criminal liability will be determined by the prosecution deciding what form of offence should be prosecuted, at what level and, indeed, at what level of court for the purposes of penalty. Although misuse is exceedingly rare, intelligence agency staff are conscious of their obligations; indeed, from time to time they have been dismissed for misusing systems.
When these points are considered together, I hope noble Lords will agree that this puts beyond doubt the severe penalties that would apply in the event of deliberate wrongdoing by a member of a public authority—or, indeed, reckless behaviour. We therefore suggest that new criminal offences are unnecessary and potentially confusing, and, on the face of it, would adversely affect the operation of the agencies. In these circumstances, I invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
If the Government are concerned about overlapping criminal offences, particularly the overlap with misconduct in a public office, why in Clause 56 have they created a new offence of making unauthorised disclosures? That seems to completely contradict the argument that the Minister has just offered the Committee.
I do not for a moment accept that it contradicts the argument. The objective is to ensure that we minimise any overlap in the context of such criminal offences.
In the interests of public confidence, can my noble and learned friend give an indication of what sorts of penalties there would be for the offence of misconduct in public office? It is important that the public know this is being taken seriously.
The extent of the penalty would depend on the level at which the particular offence was prosecuted. I do not think I can give an absolute answer to that but I would be content to write to the noble Lord to set out the scope for such a prosecution.
This is probably a question for the noble Lord, Lord Butler, rather than anyone else. In subsection (2) of the proposed new clause,
“‘relevant person’ means a member of the intelligence services”.
I am pretty certain from the visits we did with the RUSI panel that other people are used for their expertise by the agencies who are not what you might call employees. I am not sure what the definition of “member” would be. When the noble Lord was drafting that or taking advice, did he consider that that covered everybody who was working in, as opposed to being an employee or member of, the intelligence services? I do not quite know; there could be a gap of people who are free riders.
I read David Anderson’s report only yesterday, but I did read all of it. On at least three occasions he mentions circumstances where people walked the plank; in other words, under the system operating now people who did something wrong either left the service or were sanctioned. It is not as though nothing is happening. It is not highlighted in there—it is buried away almost as an aside. But there have been at least three occasions where this happened. This is part of the reassurance there has to be for the public: who watches the watchers? That is what we have to sell on the privacy aspect, because we have to have it all secret or as much of it as possible secret. The public are being watched over—who is watching the watchers? If there are examples where incidents have occurred and people have walked the plank, those ought to be sufficient examples that the system is operating. I do not know whether or not new sanctions are needed, and I do not know whether this sanction would apply to everybody within the agency because not everybody there is an employee.
My Lords, first, I will attempt to answer the questions of the noble Lord, Lord Rooker. The purpose of the reference to the intelligence services is that this is an activity of the intelligence services and it distinguishes that from the activities of the police or others. Only the intelligence services carry out these functions. On his second point, it is absolutely true, and I know from my own experience, that any misconduct of this sort within the intelligence services would be very severely dealt with and would be the subject of disciplinary action, usually leading to dismissal. The problem with that approach is that it is less than the criminal offences that are applied to other types of misuse of these powers. It is difficult to explain to the public why there should be that distinction.
In answer to the Minister, to whom I am grateful for his explanation, if we are providing reassurance to the public, we ought to have an offence that relates directly to the misuse of bulk powers. Other specific offences are referred to in the Bill, such as for the misuse of communications data or under the Computer Misuse Act. Why in the case of the misuse of bulk powers should we rely only on the general power of misconduct in public office? That is an anomaly.
I wish to make it absolutely clear that, like the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and the Minister, I have complete confidence in the integrity of members of the intelligence services. That is not what is at issue here. What is at issue is having equal treatment for different types of offence—different types of abuse of powers—under this Bill. It seems to me that there ought to be an evenness in the approach to that, which is not at present in the Bill.
