Police and Security Services: Investigatory Powers

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 12th October 2015.

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Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Conservative, Sherwood 2:30 pm, 12th October 2015

What changes she plans to make to the investigatory powers of the police and security services.

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Conservative, Cheltenham

What changes she plans to make to the investigatory powers of the police and security services.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The Government have been clear about the need to provide law enforcement and security and intelligence agencies with the powers they need to protect the public. A draft investigatory powers Bill will be published this autumn for pre-legislative scrutiny by a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament.

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Conservative, Sherwood

I thank the Home Secretary for that answer. I wonder whether she recognises the growth in internet-based communication systems, such as WhatsApp, Snapchat and many others, of which terrorists might be making use. Will she consider taking powers to support the security services in tracking relevant individuals who might want to do us harm?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. New services are obviously being developed. The law makes it very clear that any communications service provider offering a service in the United Kingdom should be in a position to respond to a warrant when it has been decided that there should be access to intercept material on the basis that it is necessary and proportionate.

That was made clear by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, and we put it beyond doubt in the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014.

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Conservative, Cheltenham

Does the Home Secretary agree that it is incumbent on organisations such as WhatsApp and Snapchat, which routinely encrypt messages, to co-operate with the authorities to ensure that those who may do us harm are prevented from doing so?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I assure my hon. Friend, and my hon. Friend Mark Spencer, that we want to ensure that our law enforcement and security and intelligence agencies have the powers that are necessary to keep us safe. They do an excellent job, but it is our role, here in Parliament, to ensure that they have the legislative backing to enable them to do it. I believe, and the Government believe, that there should be no safe space for terrorists, criminals or paedophiles on the internet.

Photo of Greg Mulholland Greg Mulholland Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Campaigns Chair

In the light of the High Court ruling in July, may I ask the Home Secretary whether she will now do what should have been done in the first place, and ensure that access to our private data is authorised by a genuinely independent body or a court?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The hon. Gentleman will be well aware that each of the three reviews of the powers and legislation relating to interception of communications and access to communications data came up with a different answer in respect of the authorisation process for access to intercept material. David Anderson suggested that there should be a judicial authorisation, the Royal United Services Institute suggested that there could be a hybrid, and the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament suggested that the authorisation should remain with the Secretary of State. We have been considering the matter very carefully, and, as I have said, a draft Bill will be published in due course.

Photo of Margaret Ritchie Margaret Ritchie Social Democratic and Labour Party, South Down

Will the Home Secretary tell us which is more important to the Government, national security or accountability, truth and justice for victims?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

All those things are important, and I do not see that it is necessary to draw a distinction between them.