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Investigatory Powers

Attorney General – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 25th February 2016.

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Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Scottish National Party, Kilmarnock and Loudoun 9:30 am, 25th February 2016

What discussions he has had with his Cabinet colleagues on the compatibility of Government proposals on investigatory powers with EU law.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

I regularly meet ministerial colleagues to discuss important issues of common interest, including on EU law matters. I am unable to talk about any legal content of those discussions, because whether or not the Law Officers have given advice, by convention, is not disclosed outside Government.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Scottish National Party, Kilmarnock and Loudoun

Recent judgments from the European Court of Human Rights, such as in Zakharov v. Russia, strongly suggest that the powers in the United Kingdom’s draft Investigatory Powers Bill could violate the European convention on human rights. What discussions has he had with his colleagues in the Home Office to ensure that powers provided for in the Bill are compatible with the convention?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that in the most recent case in the Court of Appeal, in November last year, the provisional view was that the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 was not inconsistent with EU law. A reference has been made to the Court of Justice of the European Union. I will not comment on that particular case, but I can assure him that when it comes to issues of compatibility, anxious consideration is always given to ensure that legislation here is in accord with the rule of law.

Photo of Mark Pritchard Mark Pritchard Conservative, The Wrekin

In an unsafe world, we need to keep the United Kingdom, and indeed our European partners, safe. With the security charter for the draft Investigatory Powers Bill, how will the Government get the balance right between civil liberties on the one hand and national security on the other?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

My hon. Friend asks probably the most important question about that balance. I can reassure him that the draft Bill, and indeed the legislation that will come forward shortly, strikes that balance, most notably in involving judicial authorisation for the granting of warrants. That double-lock process, which involves the Secretary of State and the judiciary, strikes the right balance.

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office)

The case involving Mr Davis and my hon. Friend Mr Watson, which the Solicitor General has referred to, and which is before the Court of Appeal, but with a reference to the European Court of Justice, could have implications for the draft Investigatory Powers Bill. The case is being heard in April. How does the Solicitor General see that impacting on the timetable for the Bill going through this House?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

While we understand that the case will be heard in April, it is still very much an unknown factor as to when a judgment will come. What I can say is that the outcome of any case will, of course, be carefully considered. However, I do not anticipate that causing a delay to the introduction of that important Bill, bearing in mind the sunset provisions in DRIPA.