My noble friends and I and, I am sure, the Intelligence and Security Committee will consider carefully what the Minister has said, but I must reserve our right to return to this on Report.
Amendment 201A withdrawn.
Clauses 143 to 145 agreed.
Clause 146: Power to issue bulk acquisition warrants
Amendments 201B to 202 not moved.
203: Clause 146, page 115, line 23, at end insert—
“( ) The fact that the communications data which would be obtained under a warrant relates to the activities in the British Islands of a trade union is not, of itself, sufficient to establish that the warrant is necessary in the interests of national security or on that ground and a ground falling within subsection (2).”
Amendment 203 agreed.
203A: Clause 146, page 115, line 34, after “obtaining” insert “and excluding third party data not already in the possession of the operator”
My Lords, Amendment 203A is in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Hamwee. I shall also speak to Amendments 204A, 204B, 210ZE and 210ZF, which are in this group.
Our Amendment 203A seeks to put into the Bill that a bulk acquisition warrant will not include obtaining third-party data not already in the possession of the operator. We have debated a similar point before and the Minister addressed third-party data in his letter to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, on 27 July this year. However, can the Minister elaborate on the position of third-party data in relation to bulk acquisition?
Amendment 204A seeks to get it on the record that Clause 146(7), by allowing the warrant to cover,
“data whether or not in existence at the time of the issuing of the warrant”,
does not allow for speculative surveillance without suspicion.
Amendment 204B would put into the Bill that,
“A bulk acquisition warrant may not require data which relates to or includes internet connection records”.
This was touched on in our opening debate this afternoon on the Anderson review. In footnote 85 on page 33 of his report, Anderson states:
“A ‘Bulk Communications Data’ factsheet published with the draft Bill on 4 November 2015 stated ‘The data does not include internet connection records …’. I am told however that this is no more than a statement of present practice and intention: neither the Bill nor the draft Code of Practice rules out the future use of the bulk acquisition power in relation to ICRs”.
The Committee will recall that we on these Benches oppose the storage of the internet connection records of every man, woman and child in the UK for 12 months, whether suspected of an offence or not, by internet service providers as required by the previous provisions of the Bill. We believe this to be a disproportionate intrusion into privacy, for the reasons that I have already explained at length to the Committee. Law enforcement agencies would, however, be able to access such internet connection records only if someone was suspected of an offence. The Government have introduced additional safeguards in the Bill to specify what sorts of offences would warrant such intrusion, but without this amendment it is open to the Government in the future to allow law enforcement agencies to store and have access to internet connection records. We believe that this is two steps too far.
As far as Amendment 210ZE is concerned, Clause 157 refers to the “Duty of operators to assist with implementation” of bulk acquisition warrants. This amendment seeks to clarify that the person to whom the warrant is issued—the implementing authority—cannot be held liable for a breach of the warrant because of the actions of the operator.
Amendment 210ZF seeks to ensure that, under Clause 158, “Safeguards relating to the retention and disclosure of data”, if internet connection records were subsequently stored, no such record could be disclosed unless the individual concerned was suspected of having committed an offence. I beg to move.
My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord’s intention in Amendment 204 to ensure that communications data can be acquired in bulk and analysed in real time. Indeed, the Bill already permits this. I draw attention to Clause 146(5) and 146(6), which provide for such a scenario as he suggests in this amendment. These subsections specify the conduct which must be described in the warrant and any conduct that it is necessary to undertake to do what the warrant expressly requires. If it was therefore necessary to obtain bulk communications data in real time, these provisions would allow it.
My Lords, I think that the noble and learned Lord is speaking to Amendment 204, which has not in fact been spoken to.
I had understood that the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, also referred to Amendment 204 but if he did not, I apologise.
I turn then to Amendment 203A, which seeks to exclude the ability for a bulk acquisition warrant to require a communication service provider to obtain third-party data where it is not already in its possession. I do believe that the noble Lord referred to that.
