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Investigatory Powers Bill: Trade Union and Political Activities

Volume 774: debated on Monday 10 October 2016


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to strengthen provisions in the Investigatory Powers Bill to increase the protection of data relating to trade union and political activities.

My Lords, the Government have already strengthened the provisions in the Investigatory Powers Bill by accepting a Labour amendment to add protections for trade unions. It is already illegal for the security and intelligence agencies to further the interests of any political party. The Bill goes further by putting the Wilson doctrine on to a statutory footing, requiring the Prime Minister’s approval for the targeting of parliamentarians’ communications in addition to Secretary of State and judicial commissioner authorisation.

I thank the noble Earl for his Answer. He has opened up all sorts of trapdoors that I would like to go down, but has he met organisations such as the Blacklist Support Group, the NUJ and Liberty, which have documented evidence of police and security service wrongdoing and illegal activities, so that we can be sure that the safeguards are strong enough?

My Lords, I have had round-table meetings with a number of organisations, including those representing the journalist profession and freedom of information bodies. The adherence of any public authority to existing legislation is an issue for the commissioners and the relevant courts or regulators, and any complaints can be followed up through those channels. The Bill we are debating provides for a whole range of safeguards in addition to those that currently exist: statutory oversight of the use of investigatory powers and greater powers for the Investigatory Powers Commissioner to carry out investigations. In addition, we are creating a number of offences. I hope the noble Baroness will see that we have done our best to strengthen the safeguards that exist under current legislation.