Communications Data
Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department
2:30 pm

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John Robertson (Glasgow North West, Labour)

Whether the Government plan to bring forward legislative proposals on communications data.

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James Brokenshire (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department; Old Bexley and Sidcup, Conservative)

The Government remain committed to ensuring that the police and intelligence agencies have the powers they need to catch paedophiles, terrorists and those involved in organised crime. Her Majesty’s Gracious Speech in May stated that we would

“bring forward proposals to enable the protection of the public and the investigation of crime in cyberspace.”

We will do so in due course, and this may involve legislation.

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John Robertson (Glasgow North West, Labour)

I thank the Minister for his answer. However, it is well known in political circles that the Home Secretary and the Deputy Prime Minister do not exactly see eye to eye on communications data. Could we therefore have a Bill where we can put forward proposals that we can debate? Could we ensure that we put a communications data Bill before Parliament in the way that we expect, and not have a fight between the two coalition parties?

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James Brokenshire (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department; Old Bexley and Sidcup, Conservative)

There is understanding across government on the challenges and issues involved in protecting the police’s ability to fight crime and on the fact that a gap is emerging in this whole issue of communications data. It is important that we strike an effective balance between keeping the public safe and protecting civil liberties. That is why we are taking this issue seriously and considering it carefully—I have to say to the hon. Gentleman that the previous Labour Government did not do that. We will make proposals in due course to get this right.

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Julian Lewis (New Forest East, Conservative)

Most people on both sides of the House, at least in the major parties, recognise the need for communications data to be preserved so that terrorist needles can be found in a communications haystack. Will the Minister confirm that we should be reassured by the fact that the people who preserve the communications haystack for a limited period are not the Government but the suppliers from the communications industry themselves?

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James Brokenshire (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department; Old Bexley and Sidcup, Conservative)

My hon. Friend makes an important point. It is clear that, in about 95% of serious organised crime cases, and in virtually every terrorism investigation, the use of communications data has been extremely important. The structure that has been established is that communications providers themselves retain the information, and safeguards are in place for the requests that are made. It is precisely that structure that we are examining carefully to see how it can be strengthened to reflect changes in technology.