Bulk interception warrants

Part of Investigatory Powers Bill – in the House of Commons at 1:30 pm on 7th June 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Conservative, Beaconsfield 1:30 pm, 7th June 2016

Yes, I agree entirely. I am afraid that, because human society is not perfect, eradicating every instance of misconduct by public servants is likely to be impossible. We therefore have to ensure proper safeguards and ethics. Here I simply repeat what I said before. My own experience is that the ethical standards of the agencies are very high; that is not to say that one does not have to be vigilant about maintaining those standards, or that there might not have been instances where their ethical standards slipped, but everything I and, I think, my fellow members of the ISC have seen has constantly reassured us that those ethical standards are at the heart of what they do. I recollect Sir Iain Lobban saying that if he had asked his staff at GCHQ to do something unethical, they simply would not have done it. He said they would have refused, had he made the request of them.

I simply say that about the framework. I now turn to our amendments, the first group of which consists of amendments 9 to 12 and deals with an issue that goes to the heart of bulk powers: operational purposes. In the ISC’s report on the draft Bill, we were critical of what appeared to us to be the lack of transparency around operational purposes, which are of the utmost importance—this picks up on what the hon. Member for Glasgow North East said—as they provide the justification for examining material collected using bulk powers. If it falls outside legitimate operational purposes, one cannot examine it. We therefore recommended that in some form and in a manner consistent with safeguarding security—the two things are often difficult to reconcile—the list ought, so far as possible, to be published. We also recommended that the ISC have a role on behalf of Parliament in scrutinising the full classified list of operational purposes.

We were also concerned, when we investigated the matter further, that in some cases the nature of the list of operational purposes lacked clarity, as did the procedures for managing it, which seemed largely informal, particularly those for adding an operational purpose to the list. As matters stand now, that can effectively be done by a senior officer in the organisation. Our amendments are therefore intended to give effect to our original recommendations for greater scrutiny and transparency, while also trying to create a formal mechanism for the establishment, management, modification and review of the list of operational purposes.