It will be recalled that the issue of third-party data was discussed during the last Committee session before the Summer Recess, when my noble friend Lord Howe explained that it is absolutely right that where a communication service provider holds or is able to obtain communications data, whether in relation to its own services or those provided by a third party, the data should be available to be acquired under the Bill. Put simply, data that already exist and are held or can reasonably be obtained which could save a life, convict a criminal, prevent a terrorist attack or provide an alibi should not be put out of the reach of law enforcement. The point we would make clear is this: a bulk warrant can require a communication service provider to obtain and disclose third-party data only where it is necessary and proportionate to do so, and where approved by a judicial commissioner. The provider is required to comply with a request to provide communications data in bulk, including third-party data, only where it is reasonably practicable for it to do so. Given these safeguards, I suggest that any further restriction on obtaining third-party data would not be appropriate.
This is of course a separate matter from the retention of third-party data, where the Prime Minister gave a clear commitment when she was Home Secretary that we will not require a telecommunications operator to retain third-party data. We are working on provisions to address that matter in the Bill.
We understand that the purpose of Amendment 204A is to limit the bulk acquisition of communications data to those which are held by the communication service provider only on the day that a warrant is served. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, indicates otherwise.
If I can assist the noble and learned Lord, Amendment 204A is to probe and seek reassurance on the record that this is not simply to allow speculative surveillance without suspicion. I accept that a warrant has to authorise the acquisition of an ongoing stream of content but this would just assure the Committee that it does not mean speculative surveillance without suspicion.
I do not think that there is any suggestion that it would involve speculative surveillance without suspicion but, technically, we should not require the agencies to make repeated applications for a warrant in order to maintain their access to such material. I hope that reassures the noble Lord, and I shall therefore move on. Perhaps I had misunderstood the extent of the noble Lord’s amendment, but there would be an unnecessary workload on the agencies if they had repeatedly to apply for warrants in this context. However, I am sure that that was never the noble Lord’s intention.
Amendment 210ZE seeks to ensure that the authority implementing a bulk acquisition warrant cannot be liable for a breach of that warrant as a result of an act or omission by the communications service provider on which it has served the warrant. The Bill outlines errors that must be reported to the Investigatory Powers Commissioner, and the draft Bulk Acquisition Code of Practice provides additional detail on error reporting processes. The code draws distinctions between errors made by the requesting agency and those made by a communications service provider on which the warrant is served. We believe it is clear that anyone implementing a warrant is responsible for any error they, and they alone, make, and that they are not responsible for any error made by anyone else. Therefore this amendment is unnecessary.
Amendments 210ZF and 204B would add to the current list of reasons for which it may be necessary to disclose or copy communications data obtained under a bulk acquisition warrant. Such disclosure and copying must, of course, be kept to the minimum necessary for a limited number of purposes. The amendment adds, in the case of internet connection records, a requirement of necessity in respect of an individual having committed an offence.
In tabling amendment 210ZF, I understand the noble Lord is seeking to understand whether a bulk acquisition warrant could require a communications service provider to provide internet connection records in bulk. The Government have been clear that one of the aims of the Bill is to provide technology-neutral legislation—a point referred to earlier by my noble friend Lord Howe—to take into account future changes in the way that we communicate. While we have been clear that internet connection records are not currently acquired in bulk, it is of course worth being clear that current legislation would allow the agencies to acquire internet connection records in bulk, where necessary and proportionate to do so.
I can confirm to the Committee that the agencies do not currently acquire internet connection records in bulk and have no current intention to do so. It is, however, important to ensure that we do not legislate against the possibility of internet connection records being acquired in bulk, should the agencies make a case which demonstrates that this might be necessary and proportionate in the interests of national security in the future.
We strongly believe that it is right that the intelligence agencies have the power to acquire communications data in bulk. Indeed, David Anderson, in his recent review of the utility of the bulk powers within the Bill, said:
“Bulk acquisition has been demonstrated to be crucial in a variety of fields”,
“bulk acquisition has contributed significantly to the disruption of terrorist operations and, through that disruption, almost certainly the saving of lives”.
Clause 158, which this amendment seeks to alter, outlines the safeguards relating to the acquisition of communications data under a bulk warrant. Any application to obtain communications data in bulk is subject to the strongest of the safeguards in the Bill, which we have discussed at length in relation to other provisions. A warrant to acquire communications data in bulk must be both necessary and proportionate for the interests of national security, must specify the operational purposes, which are the only reasons the data can be selected for examination, and will be subject to the double lock of Secretary of State and judicial commissioner approval.
It is in this context and in the context of these very strong safeguards that we think it right, as is currently the case, that the bulk acquisition power should remain technologically neutral, with the safeguards applying equally to all types of communications data defined by the Bill.
As David Anderson recommends in his report, the Government will also keep the bulk acquisition power under review in order to ensure that it remains necessary and proportionate alongside any other mechanisms which might be developed, such as the request filter. Taking into account the fact that the agencies require such clear authorisation from both the Secretary of State and the judicial commissioner, should they ever consider it necessary and proportionate and in the interests of national security to proceed with such bulk acquisition, I suggest that this amendment is unnecessary and I invite the noble Lord to withdraw it.
I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his explanation. As far as Amendment 204B and the potential for bulk acquisition of internet connection records are concerned, it is, to us, a rather alarming prospect which I do not think has yet been raised in the public consciousness. It is absolutely certain that we will return to this issue on Report. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 203A withdrawn.
Amendments 204 to 204B not moved.
Clause 146, as amended, agreed.
Clause 147: Approval of warrants by Judicial Commissioners
Amendments 205 and 206
205: Clause 147, page 116, line 20, after “must” insert “—
206: Clause 147, page 116, line 21, at end insert “, and
( ) consider the matters referred to in subsection (1) with a sufficient degree of care as to ensure that the Judicial Commissioner complies with the duties imposed by section 2 (general duties in relation to privacy).”
Amendments 205 and 206 agreed.
Clause 147, as amended, agreed.
Clause 148 agreed.
Clause 149: Requirements that must be met by warrants
207: Clause 149, page 117, line 1, leave out subsection (4) and insert—
“( ) The operational purposes specified in the warrant must be ones specified, in a list maintained by the heads of the intelligence services (“the list of operational purposes”), as purposes which they consider are operational purposes for which communications data obtained under bulk acquisition warrants may be selected for examination.”
Amendment 207 agreed.
Amendment 207A had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.
208: Clause 149, page 117, line 5, leave out from “issued,” to end of line 7 and insert “are specified in the list of operational purposes.
(5A) An operational purpose may be specified in the list of operational purposes only with the approval of the Secretary of State.(5B) The Secretary of State may give such approval only if satisfied that the operational purpose is specified in a greater level of detail than the descriptions contained in section 146(1)(a) or (2).(5C) At the end of each relevant three-month period the Secretary of State must give a copy of the list of operational purposes to the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament.(5D) In subsection (5C) “relevant three-month period” means—(a) the period of three months beginning with the day on which this section comes into force, and(b) each successive period of three months.(5E) The Prime Minister must review the list of operational purposes at least once a year.”
Amendment 208 agreed.
Clause 149, as amended, agreed.
Clause 150 agreed.
Clause 151: Renewal of warrants
Amendments 209 and 210
209: Clause 151, page 117, line 22, leave out “before it would otherwise cease to have effect” and insert “during the renewal period”
210: Clause 151, page 117, line 43, at end insert—
“( ) “The renewal period” means the period of 30 days ending with the day at the end of which the warrant would otherwise cease to have effect.”
Amendments 209 and 210 agreed.
Clause 151, as amended, agreed.
House resumed. Committee to begin again not before 8.37 pm.